When designer Kresha Bajaj Zaveri (32) decided to tie the knot with her jeweler beau Vanraj Zaveri, little she did know that her wedding attire would herald a new epoch in her journey as a fashion designer and an entrepreneur.
Kresha is the founder and creative director of Label Kresha Bajaj, earlier known as Koecsh. Kresha’s self–designed wedding lehenga, the embroidery of which was a narration of her love story, was the embodiment of new age aspirations – creations that were personal and unique. The lehenga made a splash on social media and catapulted Kresha’s label into the league of the most sought after designers for avant-garde bridal wear.
The trend of weaving love stories has found takers like South actor Samantha Akkineni and Shloka Ambani, daughter-in-law of business tycoon of Mukesh Ambani. Kresha’s clientele also includes Bollywood stars like Dia Mirza, Sunny Leone, and Anannya Pandey.
A Learning Curve in the Form of a Personal Project
The daughter of industrialist Kishor Bajaj, who founded the 40-year-old luxury menswear brand Badasaab, Kresha knew at an early age that fashion was her calling. She has studied at the most reputed fashion colleges in the world including London College of Fashion, Parsons in New York and Paris and Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. She recalls, “When I was in the last leg of my education in Los Angeles, I noticed a shift in buying patterns. Brands were letting people try out 4-5 outfits at home so they could style in their own way. The experience was personalized and I was determined to do something similar back home.”
The inspiration led her to launch Koecsh, an e-commerce portal that Kresha describes as “the one-stop shop for all things fashionable.”
The line of ready-to-wear Western outfits was a reflection of Kresha’s rebellious side. She says, “My petite stature and baby-like voice would prevent people from taking me seriously and fashion was a weapon against that. I just went with my gut, and the trends, colours, and designs were diametrically opposite to conventional standards.”
It was a while before Kresha’s work attracted clients and garnered appreciation. She shares, “Initially people couldn’t wrap their heads around my phraseology of fashion. I had designed an all-black summer collection and lehenga blouses that looked like bras. Eventually, the wave of cynicism subsided and I started getting noticed for my designs.”
However, just when the label started tasting success, the website crashed, and Kresha had to start from the scratch.
Incidentally, Kresha’s wedding was approaching at the same time, and thus started the hunt for the perfect bridal trousseau. Unsatisfied with the outfits she found at designer stores, Kresha decided to designer her own outfit.
She recounts, “I wanted to create something that could be of value, something which did not become boring because I couldn’t bear the idea of the lehenga gathering moss in my closet. I realized that if I made my lehenga a tapestry of the most special moments of our relationship, I could frame it on the wall as a prized possession.”
Soon, Kresha hired third-generation artisans from across the country for the creation of her dream lehenga. She says, “I had to make sure the end result did not look like a comic strip. On top of that, I was designing clothes for Vanraj and my entire family was well. My team and I worked tirelessly to learn the nuances of embroidery and in hindsight, that was the beginning of a new chapter for my brand.”
Photos of Kresha’s wedding lehenga got viral traction on social media and popular digital news portals. The lehenga’s celebrity status became a guiding light for Kresha. She says, “After the software crash, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with my business. After my wedding, I started getting calls from brides across the world and that pushed me to rechristen my brand Koecsh and shift the focus on creating bespoke luxury Indian wear.” That is how Label Kresha Bajaj was born, and the store was launched in Bandra in 2018.
Care for Karigars
Kresha’s relationship with the community of karigars has deeper roots than those forged by the creation of her wedding lehenga. She says, “The karigars have been the backbone of my business. Their skills are not something that are taught at schools; they have learnt it from their forefathers. Crafts like these are dying and especially what with a pandemic and a recession underway, their profession is under threat.”
To lend a helping hand to the community of karigars, Kresha has collaborated with fashion designer Shubhika Davda (of Papa Don’t Preach by Shubhika fame) to start the #CareForKarigars intiative. A limited edition rhinestone crystal cape designed by Kresha and a belt bag designed by Shubhika and made by karigars will be sold as part of the initiative. Its proceeds will be channelized to support karigars and their families across the country.
Barring the economic fallout, Kresha is hopeful that the pandemic will usher in some much-needed changes in the fashion industry. She elaborates, “People will be making more educated purchases and consider carbon footprints while buying. The luxury market will grow and there will be more demand for investment pieces that last generations. Frivolous purchases driven by the fast fashion industry will shrink.”
Kresha claims that her brand provides a complete experience to the customer rather than just the purchase. But for the foreseeable future, her goal is to ensure that the in-store experience translates well to online purchases. Empowered by her experiences so far, Kresha is confident on facing this challenge.
(Edited by Athira Nair)