The Poncho Gets a Facelift with an Indian-inspired Collection

Photography credits: Brand Ambassador: Ami Desai, Style & Creative Consultant: Lindsay Diamond, Photographer: Dexter Brown

Us moms go through many stages: work, pregnancy, post pregnancy, soccer or hockey mom, preschool mom, mom of teens and the list goes on. With all the task we do, it’s no wonder some of us may just want to be draped in the closest thing that doesn’t need ironing or colour matching.  Sapna Palrecha can relate.  While Sapna, a first generation Indian American, spent her days as a full-time working physician, mom, and wife, she launched Seva Collection this month as an online clothing company that designs, makes, and sells clothing for the multi-tasking woman. Her first collection, a collection of ponchos is an example of just that.

We chat with her about her journey from physician to designer and what the Seva Collection is all about:

1. What inspired you to start this collection 

I started Seva Collection with the multitasking woman’s operational wardrobe in mind.  For me, as a working mom, I find it challenging to get the kids to school, perform optimally at work, cook a meal, and try to keep the laundry hamper from overflowing. It’s a constant hustle to keep everything running at a baseline status. After having kids, I would default to wearing black on black or black on some other neutral, usually dark colour, to either hide stains related to my kids or just to make my life simpler with respect to getting ready quickly and easily. I would find myself in the middle of this “vortex” still wearing my yoga, turn pajamas, turn 24-hour outfit and feel mildly agitated that this was the current state of me. My youngest is now two and a 1/2, and I feel like I just recently looked at my wardrobe and started to reassess what was in it and refine it.  Whether you’re a mother, a professional, a grad student, a person of the arts, or a combination of more, you can help your exterior facade match your interior vibe with a few timeless pieces in your wardrobe. 

As I was going through this process, the presidential election occurred.  It confirmed to me that anyone can achieve anything. So I would like to achieve more for myself and to exemplify to my two children that age is simply a number. I need them to know that a person can do more at any age in life. I’ve always tried to lead by example, so I hope to show my daughter that she can be the physician, CDO (translates to CEO but she gets the acronym confused with her alphabet!), ballet dancer, and artist that she aspires to be.

Besides, who said this country was built on one dream per person? I think big, dream big, and hope my children will too.

2. Why do you think this is an important wardrobe addition? 

This poncho is a key element to any woman’s wardrobe for two reasons: multi functionality and ease.

Historically, ponchos have been utilized for a wide range of activities (travel, warmth, and agricultural work). When more luxurious fabrics were incorporated in the 18th century, the function of the poncho morphed into something more fashionable. Today, ponchos are stylish, breathable, and provide warmth. Season after season, ponchos retain their  “go to” popularity in our wardrobes, from cool Summer nights to the coldest days in December. They make the perfect in-between-days outerwear when it’s just a little too warm to wear a coat. Wear it both indoors and outdoors, as they work well with nearly everything in your wardrobe and can help you achieve chic/formal, bohemian, and professional looks.

The variable neck line of our poncho (v-neck, cowl neck, wide/bateau neck) lets you frame your face and upper body just right. For example, a wide neck is perfect if you have narrow shoulders or smaller bust while v-necks provide a slimming effect for women with broad shoulders or a large bust.  

The poncho is popular because it’s so easy to wear and super comfortable. It’s never too tight, easy to layer (as it fits over bulkier sweaters), and can camouflage perceived body imperfections.

3. You are a physician, how did you make the leap to the fashion space while balancing both? 

Sapna Jain Palrecha, creator of Seva Collection

So this “leap” of mine was accomplished with my husband by my side. He has been extraordinary during this process – providing guidance and supporting me in every way he can. My in laws, who live with us, have also made this collection possible. Having grandparents in the house that love your kids and that you can trust in every way is priceless. With my family support, I’ve been able to focus on Seva Collection when needed and trust that everything else is taken care of.

As to balance, I don’t think it’s feasible to have a balance when you’re trying to push your limits. There’s this great discussion of whether women in the workplace should “lean in” and be more assertive versus “lean out” and enjoy activities that are valued most outside of work or other personal responsibilities.  Honestly, I sway from one extreme to another (insert mental picture of slalom skiing at its finest).   I’m committed and focused with what needs my attention at that particular time – whether that’s optimizing a MR sequence, figuring out print borders for this collection’s poncho, getting out a stubborn stain from my kids clothing, or engaging with my children. And when I think I have achieved some sort of “balance,” disaster usually strikes and everything seems to fall apart (seriously!). So, I’ve personally stopped trying to find balance with all my tasks at hand. Instead, I try to be zen with the daily chaos and feel successful if everyone in my family goes to bed healthy and happy.

4. How did you come up with the poncho idea?

I realized that I had a ton of saris in my closet that were basically collecting dust (as most of my friends are married, so the number of events requiring formal Indian attire has dwindled).  I chose one sari and patterned out a poncho that I could throw on over leggings or jeans to add a pop of colour to my wardrobe. I wore my prototype out and got greater than expected positive feedback, so I decided to develop it further with my husband’s encouragement. And the rest is history!

5. What are yours made from and how do you style them?

Our launch piece is a relaxed fit poncho lined with a structured wool blend with a shell made of vibrant, complimentary multi-colour prints that vary on each side, providing differing look options. There are three types of ponchos.

The print poncho includes a variety of options in fabric design including abstract, ethnic, floral, and geometric prints.

indian inspired poncho

The embroidered poncho is made from fabric with embroidered details that add elegance and grace to its look. The embroideries have a special touch of regional Indian art and thread work, and we’re certain you’ll appreciate the detail.

The bandhani poncho is based on a print from my home state in India, Rajasthan. A regional tie dye textile, this poncho will easily make a statement.

We aim for this poncho to be your new fav jacket substitute! The shell material varies from a polyester blend to pure silk. The asymmetric bateau neckline lets you wear the poncho as a cowl neck, wide neck, or v neck. Pair it with skinny jeans, leggings, or a simple skirt for a more laid back look or try it with slim-fitting trousers, mini-skirt, high heels or boots to achieve your chic rockstar look.

Personally, I keep my accessories modest when I wear my poncho (and honestly, I don’t usually have the time to try to coordinate accessories in the first place!). I let my poncho act as the statement piece.  I also try to offset the volume on top by a slim/minimalist style on the bottom. There are few wardrobe staples that look as good with your casual wear as they do dressed up with heels, but ponchos are the exception.

6. Why are these great for moms?

The ease of this poncho will make this any mom’s go-to wardrobe essential. I try to keep my wardrobe simple and go easy on myself, as my kids and daily responsibilities are far more complex. A large inside pocket allows you to store your phone, credit card, lip gloss, kids toy, or anything else that you may need!  And for new moms, access for babies needing to nurse will be achievable. The goal of Seva Collection is to have items that are colourful, versatile, dramatic, effortless, and flattering. Less is more for me, and having a multifunctional wardrobe is key. Have clothes in your closet that you can achieve multiple looks either by wearing it multiple ways or pairing it with different items.  

7. What is your favourite item in your desi closet?

The lehenga, hands down! It showcases Indian fabrics and embroidery while still being relatively easy to wear. And, since you already know I’m all about mutlifunctionality, I love that I can toss a t-shirt with a lehenga or a choli/blouse with a pencil skirt and create fusion looks that range from casual to formal depending on fabric type. If accessories count, bangles would be another fav as they add a pop of colour to any east or west-themed attire.

8. What’s your least favourite?

The petticoat for saris. I think any South Asian woman has PTSD from either their mother or some aunty tying the petticoat so tight that it’s made eating difficult, breathing laboured, and caused impressions on your waistline, right?   

9. What’s your go to colour ?

Hot pink! I would have never anticipated that answer about 4 years ago, but my daughter is a major influencer when it comes to fashion. I try to incorporate her recommendations whenever I can, and her suggestions always include a shade of pink theme!

Visit the Seva Collection for more information on how you can get your hands on one of her great ponchos!


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