About two months ago, 41-year-old entrepreneur Sabitha AK—founder of Rainbow Women’s Outfits—received an SOS call. The caller, a girl of 23, was inconsolable. Her wedding was in a few days’ time and she was unable to afford a wedding dress. She knew of Sabitha’s eight-year-old boutique that dealt with wedding finery, among other things, and decided to approach her on a whim.
Luck was on her side. Sabitha sent across a beautiful wedding dress with complimentary accessories. All free of cost.
The call got Sabitha thinking. She decided to reach out to her patrons and family through her social media handle to see if she could turn each underprivileged girl’s wedding dreams come true. She was in for a surprise. Her video has got one million views so far.
“The response was overwhelming. Many offered to donate their wedding dress. Bridal wear is mostly a one-time use. It ends up lying in our wardrobes for decades.
Moreover, in the Malabar region weddings last for three to four days.
Expensive outfits are bought for each day. Not many of these see the light of the day again,” she explains, adding that the dresses come from Mumbai, Ernakulam, Kochi, Dubai and even the UK.
She was also pleasantly surprised to get bridal outfits that cost Rs 1 lakh or more.
Now she had the problem of plenty. She decided to open a boutique exclusively for donated outfits, besides the one she runs in Pappinisseri in the coastal city of Kannur, Kerala.
Along with the dresses, many people also donated footwear, purses, jewellery, bed sheets and even makeup sets.
“I have everything a bride may want, and more,” Sabitha smiles. Based on word of mouth, she was inundated with calls from many districts. She has set up outlets in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Ernakulam, Pattambi, Kasaragod, Kozhikode and Mangaluru.
Those who visit these outlets are allowed to take as many dresses as they want, with no compulsion of returning them. “If they want to return it after using it, it’s up to them. I want them to feel like they own the dress,” says Sabitha.
She has helped around 300 brides in the last couple of months. In fact, one might end up spotting a Sabyasachi or a Ritu Kumar outfit at her boutique. She has also started a free makeup arrangement for brides who come to her.
But Sabitha is wary of being taken for a ride and has made it mandatory for brides to produce a letter from community elders endorsing their need. At the same time, she makes it a rule to maintain the privacy of the brides. It’s all about providing a helping hand. But not in exchange for dignity. A story of Cinderellas in our backyard.
Sabitha has helped around 300 brides in the last couple of months. One might end up spotting a Sabyasachi or a Ritu Kumar outfit at her boutique. She has also started a free makeup arrangement for brides.