The Runway Dressmaker

Karishma Kasabia of Melbourne is dressing the town with her signature label, and it takes just a glance to know it’s a ‘Kholo’ dress.

With a unique name for her label, Kholo, that is phonetically appealing to both Indians and Australians, we here at the Indian Weekly and G’day India couldn’t keep away from Kholo’s charm.
Born in Fiji, thirty-seven-year-old Karishma moved to New Zealand with her parents after the coup but it soon became very challenging for them to divide their lives between the two countries due to political upheavals. So Karishma moved alone to Australia in 2006 and studied for Masters in Arts and Design at Monash.
A single mother with a background in graphic design, Karishma ran an agency years ago but things changed when her son was born. “Something in my DNA must have shifted,” says Karishma. She wanted to drape something that was custom-made.

Karishma was always fascinated with colour and clothes and was especially inspired by the neighbourhood tailors in India, the way a piece of fabric was hand-dyed and cut. Karishma recalls that during her cousin’s wedding, she was asked to design not only the bride’s wedding lehenga, but also dress the mother and sister of the bride.
The birth of Kholo originated from that satisfying confidence and passion that she turned into a brand in 2017. She had a background in graphic design and a six-month online crash course on e-commerce.
All her prints are custom made. She looks at what artists on Pinterest are doing and she then buys the prints off their libraries, manipulating the artwork to design accordingly. “I move to manipulate the artwork. It goes to where it’s going to sit on a woman’s body – how is she [going] to hold this heavy embroidery? Like, [should] I put it here if it’s just going to drag? I needed to have control of the placement of the beading because it’s quite heavy,” says Karishma. Naturally, it’s all about making a woman feel comfortable.

The name ‘Kholo’ was also a ‘mic just dropped’ kind of moment for Karishma when her son, who was just starting to speak, would ask Karishma to ‘Mommy kholo (open)’ everything – from a calculator to the remote control. So that’s how Karishma’s Kholo has been an open-ended question for many in Melbourne.
Karishma also does her own embroidery, directly learning the craft from the artisans of Bengal. From time to time, she holds her embroidery workshop at Hotel Windsor in Melbourne and Sydney, where patrons can also take their traditional embroidery frames home.
Karishma’s designs are impeccable, like her customer service. Sofie Carfi, the founder of Revival Runway, remembers Karishma’s prompt expression of interest to fix Sofie’s direct-from-India beading on one of her dresses.
Karishma’s invitation to Revival Runway this year was not just because of her excellent customer service but also for her beautiful designs. Revival Runway officially kicked off with Summer Daze on Sunday, February 27, held at the iconic Abbotsford Convent courtyard.
Revival Runway is a non-profit organisation that produces fashion-related content and events for independent Australian fashion brands and designers. Everyone at Runway Revival donates their time, experience and energy free of charge to create professional opportunities for brands and emerging fashion industry talent.
Kholo, being one of the ten designers for 2022, produced ten looks from its existing collection. Karishma had everyone turning their heads at the runway with her designs, colours and fabric.
The beauty of Kholo is that Karishma’s clothes are sassy, breathable, and for the curvy woman. Karishma does her styling, fitting and she would always reflect on how ‘she’ as a woman would be comfortable – not only in a size eight, but also in a size sixteen or even in a size eighteen. Karishma models the same dress in two sizes, so that women can identify themselves with that. Kholo outfits are available from size 8 to 26.
Tapping into this niche area in the market is a brilliant idea from this talented fashion entrepreneur. Karishma’s product line is in India, but she distributes her collection from her warehouse in Cheltenham. Although she does have a stockist in Geelong, there could be a possibility of many more shortly.
“Madam, we don’t cater to your size here!” was a bold statement made by a designer outlet shop assistant when Karishma had just entered the store during one of her visits to India. That one line was enough to change the course of her passion for a more positive brand with the birth of Kholo.
This young fashionista is trying to change the mindset with body positivity and inclusiveness with one dress at a time. But she is also changing the philosophy of how women look at themselves, craving the ordinary from the extraordinary and making the experience their own.
G’day India and The Indian Weekly not only wish ‘Kholo’ to kholo (open) stores worldwide, but perhaps also to see the label walking the ramps of fashion week in Melbourne, Paris and New Delhi. With that thought in mind, we couldn’t help quoting Veera Wang: “I want people to see the dress, but focus on the woman.”

Nandita Chakraborty