Vastra Indian boutique in Hicksville has been filling steady custom orders for wedding gowns, sweet 16 outfits, prom dresses and "anything else you can think of" for 23 years, says Prachi Jain. Recently, the shop has pivoted to adapt to a contactless shopping experience. .
Jain, 35, who's been working at the shop owned by her mother Poonam Jain, 59, in some fashion since she was 13 years old, says orders came to an alarming, yet unsurprising halt late March when the celebratory gatherings her customers were planning for were canceled. Business is "at a complete standstill," she says. "We've been in the community for such a long period of time and people don't want to see us have to shut down for good."
Vastra was among the first Indian dress boutiques to open in the area that's now become "a little hub for South Asian businesses," according to Jain. Before the fashions became "more mainstream," the shop was focused on custom orders of vibrant sarees and bridal ensembles for "mostly Indian and Pakistani locals," she says. Now, the boutique serves a variety of customers who admire elements of Indian fashion. "There's so much integration between cultures," she says. "We see as the demographic of our community changed, our customer base has changed too."
Jain and her mother feel the store has become "more than a dress boutique. It's a place of gathering because even our customers know each other."
It is, of course, a challenge to encourage those customers to start thinking about their party fashions once again without knowing when such gatherings may take place. But after temporarily closing to the public do to the government order, Vastra has reopened virtually with contactless personal shopping options. Jain says made-to-order fashions — conceptualized by Poonam who studied fashion design in India — can take up to six months to complete, so shoppers may want to begin planning their designs now.
"This is the time to really start thinking about that dress you always wanted to make," she says.
Along with party dresses, Vastra sells custom blazers, skirts and other items upon request. The boutique also offers clothing rentals and has more than 200 completed outfits available for purchase.
"We're also able to go into our shop and do virtual video sessions to look at some of our dresses. If there's something you want, we can do contactless delivery." Jain is also offering the option for customers to try on clothing at home. "If it doesn't fit, we can come back and pick it up."
The Vastra collection can be viewed at vastrahicksville.com. To shop or set up a virtual appointment, call 516-433-7629.