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Lounge Heroes | This entrepreneur makes sure every bride gets her dream dress

Kannur-based Sabitha A.K has been sourcing pre-owned bridal wear and donating it to young women from poor families

Courtesy Agora Group
Courtesy Agora Group

Last week, Sabitha A.K. received a call that left her overwhelmed. It was from KN, a young woman, who told her: “Bhabhi, until recently, I used to pray with a heavy heart. It would feel like nothing would ever be right. But thanks to you, today I had a smile on my face while praying."

The 23-year-old from a poor family in Pinarayi, in Kerala’s Kannur district, had been struggling: Her wedding was days away and she didn’t even have a bridal outfit. Till Sabitha, who happens to know KN, stepped in, sourcing a designer outfit for her big day.

Two months ago, in a unique initiative, the 41-year-old entrepreneur—founder of Rainbow Women’s Outfits in the coastal city of Kannur— started sourcing pre-owned bridal wear from Mumbai, Ernakulam, Kochi, Dubai, the UK and elsewhere, donating it free of cost to young brides from poverty-stricken homes in Kerala.

The lockdown months were a period of reflection for most, and it was no different forSabitha. With exhibitions and events on hold, she had time to think of how she could help others. She came acrossyoung brides-to-be in the neighbourhoodwho could not afford even the most basic items for their weddings. “Any girl, irrespective of which demographic she comes from, has certain dreams for her wedding day. I wanted to help her realize those," she says. Sabitha sent out requests through her friends’ groups for anyone with a dress to spare, and got a great response. So she decided to take it a step further.

A couple of months ago, she put up a post on her Instagram page, requesting people to donate dresses to help such young women. The only criteria were that the dress should in good condition, and dry-cleaned. In turn, the recipient needed to provide a letter from a community elder, verifying their credentials.

People started reaching out to Sabitha within days. So far, she has received nearly 300 dresses, including pre-owned outfits designed by Sabyasachi and Ritu Kumar. And her video has got 1 million views so far.

She has the support of the Agora group of businesswomen she is part of. This Kerala-based group of 22 women entrepreneurs has set up collection cells in members’ neighbourhoods for the dresses. The women check the quality before passing them on to Sabitha. Some donors are couriering the dresses directly to her.

These entrepreneurs got together in 2017, after some of them met at an exhibition in Kannur. Most of them were homemakers who had taken to entrepreneurship recently. Sabitha, for instance, started her boutique only eight years ago. “Today, our members, mostly in the age group of 38-42, have businesses ranging from homemade chocolates, garments, handmade soaps to crafts and more," says Sabitha. They offer a ready sounding board for each other, refer clients, organize exhibitions together.

It’s not the first time they have stepped forward to help others. According to Sabitha’s husband, Abdul, who divides his year between Kannur and Sharjah, the group has contributed to the treatment of cancer patients in the area. The current initiative, Sabitha maintains, will be an ongoing effort.

Fouzia Sattar, a garrulous member of the collective who is known for her kurti designs, says: “Our first exhibition was hugely successful. And we ladies decided to pool in some of our earnings into a joint account. Some of this money would go to charities and other relief work." The 40-year-old, who is from Mumbai but shifted to Kannur to be with her mother, helms one of the collection points for the outfits in her locality.

She has received many requests from widows and single mothers for their daughters’ weddings. “Humein shayad khuda ne madadgaar ke roop mein bheja hai (perhaps we are meant to help others). When these young girls behold the dresses, the joy on their faces is just priceless," she adds.

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