Bhavya Kalsi is Fashioning a Better Future

2 years ago / by Ahad Sanwari

kalsi“I have to fight for a seat at the table. Some just get it. If there’s no seat at the table, no problem, because I’m bringing my chair.”

Bhavya Kalsi’s father was a prominent businessman. So when she conveyed to him that she wanted to pursue the arts, he was not in favor of the idea. In fact, he didn’t believe she would succeed.

So, on the fateful evening that she took a bow after presenting her first collection at a fashion show, she looked up toward the heavens, pointed, and said, “This is for you papa.”

To do anything to the contrary would have been a betrayal of her name. Bhavya means auspicious, grand, successful, prosperous, and excellent in Hindi. Along with her younger sister, Nimisha, Kalsi is the co-owner of Kona – a boutique featuring women’s apparel, accessories, and home goods.

A little brand with big dreams of becoming a global household name, Kona slips off the tongue in multiple languages. It is a colloquialism that means “corner” in Kiswahili, Hindi, and Luganda.

From Bukoto street in Kampala, Uganda, Kona paves the road with kitenge and block prints, from Africa and India. Kona was launched five-and-a-half years ago in Bhavya’s garage. It is distinctively Afro-Indian, blending stitching techniques, cuts, and fabrics from Asia and Africa.

Kalsi hails from Mumbai, and has a master’s degree in marketing, and professional experience in advertising. She completed a one-year course in the arts at Racha Sansad before launching her creative career as a graphic designer. Although she comes from a creative background, Kalsi is a self-taught fashion designer.

kalsiAs the lead designer for Kona, Kalsi’s process is intuitive. Life is her muse. Kona is an ode to the woman’s body. It is imbued with quality, comfort, and multi-functionality.

A feminist, she is intentional about empowering women on multiple levels. Her entire team is comprised of upwardly mobile women, with their eyes on the prize. Kalsi bets on her team, often instilling them with skills and opportunities they have never before experienced. She believes the world would be a much better place with women at the helm. If she could, she would provide financial and life skills education to women and girls around the world.

Kona is by women, for women. Over the years, Kalsi’s style has changed though. As she navigated her womanly form after giving birth to two babies, she pivoted her brand to be more inclusive. Having experienced the metamorphosis of life, she thought, “Why not create designs that fit everyone?” That’s exactly what she did. And she did it well.

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution. Upon realizing this, Kalsi dove headfirst into creating a sustainable fashion brand. She believes in zero waste, recycling, and upcycling. Kona is a slow fashion brand with wearable art as its foundation.

Kalsi is keenly interested in growing artisanal communities. And it shows; from the home accouterments and handcrafted jewelry made of gold-plated brass and semi-precious stones in India, to the pottery sculpted by women co-ops in the Pearl of Africa.

kalsiLegacy is what drives Kalsi. Her mission is to give back to Uganda and leave something valuable to her children and the women that make up her village. “The sky’s the limit. You are good enough. Do you.” This is what she imparts to her children. It is the same message she would tell her younger self.

Despite the adrenaline rush of operating two businesses – Kona and Be Marketing – being a mom is what brings her the most joy, whether it involves mothering her babies or birthing a new project.

Though Kalsi is idealistic, she is also a realist when she says, “I don’t know if you can have it all.” Her authenticity is one of the main reasons she is respected and loved. As a reformed perfectionist, her biggest life lesson is accepting the fact that she will not be good at everything.

Bringing forth new life can be exhausting. For which Kalsi’s answer is journaling, meditation, self-forgiveness, and cooking. These things help center and keep her in alignment.

Kalsi feels the freest when she can be herself and doesn’t have to think twice. When she is completely herself, she is invincible. Kalsi is taking up space and making noise while forging a path for the women that follow.

For a more in-depth interview with Bhavya Kalsi, click here: Off the Beaten Path – Kona Part 1 and Part 2.