Fashion Trunk Shows, Mumbai-Style

Months of Preparation

The two designers make a small profit from their shows, but as Mohatta explained, it is more of a hobby and creative outlet for friends. But medium-size designers can make $15,000 to $20,000 per year, said Tanna.

Still, Kathari said she spent six months preparing for the day. The shows are invitation-only, so the designers are usually friends with their customers. As she circles the room, Kothari answers questions about the clothing. She is wearing one of her favorite outfits from the new collection: a green and peach salwar kurta ornamented with the delicate Kashmiri work (chain-stitched embroidery with gold thread).

Just a few steps away, her sister-in-law, Anjali Jhunjhunwala, helps to rehang some items. The 36-year-old is also a designer, and Kothari will return the favor by helping to organize her upcoming show in March.

"It's a source of pride to be doing something constructive with your life," said Jhunjhunwala, explaining why she designs the casual clothing line she started 12 years ago. "I think it's a more creative way of spending your time. And it's a good source of pocket money at the end of the day."

"I had time, I needed a hobby. But now it's transformed into something greater," she said. "Today, people ask me when my next show is."

Along with the upcoming holidays of Diwali and the Muslim New Year, the women also need to purchase new outfits for the Indian wedding season, which runs from December to February.

Kanupriya Garg, 25, attended the show with her mother. She is getting married this year, and her future mother-in-law arrived early and had some outfits set aside for her, including a beautiful white salwar kurtas with pale pink accents and silver beading.

"If I like it, she'll buy it for me [as a wedding gift]," she said.

Across the room, Jyotsna Nvatia, 49, a lawyer, teacher and tarot card reader, admired a bright pink floral print.

"One day I opened my cupboard, and everything inside was white and beige," she said, realizing she needed a change. "Now I love bright colors, bright patterns, though I'm sure some say I'm menopausal."

She hates shopping because it takes her so long to make a decision, but still, she attends the shows.

"Priya is my good buddy, but I'd rather go to an art exhibition or a lecture of spirituality.

"In America," she said, "you have a very standardized clothing, the same patterns, the same colors -- grays and lilacs -- and every store will have the same color combination. They have the same cuts, there's no originality. Here you have people using their own skills, and I find it to be more original."

As the shopping slowed, the close group of friends gathered at the dining table overlooking the show where they calculated the sales, completed their purchases, then ate a lunch of vegetable pulao, cholar, butter naan, raita and kulfi (a homemade ice cream flavored with saffron and pistachio).

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