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“This Ramzan, we’re out shopping with trendy women of the Dawoodi Bohra community, who scour Pydhonie for lace & buttons to fancy up their ridas,” tweets brownpaperbag.in, the site that “advises its readers the best of what to eat/shop/do in their city, delivered in a brown paper bag.”

“The thing about my community is that we’re pretty trendy,” declares Umme-Haani Khorakiwala, while sitting pretty at her Breach Candy apartment and thumbing through a collection of ridas (colourful burkhas worn by women of the Dawoodi Bohra community).

Belonging to the family that owns the iconic Akbarallys store in Mumbai, 36 year-old Umme-Haani has a BS in Economics from Carnegie Mellon and an MS in Textiles from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She doesn’t wear a rida everyday, but she does during Ramzan. “Bohris tend to be shaukeen,” she says, confessing her community’s love for pretty things, especially rubies. “While shoes are not the focus of most outfits – we have to leave them outside when we go in to pray – jewelry is big.”

Not surprisingly, Umme-Haani knows all about this year’s rida trends – cross-stitch is quite the rage – and has a black book filled with rida designers. For seriously fancy versions, she points us towards the doyen of Bohri fashion: Shakera Motiwala. “No one can do what she does,” remarks Umme-Haani, while putting together date jam and fruit for Laylatul Qadr, the twenty-third day of Ramzan, when her family stays up all night to pray.

“Bohris tend to be shaukeen,” she says, confessing her community’s love for pretty things, especially rubies.

Bro-code With Brocade?

We follow the trail to Shakera Motiwala who has been in the business for four lucrative decades. “I normally don’t make ridas for casual wear,” says the 71-year-old, whose garments start at Rs 10,000 and go up “to the sky”. Raw silk and brocade, imported lace and handmade cross-stitch are used liberally, and are responsible for the pricing.

While trends may come and go, Shakera believes that the most important aspect of a rida is the fabric itself. “It must flow well and be comfortable,” she says, “after all, one is wrapped in four and a half metres of it.” Shakera prefers using soft terry-cotton in tropical climes like ours, and polyester for colder countries. As for colours, she used to be fond of white, but of late has switched to darker shades including turquoise blue, maroon, emerald green and navy blue.

“I prefer to do personal consultations with my customers, so I have an idea of their complexion and build,” says the former advertising executive and JJ School of Art graduate, who has clients from the US, UK and Africa.

Ladies Who Lace

For more casual ridas, there are a ton of designers and DIY divas zooming through Mohammed Ali Road and Pydhonie on their Scootys, stopping to unspool reels of lace and fancy borders.

While most of the rida designers we met have their own signature preferences, they seem to agree on two trends for 2015 – bright colours as opposed to pastels; and embroidery on lace. Designer Tasneem Pittalwala who works with charitable organisation Fakhera, likes to add pintucks and light frills, keep the cut A-line and says NO to the tired net ridas – so 2014, darling. 34 year-old Zainab Miyaji, who stitched her own emerald green silk rida for her nikkah, has an “awesome embroidery man” who works with GPO lace; Sakina Chiba specialises in print on print, stripes-plus-checks and stripes-plus-polka. At Champak tailor at Mohammed Ali Road, you’ll find designer Munazza Fatehi arguing over stitching deadlines. “It’s quite a social scene during Ramzan because a lot of women visit the mosque everyday and no one wants to repeat a rida. Getting anything stitched during Ramzan is out of the question. You have to start at least two months in advance,” she explains, exasperated.

For more casual ridas, there are a ton of designers and DIY divas zooming through Mohammed Ali Road and Pydhonie on their Scootys, stopping to unspool reels of lace and fancy borders.

At the other end of the city in Bandra, Akbar Kachwala, proprietor of Cheap Jack and Something Special, is arranging the many trimmings, created by an army of 40 people, just like he does at Christmas time. Featured in almost every rida designer’s list as the go-to guy, Mr Kachwala is particularly proud of his Kachhi borders. “This year we also have hand painted buttons from the Mughal era, sea shell buttons and Meenakari versions, and even LED patches that can be stitched on to fabric.”

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