A Kiwi-English and Fiji-Indian partnership exemplifies diversity and inclusion
New Zealand’s first luxury Indian rental concept boutique is run by a multicultural couple.
In a nation where subtle racism and inclusion are growing pains, it was a breath of fresh air to meet Ella Dawson, a Kiwi-English occupational therapist and Reggie Prasad, a Fijian-Indian digital analyst, who are engaged.
This interracial couple hit it off when they were 21 and have not been apart since. They grew up in Aotearoa and have put in the work to bridge the gap between their backgrounds.
“We have been together for seven years now and we have invested a lot of effort to merge our families,” 28-year-old Ella told me recently.
Ella and Reggie have truly mastered the art of making their multicultural relationship work and have now opened the door for others to do the same.
Desi Pal for variety
Desi Pal, their commerce and marketplace platform, allows anyone to rent or buy Indian attire for all kinds of special occasions. Not only do they provide attractive and stylish pieces for any gender, size or age they also offer styling and culture classes to guide people on what to wear and how to best drape Indian attire for different sub-cultures.
“There are so many events within the desi community – four-day weddings, at-home poojas Diwali – and they are expected to have a different outfit for each. That is a lot of money to spend” Ella said.
South Asians already have enough to keep busy trying to understand the myriad of subcultures, languages and practices within India and its neighbouring countries.
Can you imagine the confusion that our non-South Asian friends in New Zealand face when it comes to taking part in a traditional Indian wedding?
Ella was in the same boat until she met Reggie and his family, who despite their Fijian roots, could speak and understand Indian culture with ease. But questions still remained: what do we wear, how do we wear it, are we allowing others to appropriate our culture?
South Asian culture expressed
That is where Desi Pal takes the guesswork out and allows everyone to experience South Asian culture comfortably and mindfully.
Located in Mt Roskill, Desi Pal boutique is about to shake things up!
This exciting new store offers more than just fashion.
It is a celebration of diversity and inclusion. With Kiwis from all walks of life eager to explore new cultures, it is set to bring Kiwis closer together.
“The beauty of Desi Pal, and our new showroom, is having everything under one roof. We wanted to create an enjoyable and luxurious experience away from the stress of haggling for cheaper prices or visiting multiple stores to mix and match accessories and outfits. We are also aware that people outside of the culture may not know what to wear or how to wear it and we wanted to teach them and take away the uncertainty around it,” Ella said.
When I first met Ella, I was not sure if she was appropriating Indian culture or just super passionate about it.
But I soon realised that she had a genuine love for South Asian culture and wanted to share it with people from other cultures while helping them express themselves with respect. She knew more about South Asian fashion than most South Asians and I have also learned a lot from her.
Bridging cultures and attitudes
LGBT activist and Fijian-New Zealander Shaneel Lal said, “Desi Pal is helping to build bridges between different cultures. We need to strike a balance between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. When people in the South Asian community create businesses like these and use them as a way to help educate others, there is no reason why you cannot have cultural appreciation.”
It was clear that Reggie was the driving force behind Ella’s passion and the concept of Desi Pal, making this power couple a truly iconic multicultural duo.
“Having something that we can work on together and meeting so many other people in the South Asian community has been really fulfilling. Opening our first showroom together is so exciting and we can’t wait to see what the world has in store for us next!” Reggie said.
When Ella and Reggie met, they set the benchmark for Desi-Western couple goals and showed us what true love and growth look like!
Sabby Jey is an Actress, Content Creator and Director of Sabby Jey Social. She lives in Auckland.