From beautifully hand-embroidered sarees, lenghas and salwar kameez to bangles, necklaces and bindis, Nila Chakraborty expresses her love for Indian ethnic wear through her online business ShopBollyWear.com. Now she’s found a way to bring fashionable Bollywood styles to the United States for others to enjoy as well.
“Growing up with a mixture of both Eastern and Western culture, I always had a passion for Indian ethnic wear. I grew up watching Bollywood movies and was inspired by the Indian clothes the actors and actresses wore,” Chakraborty says.
The Plymouth resident, a second-generation Indian American, immigrated to the United States from India with her parents when she was 2. Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she first pursued a career in banking and finance and later transitioned into a wedding planning business.
It was then Chakraborty witnessed how clients loved to dress fashionably for weddings and other festive occasions. However, she saw that it was impractical for many Indian Americans to travel to India to purchase the selection and style of clothes they desired. From that experience, the idea emerged for Chakraborty to develop an online venue that retailed elegant Indian ethnic wear.
“In the 80s, it was hard to acquire Indian clothes for weddings, parties and events unless you travelled to India and brought the clothes back with you. At that time, there was no ShopBollyWear.com where you go online and with a click of a button get an Indian outfit at your doorstep within days,” Chakraborty says.
With the help of her mentor, Oney Seal, who runs an e-commerce consulting firm, Chakraborty was able to launch ShopBollyWear.com in April 2015. She has found an overwhelming following from clients looking for exactly the type of merchandise she offers.
The website, which highlights outfits from vendors that Chakraborty personally chooses, features mens, womens, girls and boys clothing options.
Men can order sherwanis, coat-like garments worn to the knee; kurta pajamas, long loose shirts and lightweight trousers and dhoti sets. There are also Indo-Western outfits, like modi jackets and pathani suits which can be worn with jeans.
Clothing for girls and boys is trendy, colorful and easy to wear. Boys will look handsome in colorful kurtas with coordinating jackets and dhoti pants in an array of solids or patterned prints. Girls have a variety of options including party-wear long gowns, vibrant Benghali sarees or elegantly stitched chiffon sarees with embellished gold or silver sleeves.
The site offers a vast array of clothing options for women in soft silks and chiffon and hand-painted or intricately hand- stitched materials. The sarees come in many stunning colors ranging from sapphire blue to marigold yellow. The sarees are several feet of decorative material wrapped around the waist and hung over the shoulder. Blouses, tops cropped at the midriff and worn under a saree, come in elaborate patterned silks. Lehengas, skirt and blouse combinations, range in possibilities of red, blue, black, gold, green, pinks and creams. Dupattas, scarf-like wraps, long and flowing, come in every color and pattern imaginable.
Jewelry is also an essential aspect in completing an outfit. Women can chose from gold plated bangles, a traditional Bengali pearl-and-stone necklace or colorful handmade Afghan earrings. Jewelry can be worn to adorn and accentuate any traditional Indian style or are versatile enough to complement an everyday Western outfit.
Indrani Ray is an online client from New Jersey who found ShopBollyWear.com through Facebook. She quickly fell in love with the convenient online shopping site after purchasing several sets of jewelry and then tried out several clothing options.
“I went to her website to see if she sells blouses that are in different colors and different sizes and ready made. I needed these blouses in a hurry because our Indian Hindu religious holiday was upon us,” Ray says. Chakraborty personally searched to help Ray find additional options to wear to the festive event. Chakraborty often has personal contact with many clients which makes the business especially enjoyable for her.
Ray adds, “The site is [a good place to find] Christmas gifts for Indians or non-Indians who like a little bit of an ethnic touch.”
Marina Kontorovich is a local client who found Chakraborty’s clothing items were ideal for her lifestyle. “I have bought lots of long top dresses. India ladies wear them over leggings and [it is] real colorful, natural fiber cotton…it’s very nice, unique. It’s not something you buy at the department store,” Kontorovich says.
Kontorovich teaches piano lessons and says her students ages 3 through high school love the bright colors she wears. “I think that for diversity it is always nice to get familiar with other countries culture, and outfits are part of the culture. And it is great to have something else for variety. This is why I found Nila’s things. I always believe that clothes need to reflect this personality, and I think her items do that,” Kontorovich says.
The ShopBollyWear.com entrepreneur says the most rewarding part of the business is the enthusiastic feedback she gets from her customers. “Their words have encouraged me to expand my collection,” Chakraborty says.
She also comments on the changes she sees in Indian fashion. “Today we see international Indian stars such as Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone walking the red carpet at Cannes and the Oscars wearing beautifully crafted gowns by Indian designers. They are Indian in the type of fabric used and embellishments, but Western in cut and lines.
“I am constantly using social media to engage with Indian Americans to promote the site,” Chakraborty says. “We use all the platforms to reach out to our existing customers as well as prospective ones. We are a dynamic site and evolving everyday with new designs and brands.
“However, the traditional Indian wear never goes out of fashion. Indian silks and heavy jewelry are always bestsellers,” Chakraborty says.