A BRAND IS BORN
At an Indian wedding (Part 1)
If you have been to an Indian wedding, especially as a guest, you know just how much fun it can be. The ceremonies, rituals, traditions, colours, loud music, dancing till the floor breaks -yes, this happens!, one thousand guests, horses, elephants, flashing lights, fireworks, henna on hands and feet, beautiful Indian sarees that seem like they are out of a fairy tale and rows of Indian food that are no less than a culinary exhibition. Oh! Just thinking about it makes me want to be in one right now!
How it all started, 2 hours late….
It was there, at one such wedding, my own to Dominic (COO of Elephant Cross), that the seed was planted for the flowering of Elephant Cross as we know it today. Our Indian wedding was in many ways, a first of its kind for both families. Dominic being from Switzerland and me from India, this was the first foreign infiltration of our bloodlines. Other than that, for the Indian side, it was the smallest, strangest wedding ever with only 80 guests, the groom’s side arriving on time (something we still struggle to understand) and even paying for all their own expenses (something we quietly wonder about !).
Whereas for the Swiss side, the wedding was nothing short of an Arabian Nights adventure. Dominic arriving on a shining white horse – 2 hours before the girl’s side started getting ready – with an outfit like Aladdin, complete with sword in his hand. Now before you romanticise this picture in your head, let me tell you the sword wasn’t sharp, the horse moved at a speed of 1km per hour but accompanying him was a DJ Van with blasting music, and friends and family dancing, like a mini street parade. Yes, it was a sight to behold but how did all of this lead to the creation of Elephant Cross, a sustainable fashion company centred around cashmere and silk scarves?
With love from the land of tea, spices, cows and cashmere!
Well, here it is: at North Indian weddings, there is a custom which sees the bride and groom’s families exchange gifts. It’s called Milne and for some unknown reason, our family always used to give blankets to the groom’s side which seems logical as India does get cold in winters. This logic also serves to explain the strange collection of blankets in my extended family; all with different shapes, sizes, materials and colours. The problem with that Indian custom this time around was, our new Swiss family would have to bring huge, luggage defying blankets back home with them to Zurich.
So, the good old blankets weren’t working this time. We were in a seemingly hopeless situation. We needed something different. Something symbolic of India. Something light weight, premium and expensive looking. After rejecting tea, spices, bedsheets and cows, yes cows were on the list for a flip second. (There is an established Indian custom of gifting a cow at a daughter’s wedding, but then we realised that the Swiss already have lots of cows). So, after much consideration, we decided that a lightweight, luxurious symbol of India was to be found in the world famous Indian cashmere scarves (also known as pashminas).
That was it! We headed straight to our usual retailer who stocked the most premium Indian scarves. We excitedly purchased a huge lot of pashminas in brilliant colours and traditional Indian oriental patterns. My husband’s family and friends loved them. So much so that after our marriage, on every subsequent trip to India, they asked if we could bring back some more scarves.
Clearly, these scarves were a hit with family and friends, and if they loved them…. well, there was a business idea here that we seized and followed. Unfortunately, it soon led us to the dark side of these otherwise beautiful cashmere scarves.
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