When Michaele Salahi finagled her way into the White House in her red sari, the feminine Indian outfit took a giant leap out into mainstream fashion. Now Salahi wannabes have a way to indulge their inner Indian princess on a fraction of designer prices with a new service from Borrow it Bindaas (BIB), a Southern California company that aims to do for saris what Seattle-based Bag, Borrow, and Steal does for upscale handbags.
Sisters Siddhi and Riddhi Khara started the online venture only a few years after graduating from UC Irvine. Siddhi, who has a degree in international business, and Riddhi, who worked as an event planner, were keen on developing an organic business that was inspired by their Indian upbringing. “Our friends were constantly borrowing clothes from our extensive collection,” says Siddhi, and the sisters wondered if there was a business there.
The idea of lending saris is deceptively simple, yet BIB seems to have gone the extra mile to think of every contingency that faces a woman looking at six yards of sequined cloth. Along with the base product, BIB sends every accessory you might need – from the petticoat to safety pins. And a helpful guide on the website suggests pairing with suitable clutches and jewelry.
What about the blouse, you may ask. And here’s where BIB’s meticulous planning delivers a winner. As any woman who has struggled into blouses made for her thinner self (pretty much everyone!) will attest, this item is usually the biggest headache for the fashion conscious event-goer. BIB takes care of it by sizing their blouses by US clothing sizes and sending a second blouse a size up or down with tie-backs for easier fitting. Rentals are usually for a week and the shipment and return are pretty much the Netflix model, with a prepaid envelope for easy mailing.
And so far, BIB’s growing customer base has been appreciative and respectful. Saris have returned in very good shape and first time users are gratefully converting into repeat renters. The business, which just opened its virtual doors in May 2011, already has over 4,000 members signed up and ready to try its product during the upcoming festival season.
Borrow it Bindaas may be aimed at the Indophile Westerner keen to make an exotic splash at her next do, but it taps into a hidden need even in the Indian community. Given that most desis circulate within a small group, it is always a challenge to bring a new look to every event. And then there is the second generation desi, who rarely makes a trip to India to stock up.
Vrunda Merchant is one of those youngsters for whom BIB is a boon. The social worker doesn’t have much of a personal collection of saris, but like to dress up occasionally. She rented a vibrant orange Archana Kochhar sari form BIB with all the bells and whistles and was so delighted she borrowed another designer sari by Neeta Lulla soon after. “I can’t really afford these high end clothing items on my county salary,” she says. Vrunda paid about $60 for her 6-day rental per sari. She confirms that the receipt and return were both super easy.
Say ad girl Ruth McCartney, who describes herself as a “digital diva,” “I just love the idea.” McCartney rented abeautiful red sari from BIB for a business event at the Beverly Hills Hilton. “I decided to turn some heads,” she laughs, “Saris are a pretty feminine fashion for those of us who like to dress up.”
Adds McCartney, “Russell Brand and Katy Perry just had their wedding in India. I’ve seen people wear it on red carpets much more often these days.” The sari is everywhere, it appears. McCartney also accessorized her sari with earrings, bangles, and a purse from BIB. The tailors at BIB even stitched the pleats for her. “It was so comfortable I wore it the whole day,” says Ruth.
With more designers keen to explore the American market, BIB’s already diverse inventory is all set to expand. The BIB sari idea has been so enthusiastically received that the sisters have diversified into salwar kameezes and anarkalis. For the cash-strapped, US-based customer, BIB offers a great way to get a taste of high couture at bargain basement prices. I’m keeping an eye out for the IPO!