BENGALURU: What’s the common thread between Deepika Padukone, Farhan Akhtar and Shilpa Shetty? Besides their Bollywood connection, these popular celebrities are now trending on Instagram for the masks they are sporting. And these made-to-order masks that include materials like cotton and organic dye pieces are the creation of two young Bengalureans, Gehna and Nihal Manglani. The cousins, who returned to India mid-way through their courses, owing to the pandemic, now find the spotlight on themselves.
A student of Parsons School of Design in New York, Gehna graduated recently after a year of online classes. A few years ago, if you had asked the 22-year-old what she wanted to do after graduating, her answer would’ve been to work with an e-commerce fashion house in New York to gain some experience right after college. Never did she imagine that the pandemic would change those plans, and that it would be a one-way ticket to Bengaluru when she got on the last flight in March 2020 before borders closed. It’s a similar story for Nihal (27) too, who returned from Australia where he was pursuing his MBA.
But turning adversity into advantage, the two youngsters have created a niche that has become a go-to brand for masks for Bollywood A-listers, including Sara Ali Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Arjun Rampal. Talking to CE, Gehna says, “This was never planned. Nihal and I just felt the pain when we watched the news about migrants suffering due to the pandemic and we wanted to help. We combined both our learnings, while attending online classes from home, and created doori.”
Like everyone else, the duo too thought that the pandemic would be over in six months, not realising that it’s here to stay for a long time to come. “We were thinking how we should expand. And in a random moment, we reached out to celeb contacts on Google to send out samples,” says Gehna, adding one day she suddenly saw Deepika Padukone’s name on my phone. “We had heard that she was wearing it but one day we saw that she herself had placed an order from our website. Everything from there has been bigger and better,” she says.
After several stars have been sporting these masks, it’s no surprise that orders have skyrocketed. “Honestly, even if it’s a security guard or a big star wearing my product, I am happy that I am able to help fight the pandemic. Hopefully, this will all end soon and we can feel safe again,” says Gehna, who is now working on adding apparels to the collection. “While on the business front, it’s been a great venture, we hope that the pandemic subsides. Which is why we are working on a different vertical,” she says.