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hether it’s hand-loomed linens and dessert fantasias or silken canopies dappled with mirrors, a touch of desi-imbued magnificence adds grace to any wedding. So if you’re seeking nuptial plush with real élan, look no further than these opulent vendors.

Fabulous Fabrics

It’s simply impossible to tell the story of Manhattan-based Magnolias Linens without returning time and again to the number three. After all, the event décor company was conceived by three accomplished women—Anjum Ahmed and her daughters, Talaiya and Asema—and their business draws its strength from their triumvirate of advanced degrees: Anjum’s medical degree, Talaiya’s law degree and Asema’s master’s in international development.

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The Ahmeds started the company in 2003, after noticing New York’s dearth of of expressive ornamental fabrics suited to the style in which they entertained. “We knew, coming from India, that there were nicer products available,” says Asema Ahmed, president of Magnolias Linens. Anjum began to design fabrics herself, which she then had made in India to her specifications. The swift and positive feedback from guests and industry insiders inspired them to develop a full-fledged business around the notion of custom-designed, Indian-made fabrics and linens for special events.

A Family Affair
From left: Talaiya, Anjum and Asema Ahmed.

Today, Magnolias offers more than 1,000 different textiles and linens for sale or rental, as well as fabrics designed according to clients’ wishes. “Every season, we come up with a new line,” says Asema. “We’ve done a range, from all-white weddings, to beach themes, where we designed monogrammed towels, to a more classic hotel wedding—we want to show that the artisans are so talented in India that anything can be made, and it’s very important that people understand the quality of craftsmanship and the artwork.”

Asema connects the embracive response to Magnolias (which includes write-ups in Town & Country Weddings, photo features in New York magazine and high-profile clients such as Ron Howard and Salman Rushdie) to the familial atmosphere. “I definitely think that, especially in this industry, where you’re dealing with weddings, people really relate to us [as a family], and they love our dynamic,” she explains. “The chemistry has worked out really well.”

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Fittingly, Asema reveals that her sister Talaiya chose the name of the company because of the movie Steel Magnolias and the close bonds between the women in the film. “We’re three strong, independent women,” she says. “It just stuck.”

Find Magnolias Linens at www.magnoliasgroup.com or visit the showroom at 316 E. 84th Street on New York’s Upper East Side. Showroom visits are by appointment only; call 212.472.7708 to schedule.

The Price Tag

Magnolias Linens Rentals cost anywhere from $25 to $200 per item, with fabrics such as plain organza (which comes in 60 different colors, as well as iridescent shades) skewing toward the lower end of the price range. Retail linens are costlier, as are custom-crafted designs, such as fabrics featuring peacock feathers and handmade beading.

Partistry Prices range widely, although clients have spent as much as $50,000 on customized orders. “We are very open to being as accommodating to people as possible,” says Jehangir Mehta. “We don’t compromise on quality, but we’ll stay within the budget, by compromising quantity” if necessary.

Raj Tents The minimum for an order is $3,500, but after that, prices depend on a variety of factors, such as the general cost of the event and the location—the further from southern California the function takes place, the higher the prices go, due to transportation costs.

Cakewalk

Jehangir Mehta is no spring pullet in the frenetic coop of New York’s high-end restaurant scene. An alumnus of the Culinary Institute of America, the Bombay-born pastry chef established a prominent career inventing precisely flavored desserts that complemented trailblazing dinner fare: The licorice panna cotta he devised at New York’s acclaimed restaurant Aix, for example, garnered as much praise as the frisée salads and saffron-tomato compotes studding the savory side of the restaurant’s menu.

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Mehta left Aix a year-and-a-half ago to focus more closely on Partistry, a confectionary line he began in 2003, which features handmade chocolates, teas, cakes and favors. He remembers his time at the restaurant fondly, declaring that it “couldn’t have been better. Didier [Virot, head chef at Aix] is still one of my very good friends.” But he has no regrets about the change: “I was very comfortable with the job, but I wanted to introduce a little discomfort into my life,” he laughs. “If I was still there, I would have been doing the same things and not doing more—I would have put the things I do now on the back burner.”

Partistry began as a side project, a Web site that sold a few chocolates here, a cake or two there. “It was very nice starting it in a way selling just a few things, but [it] became so much bigger than we ever expected,” says Mehta. Other side projects of Mehta’s, such as his candy-making classes for children, spread the word about the line’s offerings, and there was “an explosion,” he marvels. “After that, we became so much more of an establishment, which is great because that was exactly what we wanted to do, in a way.”

Although Partistry’s scale runs smaller than that of similar enterprises, Mehta finds it both a challenge and an advantage. “I would prefer being small and doing those things than be big and not be able to offer the same quality of service.” He stresses that they “go the extra mile” for their clients, creating unique packaging (often made from decorative Indian papers), thank-you and wedding cards, and performing other individual services, such as delivery. None of these extras are advertised, but Partistry’s clients have usually learned about them through word of mouth. “They remember us for being customized—that’s why people like us,” Mehta guesses.

How would Mehta describe the edible products? “I think it is just a small selection of things that we want to portray as what we can do, but if you call us and want something more, we can do a variety of unique custom things.” Such “custom things” include cakes festooned with fresh flowers and hand-painted designs, and customized wedding favors, as well as more ambitious creations—a chocolate box with an inscribed wedding proposal, or individualized party favors, 30 in all, for a wedding in London. The latter commission took guests’ personal tastes and hobbies into account: “Tea for someone who likes tea, chocolate for someone who likes chocolate, even shiny metallic packaging for someone who likes metals,” Mehta elaborates. He evinces a preference for Partistry’s favors over its cakes, underlining the extra consideration inherent in personalized favors: “I really like customizing things.”

Find Partistry at www.partistry.com or call 800.939.2990. Email inquiries for wedding orders to weddinginfo@partistry.com.

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Under Cover

A childhood spent in Dhaka left Dominic Mitchell with a lifelong passion for all things Subcontinental. “When you’re young, especially because the Indian Subcontinent is an essentially alive environment, you get infused with colors and scents. It makes England [where Mitchell’s family later moved] seem very grey,” he says. Mitchell’s sister still lives in Delhi, along with many of his friends, and he maintains a solid connection with India, visiting a couple of times every year. But he doesn’t just journey to catch up with kith and kin. As co-founder and CEO of Raj Tents, a high-end tenting rental company with additional production facilities in India, Mitchell now has business concerns to complement his emotional link to the country.

Raj Tents, now based in Los Angeles, got off the ground in San Francisco in 2004. Mitchell’s friend Maurice Walsh, who was based in California, contacted Mitchell, who was then working with luxury tent rentals in London. The duo decided that the sunny weather and popularity of outdoor entertaining in the Golden State constituted the perfect market for their idea: a prettier take on the industry standard of frame tents with blank white linings.

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Click to view a slideshow of tents from Raj Tents.

“If you’re selling, you know, widgets, then the plain corporate tents are OK,” jokes Mitchell, “but if it’s a celebration, then it should be something else.” The bamboo frames and scalloped silk linings that number among Raj Tents’ inventory are something else, indeed: dramatically ornate and romantic, they still provide the basic and necessary utility of a good tent—shade. “I like that we can take the celebration and turn it totally around, so people are blown away by the beauty of it, while making outdoors a usable space—softer and cooler,” Mitchell says.

Clients certainly concur. In 2006, to meet burgeoning customer demand, the business had to expand from its original Bay area location to a larger office in Los Angeles and eventually form a plant in India to take care of the extended production range. Now, they field requests from as far away as the Bahamas. Any challenges resulting from the growth? “Definitely,” responds Mitchell. “If you’re doing something remotely, you just need to have all your procedures down to the tiniest dot on each i, cross every t, because if you leave something at home, or forget something, you can’t go back and get it. The planning has to be executed to a very high standard. Labor is also a challenge—we look for local people to keep the cost down. But it’s nothing that we can’t deal with, and the end result is more rewarding.”

What does Mitchell find most gratifying about being in this line of business? “Definitely that you are creating memories for people, which is probably the most precious commodity there is: You’re part of the arrangements that make a really special day—part of what goes down in someone’s memory as being a really special day, that’s what it’s all about.”

Find Raj Tents at www.rajtents.com. For California and nationwide enquiries, call 310.320.6600.n

Nalini Abhiraman has always been into luxury, starting with her pair of pearl-handled pistols. Bang bang, she is the warrior.
Published on June 4, 2007.
Photography: Courtesy of Magnolias Linens, Partistry and Raj Tents.
Comments are closed.
  1. June 4, 2007, 10:18 am Dhrumil

    Wow. Those are some sick tents. I just got inspired!