W

hen Salima Popatia’s sister got engaged, Popatia was determined to avoid being stuck in a gaudy-looking lengha or a boring-been-done shalwar kameez to the wedding. So the hunt began for “an Indian outfit that was less traditional, more hip and funky,” says the 28-year-old NYU Stern School of Business grad. The pursuit proved more difficult than she expected. Popatia scoured both Jackson Heights, the South Asian neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Oak Tree Road, the Indian area of Iselin, New Jersey, for the perfect ensemble. But instead of finding stylish couture, she only saw traditional (and somewhat tacky) clothing that didn’t fit her own sense of style. “I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I didn’t want the things that were in Oak Tree Road or Jackson Heights. I went there five or six times, but I couldn’t find anything I liked. Everything was manufactured, one-size-fits-all. I didn’t like the quality. I was looking for something different,” she explains.

Salima was on the hunt for an Indian outfit that was less traditional, more hip and funky.

Taking matters into her own hands, Popatia turned to the Internet for the solution. That’s when she discovered celebrated Indian designer Payal Singhal. On Singhal’s site, Popatia stumbled upon the ensemble she had been dreaming of: “I found a strapless top and straight skirt. I wore that top again later with jeans,” she says.

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Indomix founder, Salima Popatia.

But Popatia didn’t stop there—she took her pursuit for the perfect outfit to the next level. After discovering a whole other world of hot Indian designers creating clothing that fit both desi and Western sensibilities, Popatia was determined to introduce their collections stateside. After meeting Singhal in person while she was in the States for a rare trunk show, Popatia’s quest to bring high Indian fashion to the US began. “I started contacting other designers asking if there was an interest in retailing in New York, and I got an overwhelming response—even from [famed Indian designer] Mr. JJ Valaya himself!” So she whipped up a business plan, conducted extensive market research, rushed off to Delhi and Bombay to meet designers, and, a year later, founded Indomix, a trendy specialty boutique in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan, just east of SoHo.

Our challenge is a bit different in that we have to educate our customers on what it means to own a Malini Ramani or a Rathore.

Indomix, which opened this August, currently carries the works of five Indian designers: Payal Singhal, Malini Ramani, Rathore, Kavita Bhartia and Cheena Chandra. Popatia is working to feature other designers, as well—and she’s always on the lookout for more. But Popatia insists that Indomix isn’t competing with those stores in Jackson Heights or on Oak Tree Road: “Indomix’s competition is stores like [New York specialty boutiques] Scoop and Calypso. We sell high-end designer collections the likes of Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen, Armani. Our challenge is a bit different in that we have to educate our customers on what it means to own a Malini Ramani or a Rathore,” says Popatia.

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The boutique.

Most Indian designers have three components to their collections—high-end signature lines, ready-to-wear lines and Western wear lines. Indomix chooses from the ready-to-wear and Western lines to create a collection that includes daytime and evening fusion wear and a small selection of Indian formal wear, such as lenghas, shalwar kameezes and saris. Popatia even takes special orders for bridal and formal wear from any of her featured designers. And while the bulk of the stock is Western-style wear, the traditional pieces aren’t what one would expect. “It’s usually referred to as a fusion line. We don’t carry traditional in the sense of traditional attire … we have shalwar kameezes and lengha cholis, but they are a blend of American and Indian style. They are more funky and versatile … you can mix the kurta of a shalwar kameez with jeans; you can wear the dupatta as a scarf or you can wear a lengha with a T- shirt. We have a halter top shalwar kameez, or a one-shoulder kameez.”

Our whole concept is to feature Indian designers and bring in a different kind of vibe. This is the concept on which we based our name Indomix—it’s all about being creative with your wardrobe.

And Popatia herself hand-picks the items featured in her store. “I love all the designers Indomix is featuring. Each has a unique and intrinsic quality that represents the designer. I try every designer piece on and have to love their cuts and styles in order for us to sell it,” she explains. In addition to clothing, Indomix also offers designer handbags and jewelry.

Though the boutique has only been open for two months, Popatia says the response has been tremendous. In its first few weeks, more than 300 people signed up to receive email updates about the store. But South Asians aren’t the only ones craving Indomix: “The clientele has been as diverse as New York and really fits no mold. They are eclectic consumers who know quality, are looking for something unique and want to stand out from the crowd.”

Popatia is certain her clientele will keep clamoring for trendy fusion wear. “Our whole concept is to feature Indian designers and bring in a different kind of vibe … This is the concept on which we based our name Indomix—it’s all about being creative with your wardrobe.” n

Published on October 1, 2004.
Photography: Vikram Tank for Nirali Magazine.

More Information

Indomix

Visit Indomix

232 Mulberry Street (between Prince and Spring)
New York, NY
212.334.6356
info@indomix.com

Normal business hours:
Tuesday-Saturday, 12-7 p.m.
Sunday 12-6 p.m.

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