From Guest Room To Bridal Studio: Meet The Couple Modernising Traditional Indian Attire
In their first ever media interview, Nav and Preya discuss the success they've accomplished, shortcomings they've faced, and the future of their lehenga line, Choli.
Creating a brand close to their hearts, Nav and Preya have built an empire by embracing their traditional roots
Soon-to-be-married college sweethearts Nav and Preya are coming up on 12 years of dating.
Understanding the pitfalls of planning a once-in-a-lifetime wedding, and combining that with their key eye for design, this duo began a venture that has since landed them close to 30,000 followers on Instagram.
With promising careers in the corporate world and a pandemic taking over everyday life, this duo took a huge risk not knowing if it would pay off
After graduating with bachelor degrees in business and commerce, Preya went on to work for one of the top multinational technology corporations in the world, while Nav landed an astute role at one of the Big Four accounting firms operating internationally.
However, with an inner passion for design, Preya left the corporate environment early on to begin her first entrepreneurial business, MyDesiStyle, that focused on the merchandising of sarees, and Indian traditional blouses, kurtis.
It was not until preparation for his brother's wedding, did Nav see the idea for an endeavour in creating a line of traditional Indian clothing.
"We were actually shopping for my brother's wedding right before COVID happened, and we realised that many Malaysian Indians idolise the idea of going to India to do their wedding shopping," he said in my one hour sit-down interview with the couple.
Puzzled by the notion of how expensive said travelling would be, he wondered how he could bring a different shopping experience to our very own Malaysians.
"Upon doing more research, we realised that it was actually harder than we thought to find [a] modern concept, and fashion-forward designs here in Malaysia as compared to India... [E]ven if they were available here, they were really expensive," he described.
After pondering carefully on the idea, and taking small steps to visualise their dream, the couple decided it was either gonna be now or never
Describing their beginnings to this SAYS writer, Nav went on to say, "We started small, and Choli was born on August 2020 in our upstairs guest room at home, in which we had only about 10 [to] 15 designs available for purchase." Their online presence began soon after on Instagram.
Accepting appointments to come by their house, and scheduling video calls to look at what designs were available, Preya and Nav soon noticed the positive response to their endeavour.
"[W]hat stood out the most was not only the uniqueness of the designs we had, but how we made our brides feel throughout the whole shopping experience."
Taking on a huge gamble, Preya and Nav boldly made the decision to open an outlet in 10 Boulevard, Damansara in January 2021. Soon after, Nav left his corporate job, and pursued the journey of Choli full-time with Preya.
In expanding the Choli name, Nav and Preya were candid about the gruelling creative process, and the lengths they go to for their art
Building a good repertoire with their counterparts in India, Preya noted that her hours spent going through design options, conducting detailed discussions about the heights of the fabric, and going over quality issues can be a tedious process.
"I believe this comes down to our personal touch when selecting combinations of materials and designs we think provide something a little different from the traditional or typical idea of bridal wear."
Going the extra mile to understand their clientele, Nav embellished on the additional work they put in if a design does not entirely match the vision of a Choli lehenga.
"Sometimes we receive designs that require some repair, such as misplaced stones on the fabric. We pluck out and reattach each stone by hand to create the design we see for our brand."
Displaying some of the most intricate and elegant pieces, it's hard to imagine that Choli wedding lehenggas are marketed from as low as RM900!
While the bridal section of Choli releases lehenggas from RM900, their lighter collection starts from around RM280. With their strategic and in-depth planning, Preya and Nav are making a clear statement in building the brand of Choli.
"We are your typical couple getting married soon, so we understand more than anybody the burden of wedding planning and the cost associated with it," the couple told this SAYS writer.
"We don't want to put such high margins. If we feel the price is right for a specific piece, we go with it," as mentioned by Preya.
Generating high-quality pieces and broadcasting them through social media, many Malaysians are flocking to get their very own Choli lehenga
"We are trying to break that norm of purchasing traditional wear from India. We are trying to show people that Malaysia is also starting to have options, especially with us!," said Preya.
Filled with Malaysian pride, Nav and Preya gush over the warm reception of their lehenga line, and how the continued success of Choli has brought so many people of different ethic backgrounds and cultures to their doorstep.
"It really feels amazing that more and more customers, of all ethnicities, are getting to know our brand. We do believe there's a little bit of Bollywood in everyone, and it's great that Malaysians of all backgrounds can comfortably come to us," said Nav.
Preya added, "The culture of the lehenga is growing strong. Traditional outfits can be stylish, too!"
Though known thus far for exclusively carrying lehengas, Choli's expansion to a menswear line is approaching fast
"When we first started Choli, we only had bridal lehengas. Today, we have already expanded into menswear, more casual lehengas, and just recently launched our new line of suit materials," Nav said in the interview.
Initially creating custom-made pieces, the couple have taken steps to produce ready-made menswear for all types of occasions.
While it's not been a bed of roses, Preya and Nav have been taking Choli to greater heights day by day
"The biggest challenge was probably opening our store during the lockdown period. We would get people to make purchases online, and that took a lot of energy out of us," said Nav.
On Preya's end, "It's the fear of the unknown. We still worry about the pandemic. We don’t know if there’s going to be another lockdown, and that can happen at any time."
Despite these challenges, Nav and Preya's up-beat personalities and strong work ethic have taken them further than they've ever imagined.
When asked what their hope for Choli is in the near future, the couple intend for their brand to garner a stronger presence both locally, and internationally.
"Definitely being THE household name when you think about getting married here. Think furniture, think IKEA. Think wedding attire, think Choli."
To find out more about Choli, details of the boutique and their social media platform can be found below:
Choli by Mydesistyle
D-2-57, Block Dahlia, 10 Boulevard PJU 6A, SPRINT, 47400 Petaling Jaya.
11am - 7pm (Daily)
Open every day EXCEPT Mondays.
Find Choli on Instagram.
Look out for more #SAYSBeauty tips and trends!