No matter the faith, religious holidays are a time when people gather together, usually dressed in their finest.
At a recent festival at the Hindu Temple of Minnesota, the local Bengali Association met to observe a holiday honoring the goddess of education, knowledge and music. Everyone was dressed in vibrant colors. You could see many shades of yellows or oranges, with each piece of clothing embroidered with gold threads, flowers, cultural designs or even a combination of all three.
"We are here for a religious event," explains Nila Chakraborty, who lives in Plymouth. "It's a time when you get to deck out and show what you have because we aren’t wearing this to work on a daily basis."
Nila and other women explain that sometimes it's tough to find adequate Indian clothing for the annual festivals, religious events or weddings. Sometimes it even requires a trip to India to pick out several items and bring them back.
"Because even though you want things from India, it’s not always accessible from here to 12,000 miles away," says Rita Mitra Mustaphi, executive director of Katha Dance Theatre,
a Twin Cities theatre that brings a dance style of North India to life. "With all of this artwork happening, I call them hidden secrets. [This website] is one of those hidden secrets that needs to come out."Starting ShopBollywear.com
A year ago, Nila worked with a family friend to set up ShopBollywear.com
, a full-service website that sells women’s clothing and jewelry as well as clothing for men and children. Nila keeps some clothing in her Plymouth home, but products ship to the U.S., Canada, as well as India. She often interacts with customers to help them find the perfect outfit.
"I’m picking out the clothes that I would wear, that my customers would wear, so it’s not just some random outfit I chose," says Nila.
The demand picks up in the summer months, before the busy season of fall festivals begins.
"These festivals in certain parts of the U.S. go on for a week, so women need 4-5 outfits because you can’t repeat yourself," says Nila. "Anytime you can wear an Indian outfit for an Indian occasion, people deck out."
Shannon Slatton, firstname.lastname@example.org
on Twitter: @sslatton