Rent a salwar, sherwani online, post it back

Devi’s Closet has designer collection at affordable prices.

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By Subhi Khanna

NEW YORK: Conceived by Meera Patel and Sheena Patel, who are not related, Devi’s Closet is an online website for men and women to rent or borrow luxury Indian clothes and accessories at a fraction of the retail price.

The two met as roommates living in New York City, when they bonded over their love for clothes. However, as much as their closets grew, finding the perfect Indian outfit for every occasion was proving to be a struggle. Between weddings, Diwalis, and Navratris, their social calendars were filling up faster than they could find stylish, yet affordable, outfits.

The co-founders of Devi’s Closet, Meera Patel and Sheena Patel.
The co-founders of Devi’s Closet, Meera Patel and Sheena Patel.

The Patels wanted to splurge on designer creations, but with so many events, their bank accounts told them that was a no-no. Indians don’t do vintage, so thrift stores were out, and eBay proved fruitless as well. So what’s a fashionista on a budget supposed to do?

That’s when these New Yorkers thought “what if we could rent outfits like we rent cars?” What if designers could lend out their pieces at a lower cost to style-conscious women with a passion for fashion but limited funds? It led to the creation of Devi’s Closet in the Fall of 2011.

Customers can choose outfits on the website (www.deviscloset.com), and it will be delivered home. When done with it, it can be dropped off at any USPS mailbox in prepaid packaging sent with the outfit, with cleaning provided by the company, and included in the price.

From the Devi's Closet collectionsThe prices of top designer outfits on rent are really affordable. On the website, which gets replenished by plenty of new designer wear and accessories, one can rent, for example, a Bollywood purplish pink gold embellished sari for $103, a Kohlapuri gold necklace with ruby loop earrings for $25, a jacquard spaghetti suit for $40, Alexandria earrings for $15, a silver wallet purse for $25, and a sea-green and brown Banarsi Indo Western sherwani suit, for men, for $82, among other picks.

Meera Patel has 10 years of brand and shopper marketing experience from leading CPG and media companies, working on brands such as Dove, Suave Caress, Ponds, Motor Trend, and InStyle, among others. She is a fashionista to the core and enjoys shopping at the smaller boutiques in SoHo, in Manhattan.

Meera’s passion for Indian clothes and designers began when she was planning her own wedding and had to pick outfits for herself and her family members. Her aesthetic is combining traditional Indian fashion with a Western flair, and she loves incorporating big and bold accessories into her look.

She has completed the prestigious management training program at Pepsi Bottling Group and has a degree from Boston University in Business Management, with a concentration in Finance and Marketing. Meera’s additional certifications include a Marketing Management certificate from New York University and Spanish Proficiency from Formula Si in Madrid, Spain. She says she’s able to face any challenge with ease after managing a community sanitation program in Paraguay and being a volunteer herself in the Dominican Republic.

Co-founder Sheena Patel developed an eye for fashion after living with two older sisters, whose clothes she was always borrowing to dress herself up, no matter what the occasion. Always on the lookout for the latest trends and willing to take risks to go beyond the conventional, Sheena’s fashion sense has evolved dramatically ever since she moved to New York six years ago. She has a Master’s degree in International Business and currently works as an IT Project Manager at a non-profit in New York City.

In an interview to The American Bazaar, Meera Patel gives details of the growth of Devi’s Closet, how designers were receptive to it, and opines that the concept has a great future in India, too. Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about the various designers in your collection?

The team at Devi’s Closet have curated some of the best designers off the runway in India that Indian Americans can resonate with while getting glammed up for their special events. Some of the designers featured at www.deviscloset.com are Payal Singhal, Anita Dongre, Amrita Singh, Isharya, Ritu Kumar, Anupamaa Dayal, Ashish & Viral Parikh, Gopi Vaid Nautanky and Nupur Mehta to name a few.

How comfortable were these designers with the idea of people ‘renting’ their outfits? Were they initially hesitant of being a part of this concept?

Payal Singhal and Gopi Vaid were our biggest advocates for renting Indian clothes online. The other designers thought it was a brilliant idea during the difficult economic times. This allowed them to bring their brand to those who would not usually purchase such a high ticket salwar kameez, sari, lengha, kurta, sherwani and/or Indo-Western dresses.

Are there seasonal ups and downs for your rental business?

No, it’s a year around business. People always have special events to attend from baby showers, sweet 16 parties, bridal showers, Diwali parties, garba, weddings etc. Americans are even seeing Bollywood fashion going mainstream, so people are wearing these beautiful saris and dresses to Western events to look like fashionistas. People love to standout and be different. Borrowing an outfit allows people to do this for every event they have on the calendar.

What are your rental rates like?

Devi’s Closet has very affordable prices starting at $15 for accessories and as low as $40 for the Indian Clothing. Our most expensive piece is $150 to rent for four days.

From the Devi's Closet collections
A designer outfit from Devi’s Closet collection.

We have both Indian and non-Indian customers. It’s about 50/50.

How popular are the Indian clothes among mainstream Americans?

Americans love Indian clothing! It’s become more and more mainstream with many celebrities wearing saris and multicultural weddings. Recently Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Oprah and Rihanna have all been caught wearing Indian clothes. You can’t go wrong with a sari; it’s one size fits all and Americans love them!

From a fashion standpoint, how strong is the American influence on Indian clothes?

American style, color and cuts have definitely influenced Indian clothes. One will see fancy sari blouses in different cuts and styles that you never used to see. Also, many of the designers are branching out to Western silhouettes and working with Indian embroidery, zari and sequence work.

How are Indians and Indian Americans responding to the concept of ‘renting’ clothes?

Indians are very receptive to this idea especially in this economy. There is a large population of folks that don’t have access to Indian clothes and don’t want to fly all the way to India or even other parts of the US to shop. It’s just too expensive for them. Furthermore, people do not want to be seen in the same outfit multiple times.

This concept is not popular in India. Do you feel it’ll be a big part of the Indian fashion Industry soon?

Yes we do! There are already many rental places in Mumbai in Delhi. This is definitely a trend that is catching on in India as well. We have no doubt in our mind that people in India want to save a buck as well and renting will become a fad there as well.

To contact the author, e-mail: subhikhanna@americanbazaaronline.com

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