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Love story lehengas: What if your wedding lehenga narrated your love story?

After photos of her own wedding outfit set social media afire last year, Kresha Bajaj now translates romances of other brides-to-be on to their wedding ensembles

brunch Updated: Jan 10, 2017 19:43 IST
Kresha Bajaj

The final sketch for Singapore bride Sonam Nanwani’s lehenga

What if your lehenga narrated your love story? After photos of her own wedding outfit set social media afire last year, Kresha Bajaj now translates romances of other brides-to-be on to their wedding ensembles

Kresha Bajaj used to hate traditional Indian togs. When she started her label Koecsh a few years ago, she was clear about what the label would stand for: edgy Western sensibilities. Her creations included collar harnesses, cage bustiers, spiked rings, experimental skirts and jackets. Thus, when her wedding date was set last year, Bajaj’s mother suggested she get her wedding lehenga from one of the many couturiers in the city, as Indian designs were not her forte. “I spent days browsing and saw some beautiful ones, but they just weren’t me,” says the Mumbai-based fashion designer. “That’s when I decided that I was going to make my own lehenga,” she adds.

While watching an episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, she stumbled upon an ingenious idea. “One of the characters had framed her wedding dress, and since I believe in all things multi-purpose, this had my attention.” When she bounced the idea off her fiancé Vanraj Zaveri, he was sceptical. “He told me, ‘you get sick of looking at the same art, are you sure you want to do this?’” she recalls. So that her wedding lehenga would always be a beautiful memoir, Bajaj decided to translate milestones from her relationship onto the lehenga, through intricate, embroidered designs on each kali. The jumping dolphins on the hem symbolised the moment Bajaj and Zaveri first met, at a protest rally against dolphin culling; the clinking of champagne glasses, the proposal in Maldives; while the palace symbolised the time they recced their wedding venue in Udaipur.

Bajaj’s pictures went viral, her story covered on websites such as Cosmopolitan and Metro UK. “I’ve always been a little weird with my creations and never thought it would get so popular,” she says. Fast forward to a few months later and Bajaj now has her hands full, helping other brides-to-be translate their milestone moments onto their ensembles. Here are their stories.

Love in Singapore and a lehenga with a Merlion!

Singapore bride Sonam Nanwani met her husband at a satsang, represented on her lehenga through the two hands joined in prayer (Vidya Subramanian/HT PHOTO)

Sonam Nanwani reached out to Bajaj on email after seeing her pictures. The Singapore-based bride-to-be wanted her wedding lehenga to reflect all the beautiful moments she had experienced in her relationship. “This one was a bit challenging as Sonam and I’d never met. Everything was decided over texts and video chats,” says Bajaj, adding that she really had to dig in to get as many details about their courtship as possible. Nanwani and her husband met at a satsang in Singapore, so, that first meeting was recreated by embroidering two joined hands – male and female – like in prayer, with diyas around. The celebrated Singapore skyline – including famous icons such as the Merlion – found its way on the hem, while roses became a recurring motif through the lehenga. “During a chat, I discovered that her husband would write her a lot of letters during their courtship, so I decided to transpose one of the letters around the entire length of the dupatta,” adds Bajaj. Plus, the couple’s names were also weaved in the midst of some zardozi that ran vertically through the lehenga. “Considering that we had never met, she really trusted my vision and was very open to the suggestions I gave,” she says.

London Eye + Mumbai’s Sea Link on this cross-cultural lehenga

The gold embroidery on Riddhi Ved’s wedding lehenga depicts iconic monuments of the cities the couple is from, such as the Taj Mahal Palace, the Gateway of India in Mumbai and the London Eye; and the facade of the Venetian hotel where Ved’s fiancé proposed (Vidya Subramanian/HT PHOTO)

Riddhi Ved and her beau first met each other at a Spanish class in London. The friendship that blossomed over customary holas and buenas noches soon turned into love. Ved was from Mumbai and her groom-to-be, a Spaniard from London, and their cross-continental affair deserved a memento unlike any other. Ved is a Kutchi and wanted a panetar-style lehenga – a wedding outfit with a white base and traditional motifs that is common in Gujarati communities. Bajaj wanted to know what they loved the most, so Ved sent her a motif that had a flower entwined with a trumpet – she loved nature while he, music. The words ‘Enamorado Siempre’, meaning ‘forever in love’, were embroidered into the lehenga – as language had forged their destinies. “Ved is originally from Mumbai so we decided to incorporate London and Mumbai elements, like the Eye and the Sealink in the outfit,” says Bajaj. The proposal happened in Venice, so the façade of the hotel where they stayed was included as another element. “I think one of the most beautiful elements is the recreation of a scene where they went ice-skating at Somerset House during Christmas. It’s moments like these that make all the hard work so worth it,” she says.

A work-in-progress sketch of the proposal segment on Riddhi Ved’s lehenga. It depicts the facade of the Venetian hotel where Ved’s fiancé proposed

Love sonnets on a lehenga

This story was slightly different from the others in that Bajaj is designing the bride’s mehendi outfit. The raw silk lehenga has intricate resham work that includes details from the bride and groom’s journey together. Because New York is special to the couple, the city’s skyline finds its way onto the piece, while their names are also entwined in one of the portions. “I asked her about the most romantic moment, and she said it was when he covered the entire path outside her house with rose petals on Valentine’s Day. It’s a beautiful memory,” says Bajaj. What she also discovered in subsequent talks was that the groom would write poems to her, and that was a token that merited a special space. “We embroidered the longest poem he’d written, along the hem, while the shorter ones were sewed on to each kali. A personal memory is now forever,” she says.

The Times square lehenga with south Indian motifs

Bajaj is evasive about the details of this one, as it involves two famous celebrities from the South film industry. “In this case, it’s a love story sari as the bride is south Indian and will wear it on her engagement,” she says. The sari will be plain white with a heavy blouse, and the couple’s story will be showcased through the heavily embroidered pallu – since Times Square holds a lot of significance for them, the special moments in their relationship will be recreated on billboards, reminiscent of the iconic area. These include song lyrics, pictures and even their movie posters. “Translating someone’s personal story on to a garment is quite sensitive and can even end up looking comical. When I consult with the bride on her likes and dislikes, it almost feels like a therapy session,” laughs Bajaj. “The end result, though, is always special.”

From HT Brunch, November 27, 2016

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