The members of an Indian-American family stream through the door and smile politely before the women in the group get down to the serious business at hand – shopping for wedding attire. The aunts and mother of the bride-to-be lead the way, browsing racks of crepe, silk and net hand-embroidered lehenga choli, ensembles comprised of floor-length skirts, draping shawls and blouses – some belly-baring and others in tunic or halter styles.
“Do you like this kind of color?” Rupal Patel, a long-time store associate, cheerfully asks as she and manager Rekha Panchal spread out elaborately patterned chiffon saris in shades of sea green with purple borders and lehenga skirts of aqua and deep blue. “We can make to order.”
The Vulcal Boutique is one of about a dozen Indian fashion emporiums in Orlando catering to Central Florida’s booming Indian-American population. At Vulcal, everything is hand-stitched and hand-embroidered in India based on the artistic designs and sketches of owner Amita Patel.
Patel (no relation to Rupal Patel), opened Vulcal in 1984 in Vadodara, India, after obtaining her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from the University of Baroda. A lover of painting and sketching since childhood – when she was 12, one of her paintings was chosen in a UNICEF-sponsored competition to appear on an Indian stamp – Amita Patel found an outlet for her artistic talents in dress design after she married and started a family.
With many of her clients moving to the United States, Patel decided to follow. The Vulcal store in Orlando – established in 2002 – is her only U.S.-based boutique, but Patel sees longtime cl
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