The demand can be high, according to Sonal J. Shah, a New York wedding planner who has overseen nearly 2,000 high-end South Asian nuptials in her two-decade career. “Post-Covid, I would say in the U.S. alone there are between 6,000 to 6,500” South Asian weddings per year, she said. (Translation: dresses for nearly 20,000 events.) The average budget for her clients’ multiday extravaganzas, she said, is $350,000 to $400,000, and a designer trousseau can cost as much as $60,000.
Guests, of course, don’t have to spend nearly as much, but even at less extravagant weddings, the numbers still add up.
“Everybody’s tired of spending thousands of dollars on outfits they only wear once,” said Lindsey Chakraborty, Preserve’s founder and chief executive. “In my personal experience, everybody you know is invited to every wedding, so you can’t repeat that same lehenga for another couple of years — and then it’s already out of trend.”
Ms. Chakraborty, 36, came up with the idea behind Preserve when she was dating her husband, Shiv, and she found herself shopping for three Indian weddings in one year. “As a basic plus-one guest, I needed 15 outfits,” she said. When she took the “budget route online,” she said the outfits that arrived were poor quality and looked nothing like their pictures.
Using her background in business, Ms. Chakraborty began researching the market and discovered how overlooked it was, especially with the rate of mixed marriages in the Indian community. (She is white; her husband is Indian American.)