Sisters from Kolkata began The Kesar Studio from a small space at home, now empower artisans from West Bengal

The Kesar Studio is an amalgamation of intricate embroidery and timeless silhouettes for the brides-to-be and her entourage. Started in a small studio at home, the brand is also a source of livelihood for artisans living in Kolkata and the outskirts of West Bengal.

Even as a kid, it was not for Aanchal Kanodia to wear ready-made clothes with random designs. Instead, she would visit stores in Kolkata and explain her design through pictures. Though, neither at this tender age nor when she grew up did she ever have plans for setting up her designer label. But the origin of The Kesar Studio is surely a result of her passion for designing clothes.

The trousseau wears brand touches upon the needs of the brides of Indian culture and the bridesmaids in focus, who often find it hard to choose a designer-wear outfit for themselves. “The market is full of clothes for brides but a very few cater to the demands and choices of bride’s sisters, relatives and we aim to stand on those expectations,” Kanodia says.

Born and brought up in the art capital of India, Aanchal Kanodia pursued a course in Fashion from NIFT, Kolkata, while her sister Shristi Kanodia pursued Fashion Marketing from the same institute. Soon after, in 2017, Aanchal joined a letter designing company and later joined Manyavar, where the entrepreneur bug bit her, and she thought of starting her brand. She got a little benefit as her home in Salt Lake City was under renovation then, allowing her to make a small studio inside it for the work.

Shristi Kanodia (left) and Aanchal Kanodia (right)

Initially, Kanodia was inclined toward shoe designing after being inspired by a popular shoe designer from Kolkata. However, she found her age-old calling in designing clothes and began in the small space. Her dressing sense would always revolve around Indian wear, which helped her choose the product category for her brand. “I wanted to design those clothes that I would love wearing too,” she says.

The idea also attracted Shristi, and she got involved in the business with her sister. The duo was sure of creating a pure, handmade and handcrafted brand, and while Aanchal managed the overall designing elements, Shristi took care of the marketing strategies. Their efforts led to an expansion of the brand as the far-off relatives and acquaintances turned out to be their initial customers. Within no time, more than half of their home constituted their workspace!

Karigars, the backbone

While the embroidery work is a mandate for the clothes, Kanodias have been experimenting with various fabrics and designs. The recent boom-dye apparel comprising lehengas, anarkalis, Indo-western, and more received huge popularity, after which they are also planning to use another kind of dyes for the clothes.

The sisters source the raw material for their clothes from places like Banaras and Surat and get them dyed from the outskirts of West Bengal through various artisans. Aanchal and Shristi are connected with nearly 20-25 head artisans under who many small artisans work for the brand. After the clothes are dyed, they are embroidered, stitched, and finished at a unit in Kolkata. As a matter of fact, the packaging done for the products is also handcrafted by the people working in the unit.

Even though Aanchal handles the entire design work for the brand, she mentioned that Karigars put all their effort into making her designs turn into a reality. “Oftentimes, we fail to recognize the efforts of karigars without whom it would be impossible to run a handwoven business. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be without their presence. They are the backbone of our brand,” she adds.

Warmth at the store of The Kesar Studio

Aanchal and Shristi were planning to set up their retail store when the lockdown hit the country. Though they had to halt the plan, still the brand found support from its customers. “Since folks from Kolkata were aware of our making techniques and of the fact that we take utmost care in the production process, many did not hesitate to buy from us even during the initial days of the pandemic,” she says.

As the cases slowed down in the country, the sisters established a store in October 2021 in Salt Lake City where a wide variety of light, medium to heavy-work clothes are offered. Aanchal highlights that her store has a edge over the price factor as handmade clothes are comparably expensive. The average price for the clothes ranges from Rs 8,000, which goes up to Rs 60,000 to Rs 70,000 for heavy clothes.

This apart, Aanchal never leaves a chance to deal with the customers herself to help them provide an authentic experience. “I have observed that people connect to the brand, even more, when they talk to the designers,” she says, adding that she has received various compliments from people for the warm welcome at the store.

The realization has made Aanchal remain in touch with the customers and the store even while living in Mumbai. Meanwhile, Shristi makes sure to continue with the warm hospitality back in their hometown.

Also Read: With quirky quilts and colourful toy pillows, these Uttarakhand women from ‘Purkal Stree Shakti’ are quilting joys!

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