Commentary

A Customized Dress -- With Pockets? Coming Right Up, From EShakti


If you’ve ever waited eagerly for the UPS guy to deliver your new outfit -- only to find the dress that looked so gorgeous on the web is the wrong color for your complexion, and too tight besides -- you’ll understand the appeal of eShakti.

Though it can’t guarantee real-life color (notoriously hard to show accurately on the web),  eShakti does offer more size personalization than probably any other women’s fashion e-tailer.  For an add-on charge of about $10, every garment (dresses, tops and skirts) can be customized to individual measurements. There’s also a choice of different necklines, sleeves and hem lengths -- all of which can dramatically change the look of an item (see examples above).

Beyond the now-buzzy D2C trend of personalization, eShakti offers size inclusivity -- a growing trend in the fashion world -- by providing standard sizes from 0 to 36.

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So the eShakti website is dotted with comments and photos from women who can’t fit into the more typical range of sizes 8-14: “I love vintage dresses but they never seem to work on my body because I'm petite and I have a short torso,” says one. ”I found out about #eShakti when I Googled petite dresses.”

Then there’s the plus-size bride, pictured with six zaftig bridal attendants all decked out in black satiny gowns. The bride thanks eShakti for providing  “a dress that looks good on everyone... that is elegant and classy.”

These comments were solicited through one of the company’s marketing efforts,  “Something Happened,” an every-other-week contest awarding a first prize of  $300 and second prize of $200 to the best customer stories.

Another section of the site features pictures and positive comments from fashion bloggers and social influencers.

“We advertise on digital media," founder and CEO B.G. Krishnan tells Financial Express in a November 2017 post. "Customers act as our ambassadors, even on Facebook ads."

Not all customers are equally happy. In a 2017 post, a plus-size Buzzfeed writer discussed her trial of three different custom-made eShakti garments, none of which made the grade fit-wise for her.  A short-sleeved shirt “was the most disappointing, as I can buy a shirt that's too big pretty much anywhere,” she wrote.

And, according to three women who tried eShakti custom for a 2018 Business Insider feature, “The dresses didn't quite fit perfectly but it's possible that some of the measurements were off. Next time we'll go to a tailor to get professionally measured.”

The 10-year-old eShakti is based in Chennai, India, with factories in Gurugram, and a design studio in New York City. It has no inventory of finished goods -- just a supply of fabrics, according to Financial Express.

"The company has filed for patent for its pattern-making process for customisation," the post went on, noting that "Krishnan is confident of making profits by early next year."

According  to a later Crunchbase post, the company “has raised a total of $33 million in funding over five rounds. Their latest funding was raised in June, 2018 from a private equity round.”

Two years ago, I gravitated to eShakti in my search for a dress to make me feel better about a family wedding I was dreading. I was having trouble finding something that was neither sleeveless nor matronly.  

Knowing that I could add sheer black sleeves to the eShakti dress I picked was a strong selling point. So was the site’s general design aesthetic of tight waists and full, swishy skirts (the better to dance in) at affordable prices (roughly $80 -- $100 for wedding-guest-type dresses).

The dress fit well, though the fabric quality could have been a tad better. Still,  I enjoyed the experience of helping to design it -- and am now checking out eShakti options again for another family wedding.

And no matter where else I shop online these days, I find myself making changes in what I see, imagining sleeves where there are none, and pockets (included on every eShakti skirt and dress) everywhere.

Seems I’m not the only one who feels that way. At the Oscars, actress Gemma Chan wore a voluminous  pink dress with pockets she used to hold cookies, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Perfect! Or, in my less glamorous life, facing a giant dessert table at a bar mitzvah, I’d  welcome a place to put my hands instead of reaching for that 8th rugelach.

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