CLAS­SI­CALLY CON­TEM­PO­RARY

Meet Vibha Kejriwal, a de­signer, en­tre­pre­neur and fash­ion­ista who is re­defin­ing Kolkata’s fash­ion quo­tient to ex­ude un­der­stated el­e­gance and al­lur­ing so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

Marwar - - Contents - Text Rittu Ri­jh­wani Chat­wal

Meet Vibha Kejriwal, a de­signer, en­tre­pre­neur and fash­ion­ista who is re­defin­ing Kolkata’s fash­ion quo­tient.

CUL­TURE, COM­MO­TION and cui­sine—these three words have come to per­son­ify the bois­ter­ous city of Kolkata. Tucked away from the pan­de­mo­nium, alone in the posh Kolkata Bal­ly­gunge area, Vibha Kejriwal’s con­cept store 'Coral' em­anates a tran­quil, dreamy charm. The idyl­lic am­bi­ence beck­ons well-heeled Kolkat­tans for a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence, where clas­sic el­e­ments of de­sign are jux­ta­posed with mod­ern fash­ion sen­si­bil­i­ties.

Trac­ing the lin­eage

Rather than fash­ion, Vibha’s child­hood was about sports—right from ath­let­ics, cricket, swim­ming to com­pet­i­tive bad­minton. The youngest of three sib­lings born in a con­ven­tional Mar­wari joint fam­ily, Vibha dressed with the times, pre­fer­ring pants over most other cloth­ing. While her fa­ther dab­bled in stock­broking, her mother chose to be a home­maker.

A semi-lib­eral up­bring­ing led her to marry Ra­jat Kejriwal at the young age of 18 years. Coming from a fam­ily that was in the flour busi­ness, Ra­jat had cho­sen to tread his own path by ven­tur­ing into the chal­leng­ing but glam­orous busi­ness of tex­tile ex­ports, con­ceiv­ing Sreep­riya Ex­ports in the process. Two beau­ti­ful chil­dren, Tanvi and Vi­raj, fol­lowed soon af­ter.

An eye for de­tail

Vibha’s in­her­ent love for fash­ion came to the fore with Anamika Khanna while still study­ing at the Loreto Col­lege. They started a small line of cloth­ing, which was an in­stant suc­cess. How­ever, with the birth of her chil­dren, Vibha de­cided to com­mit to her new role as a mother. In 1994, when the kids were still very young, she joined Ra­jat at Sreep­riya Ex­ports.

Af­ter work­ing for twenty years, Vibha felt a strong de­sire to start her own busi­ness, which she at­tributes to her Mar­wari her­itage. “My fa­ther, un­cles and rel­a­tives were ei­ther busi­ness own­ers or traders, as es­sen­tially all Mar­waris are. They worked hard and had a love for lux­u­ri­ous life. Af­ter my early mar­riage, I felt the need to have a bet­ter life­style and have the fi­nan­cial free­dom to have it my way.” She con­tin­ues, “Af­ter years of trav­el­ling to Europe and at­tend­ing trade shows and see­ing the lack of trendy, mid-priced lux­ury cloth­ing in Kolkata, the idea of a niche con­tem­po­rary fash­ion store just came up.”

Cre­ation of Coral

Vibha en­vi­sioned a unique con­cept for her yet-to-be born store, Coral. She de­cided to bring in in­ter­na­tional fash­ion sen­si­bil­i­ties to Kolkata by cu­rat­ing her col­lec­tion from the Paris Fash­ion Week. To moder­ate fash­ion aes­thet­ics with busi­ness sen­si­bil­i­ties, Vibha added In­dian pret and avant-

garde col­lec­tions by con­tem­po­rary de­sign­ers from the Lakme Fash­ion Week and Ama­zon In­dia Fash­ion Week. Coral to­day has an in­ter­est­ing reper­toire of brands such as Crea Con­cept from France, An­nette Rostelle & NIU from Italy, Xe­nia De­sign from Croa­tia, Exquise from Tur­key, Siyu from Spain, Star Mela from the UK and more. Amongst the In­dian de­sign­ers per­son­ally cu­rated by Vibha are Ro­hit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna, Nam­rata Jo­shipura, Geisha De­signs, Priyadarshini Rao, Rara Avis By Sonal Verma, Dood­lage and many more.

Client di­aries

As re­gards Coral’s of­fer­ings and client pro­file, Vibha keeps it sim­ple, “I be­lieve in af­ford­able fash­ion, with em­pha­sis on qual­ity and orig­i­nal­ity. Coral’s busi­ness model is to show­case a unique fash­ion col­lec­tion, cu­rated for ur­ban, evolved clien­tele of all age groups, rang­ing from young teens to fash­ion­istas in their six­ties.”

Over­com­ing im­ped­i­ments like Kolkata’s lim­ited celebrity quo­tient, Vibha dis­closes, “We have dressed some Bol­ly­wood big­wigs like Priyanka Cho­pra, Alia Bhatt and Kan­gana Ra­naut, via my celebrity stylist friend Ami Pa­tel. Our lo­cal celebrity clien­tele in­cludes Moon Moon Sen and daugh­ters Ria and Raima, June Mallya, Parno Mi­tra, Ruk­mini, In­drani Das­gupta and Ar­chana Vi­jaya.”

Spread­ing her wings

In line with her vi­sion for Coral, her of­fer­ing has grown to in­clude indige­nous brands like Soul Space and Shankara. Ex­plain­ing these ex­ten­sions Vibha says, “I am very drawn to or­ganic cloth­ing and yoga, so when Soul Space ap­proached us to stock their or­ganic yoga and ath­leisure wear, I eas­ily cre­ated space in my store to ac­com­mo­date them. Shankara is an Ayurveda in­spired nat­u­ral skin care prod­uct, made in USA blend­ing the an­cient tech­niques of the East with the mod­ern tech­nol­ogy of the West. Again the per­fect ex­ten­sion for my con­cept store...”

About shap­ing the fu­ture of Coral, Vibha says, “I am al­ways on the look­out for some­thing new and cre­ative. I love en­cour­ag­ing young bud­ding de­sign­ers with true tal­ent to shine out and launch them at Coral, if their col­lec­tion fits the store

Af­ter my early mar­riage, I felt the need to have a bet­ter life­style and have the fi­nan­cial free­dom to have it my way

sen­si­bil­ity. I also keep ex­plor­ing new de­sign­ers from across the globe and keep adding new col­lec­tions to my store.”

At­ti­tude of grat­i­tude

Talk­ing about those who proved to be the wind be­neath her wings, Vibha gra­ciously ex­presses grat­i­tude to her hus­band for be­ing a con­stant source of sup­port and her in-laws for tak­ing care of her kids while she pur­sued her dream. Smita Shroff—cousin, friend and owner of Elahe, Hyderabad—played the role of a men­tor right through the in­cep­tion to the es­tab­lish­ment of Coral, she ac­knowl­edges. She also men­tions her long-stand­ing as­so­ci­a­tion with cre­ative ge­nius Dries Van Noten and his as­sis­tant David Van­de­wal since her years at Sreep­riya Ex­ports and con­sid­ers them a con­stant driv­ing force and mo­ti­va­tion.

Be­hind the cur­tain

Twenty years have passed since Vibha’s ini­tial en­coun­ters with spir­i­tu­al­ity and the en­su­ing rev­er­ence for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Liv­ing Foun­da­tion. “It has given me much peace and fo­cus. I went for the Foun­da­tion’s teacher train­ing course and also taught the hap­pi­ness pro­gramme for a few years.” Her love for art, on the other hand, is a rel­a­tively re­cent pro­gres­sion, with favourite artists like Alok Uniyal and Shu­vaprasanna. Ap­pre­ci­at­ing up­com­ing tal­ent, Vibha says “From the time I started fol­low­ing art, I have de­vel­oped my own dis­tinct taste and pick up art­works which draw my at­ten­tion. Lately, I have started ap­pre­ci­at­ing sculp­tures and ab­so­lutely love some works of lo­cal Ben­gali artists.”

Com­ment­ing about fash­ion sen­si­bil­i­ties across our met­ros, Vibha quips, “Delhi has more bling fash­ion, Mum­bai has more drama, whereas Kolkata has more so­phis­ti­ca­tion. There are var­i­ous kinds of fash­ion fol­low­ers in all cities, but trend­ing fash­ion has some syn­ergy in all these cities.”

Wed­ding belles

Ready­ing for the up­com­ing wed­ding sea­son, Vibha says, “We have seen a huge growth of trousseau shop­pers at Coral—for bach­e­lor par­ties, brunch and din­ner cloth­ing, beach par­ties and hol­i­day needs. We carry a large va­ri­ety of sil­hou­ettes and styles from in­ter­na­tional and In­dian de­sign­ers and also cater to dif­fer­ent bud­gets. Also, our ac­ces­sories and shoes are a great add-on to the young bride’s shop­ping needs.”

Vibha Kejriwal

Left: On dis­play at Coral are col­lec­tions from SS18—a fine mix of in­ter­na­tional and In­dian wear

Below: A model pos­ing in a gar­ment from Crea Con­cept, Paris—part of the SS18 col­lec­tion at Coral

Clock­wise from top left: Vibha Kejriwal with Smita Shroff, owner of Elahe, a high-end mul­ti­designer store in Hyderabad; The ex­te­ri­ors of Coral (the vin­tage door and win­dow were spe­cially cre­ated by a French artist in Kolkata); Vibha Kejriwal with fam­ily (l-r) Vi­raj (son), Ra­jat (hus­band),Vibha, Pushpa Devi (mother-in­law) and Tanvi (daugh­ter)

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