Choli Boli: How This Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Duo Created Aesthetically Designed Comfortable Cholis Choli Boli is the kind of quirky brand name that's not easy to forget. It signifies the saree-blouse which hides your inner thoughts and attitude, a layer that is close to your heart and a voice to the inner you.

By Kabir Singh Bhandari

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Choli Boli
Manika Sengupta (67) and her daughter Arunisha Sengupta (47), founders of of Choli Boli

Choli Boli is the kind of quirky brand name that's not easy to forget. It signifies the saree-blouse which hides your inner thoughts and attitude, a layer that is close to your heart and a voice to the inner you. Founded by a mother-daughter duo, Manika Sengupta (67) and her daughter Arunisha Sengupta (47), Manika is the perfectionist and controls the final production of the garments under her watchful eye and Arunisha looks after marketing and operations.

They offer a unique range of ergonomic cholis that defies "too-tight form fitting" garments to bring you aesthetically designed comfort that help express your attitude. The brand aims at aiding women in moving away from the days of wriggling into blouses (most times with the help of others) and choosing a blouse to match the saree which was covered or draped over you. Choli Boli have a variety of thematic designs, so if you are a chai lover, there are blouses with that theme, while on the other spectrum they have a Hollywood Diva theme and a Tagore collection (inspired by seven protagonists from Tagore's writings).

Arunisha told us in detail about how she came up with the concept, inspiring breast confidence, working with her mother and some interesting customer reviews.

What made you come up with the entire concept of a range that stands for defying tight form-fitting garments?

Traditionally saree blouses are tailored to fit the form. There is no reason that saree-blouses should be typically designed in that way. While it is the accepted format, during my research, I found out that it is one of the important reasons that many youngsters or urban women shy away from wearing a saree unless it is an occasion. The form-fitting blouses are tight, uncomfortable to slip in and has to be draped over. What I wanted was to give me and all the urban girls/women like me the ease of wearing sarees like they have adopted to the western wear.

From the Choli Boli collection
The other significant thing of shying away from wearing saree everyday was the "managing" of the saree. It's nothing but actually managing of the drape, so that the same doesn't slip off and attract unnecessary attention. Girls/women become conscious of their breasts from a very early age. Our misogynist society is a reason for their weak confidence in their bodies, especially the breasts that are objectified across the world. The ready-made blouses not only come in "happy-fit" sizes, but inspire breast confidence. So you can now toss the drape aside and be as comfortable as you would, if you are wearing a skirt-top or a tee.

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Did both of you come up simultaneously with the idea or was it one following the other?

My mother is a pillar of support. She has always supported my free thinking. So, it is not that we both came with the idea. But she actually empathised, supported and more over believed in this idea!

How is it working with your mother?

We have excellent synergy. She has a keen eye on the production line and coordinates with vendors, while I look at designs and marketing. At times she works on certain designs which she is comfortable with – for eg; the embroidery collection and the Sufi collection are completely designed by her.

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What are some of the interesting customer reviews that you have got?

One of the most interesting reviews that I had from a customer was, "I didn't realise when my drape had slipped and this time, I did not pick up the pallu. My saree rested like a scarf on my arm and I didn't get a second unwarranted glance. This was such a paradigm shift!"

How easy or difficult is it being in a market where there are already so many competitors?

It is not about the competition. Because the kind of saree-blouses that I make hardly have any competition. But the challenge is in the mind-set. We are used to a typical format of blouses. While the fashion industry is bringing in the change, yet the willingness to change on a mass level is desired.

Kabir Singh Bhandari

Senior Assistant Editor

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