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Finding her passion in fashion: Plymouth woman thrives with online Bollywood-style boutique

As a first-generation Indian American, Nila Chakraborty of Plymouth has turned her passion for fashion into an online boutique, bringing lavish Bollywood-style formal wear right to customers’ doorsteps.

Before launching ShopBollyWear.com two years ago, Chakraborty was a part-time wedding planner for the Indian community, a side gig she began while working full-time in finance.

“After I got married with my husband, a lot of people started calling me,” she said. They wanted to know where she got her outfits and jewelry for her traditional Indian wedding.

Her family immigrated from India when she was 2 years old. “We grew up watching a lot of Bollywood movies, going to Indian parties, dressing up when we would go to weddings,” Chakraborty said, adding that it was very much a mixture of eastern and western cultures.

Describing herself as “a little fashionista,” Chakraborty enjoyed dressing up, wearing bright and colorful clothing with matching accessories.

“I just loved Indian fashion,” she said, adding she emulated Bollywood movies, which were very “rich and lavish” as they portrayed the latest fashion trends in India, from makeup to the clothing and jewelry.

Weddings were also very colorful and bright, requiring a variety of outfits for the four to eight days of festivities.

As a wedding planner, Chakraborty witnessed the great lengths her clients would go to in order to acquire Indian festival-wear.

Pre-internet, people would either travel to India to purchase the items or have a family member “curate it for you and bring it back,” she said, “and sometimes, you wouldn’t like it.” Shipping the items to the U.S. could also take months.

In 2012, she says the entrepreneurial light bulb turned on, lighting the way to create an e-commerce store that would “bring this [fashion] to the footsteps of the Asian population,” a niche market as the Indian population began to grow in America.

In March 2016, Chakraborty launched the online boutique for clothing and fashion for the whole family that celebrates the Indian tradition.

In addition to providing a service to her customers in America, “We also wanted to help women back home,” Chakraborty said, by creating jobs for the rural women, whose main source of income is weaving fabrics.

On her website, customers can choose from 3,000 to 5,000 products. It’s a one-stop shop for good-quality, reasonably priced clothing for the whole family, she said.

Among the items are a variety of styles of sarees, a female garment from India consisting of five to nine yards of fabric that can be wrapped in various styles.

Her inventory consists of more intricate and artistic sarees that are harder to find in the U.S., she said, such as the kalamkari, an ancient style of hand-painting on cotton or silk.

Kalamkari prints are in a variety of shapes and patterns, many of which tell the story of the Hindu religion, she explained.

“People want to look and feel their best at all events, and ShopBollywear is there to help them do that–feel like a Bollywood star,” she said.

With many customers not wanting to be repetitive by wearing the same outfit twice, Chakraborty’s next business venture is to launch TradeBollyWear.com, in order to provide an online platform where customers can buy previously worn formal wear.

Now, Chakraborty runs a full-time business, helping people to look their best for those special occasions. “It’s fun,” she said. “You’ve got to find your passion in life … I found my passion.”

Because of her passion and achievements as CEO of the online venture, Chakraborty has been named a 2018 Women in Business honoree by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. She is among 47 women being recognized “for their professional achievements, leadership and contributions to the broader Twin Cities community.”

“Starting my own business in an area I am passionate about has been my lifelong dream and being honored and recognized in the Journal means a lot to me,” she said.

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