Culture, commotion and cuisine—these three words have come to personify the boisterous city of Kolkata. Tucked away from the pandemonium, alone in the posh Kolkata Ballygunge area, Vibha Kejriwal’s concept store ‘Coral’ emanates a tranquil, dreamy charm. The idyllic ambience beckons well-heeled Kolkattans for a shopping experience, where classic elements of design are juxtaposed with modern fashion sensibilities.
Tracing the lineage
Rather than fashion, Vibha’s childhood was about sports—right from athletics, cricket, swimming to competitive badminton. The youngest of three siblings born in a conventional Marwari joint family, Vibha dressed with the times, preferring pants over most other clothing. While her father dabbled in stockbroking, her mother chose to be a homemaker.
A semi-liberal upbringing led her to marry Rajat Kejriwal at the young age of 18 years. Coming from a family that was in the flour business, Rajat had chosen to tread his own path by venturing into the challenging but glamorous business of textile exports, conceiving Sreepriya Exports in the process. Two beautiful children, Tanvi and Viraj, followed soon after.
An eye for detail
Vibha’s inherent love for fashion came to the fore with Anamika Khanna while still studying at the Loreto College. They started a small line of clothing, which was an instant success. However, with the birth of her children, Vibha decided to commit to her new role as a mother. In 1994, when the kids were still very young, she joined Rajat at Sreepriya Exports.
After working for twenty years, Vibha felt a strong desire to start her own business, which she attributes to her Marwari heritage. “My father, uncles and relatives were either business owners or traders, as essentially all Marwaris are. They worked hard and had a love for luxurious life. After my early marriage, I felt the need to have a better lifestyle and have the financial freedom to have it my way.” She continues, “After years of travelling to Europe and attending trade shows and seeing the lack of trendy, mid-priced luxury clothing in Kolkata, the idea of a niche contemporary fashion store just came up.”
Creation of Coral
Vibha envisioned a unique concept for her yet-to-be born store, Coral. She decided to bring in international fashion sensibilities to Kolkata by curating her collection from the Paris Fashion Week. To moderate fashion aesthetics with business sensibilities, Vibha added Indian pret and avant-garde collections by contemporary designers from the Lakme Fashion Week and Amazon India Fashion Week. Coral today has an interesting repertoire of brands such as Crea Concept from France, Annette Rostelle & NIU from Italy, Xenia Design from Croatia, Exquise from Turkey, Siyu from Spain, Star Mela from the UK and more. Amongst the Indian designers personally curated by Vibha are Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna, Namrata Joshipura, Geisha Designs, Priyadarshini Rao, Rara Avis By Sonal Verma, Doodlage and many more.
As regards Coral’s offerings and client profile, Vibha keeps it simple, “I believe in affordable fashion, with emphasis on quality and originality. Coral’s business model is to showcase a unique fashion collection, curated for urban, evolved clientele of all age groups, ranging from young teens to fashionistas in their sixties.”
Overcoming impediments like Kolkata’s limited celebrity quotient, Vibha discloses, “We have dressed some Bollywood bigwigs like Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt and Kangana Ranaut, via my celebrity stylist friend Ami Patel. Our local celebrity clientele includes Moon Moon Sen and daughters Ria and Raima, June Mallya, Parno Mitra, Rukmini, Indrani Dasgupta and Archana Vijaya.”
Spreading her wings
In line with her vision for Coral, her offering has grown to include indigenous brands like Soul Space and Shankara. Explaining these extensions Vibha says, “I am very drawn to organic clothing and yoga, so when Soul Space approached us to stock their organic yoga and athleisure wear, I easily created space in my store to accommodate them. Shankara is an Ayurveda inspired natural skin care product, made in USA blending the ancient techniques of the East with the modern technology of the West. Again the perfect extension for my concept store…”
About shaping .”the future of Coral, Vibha says, “I am always on the lookout for something new and creative. I love encouraging young budding designers with true talent to shine out and launch them at Coral, if their collection fits the store sensibility. I also keep exploring new designers from across the globe and keep adding new collections to my store.”
Attitude of gratitude
Talking about those who proved to be the wind beneath her wings, Vibha graciously expresses gratitude to her husband for being a constant source of support and her in-laws for taking care of her kids while she pursued her dream. Smita Shroff—cousin, friend and owner of Elahe, Hyderabad—played the role of a mentor right through the inception to the establishment of Coral, she acknowledges. She also mentions her long-standing association with creative genius Dries Van Noten and his assistant David Vandewal since her years at Sreepriya Exports and considers them a constant driving force and motivation.
Behind the curtain
Twenty years have passed since Vibha’s initial encounters with spirituality and the ensuing reverence for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation. “It has given me much peace and focus. I went for the Foundation’s teacher training course and also taught the happiness programme for a few years.” Her love for art, on the other hand, is a relatively recent progression, with favourite artists like Alok Uniyal and Shuvaprasanna. Appreciating upcoming talent, Vibha says “From the time I started following art, I have developed my own distinct taste and pick up artworks which draw my attention. Lately, I have started appreciating sculptures and absolutely love some works of local Bengali artists.”
Commenting about fashion sensibilities across our metros, Vibha quips, “Delhi has more bling fashion, Mumbai has more drama, whereas Kolkata has more sophistication. There are various kinds of fashion followers in all cities, but trending fashion has some synergy in all these cities.”
Readying for the upcoming wedding season, Vibha says, “We have seen a huge growth of trousseau shoppers at Coral—for bachelor parties, brunch and dinner clothing, beach parties and holiday needs. We carry a large variety of silhouettes and styles from international and Indian designers and also cater to different budgets. Also, our accessories and shoes are a great add-on to the young bride’s shopping needs.”