Carrie Mantha has been many things in her life so far: a physician trained in trauma surgery, a biotech investor, a former Miss Florida USA, a bride, a 16-time bridesmaid and now, an entrepreneur. Mantha is the co-founder of Indira, a fashion-tech company which produces custom, couture-quality bridesmaid dresses and wedding details for brides, that she runs with her husband, Ajay.
With Indira, an interactive, step-by-step online atelier takes customers through a beautiful selection of silk dresses available in 111 different colors, all of which can be done in two-tones, ombré or color blocking, thanks to the 8th and 9th generation silk dyers in India who work with the NY-based company.
“A lot of times brides have to shift their wedding color because it was all that was available. A big part of the whole premise was that we wanted women to be able to shop for these kinds of clothing in the same way that they would shop for anything else, but then really be able to do that specifically for their wedding,” said Mantha.
From there, a virtual Bridal Suite allows friends to view each other’s selections through photo-realistic visualization, and a streamlined ordering process means no bride has to deal with the stress of collecting payments or measurements from their bridesmaids. Just provide Indira with the bridal party’s email addresses and the company takes care of the rest. Within 12 weeks – eight for rush orders – your entire bridal party can expect their custom dresses.
There is even an option for a Friend Fund through which brides can cover the costs of any of the items purchased by their bridesmaids – a gesture that can be announced through a digital gift card, or done discretely.
Aside from handcrafted silk flowers, Swarovski brooches and gemstone jewelry, accessories include boleros, pashminas and shawls, which can all be coordinated with vests, bowties, pocket squares and cummerbunds for men.
And, inspired by a customer who had said she would have to change her wedding colors after not being able to order linens in peach, users can also buy wedding décor, such as flower girl baskets, table runners, chair bows, chiffon draping and ring bearer pillows.
Launched in 2013, the company’s first collection, the Signature Collection, consists of 5 long dresses (priced at $350) and 5 short dresses (priced at $275), with Indira’s Signature Stretch Corset as the figure-flattering foundation for all of the designs.
While sizes range from 0-18, and in petite to tall and full coverage, their in-house manufacturing and computerized system for patterns allow for 2,200 different design possibilities from any cut and pattern.
“We wanted to really be able to send people things that fit and not just do what our competitors do, which is send something that they know is larger and going to be altered down. So we’ll pair different size tops and bottoms together and then at the end of the day, it’s the same dress, but we’ve actually taken the pattern from a size 6 top and paired it with a size 8 bottom.”
A customized fit was important to both Mantha and Indira’s senior designer, Juan Carlos Pinera, a Miami-based designer and friend from her pageant days (she’s a former Miss Florida), whose clients include Sofia Vergara and this year’s Miss America, Miss New York.
“He really brings a lot of sophistication, glamour and that couture feeling that you would expect to see on the red carpet.”
Her experience as Miss Florida clued Mantha in on many of the tricks and techniques used in pageant dresses that could be applied to Indira’s designs, such as diagonal draping on the waistline or a double slit in a dress to make legs look longer without being too revealing.
“Contrary to what most people believe, most brides are not trying to make their bridesmaids look bad,” said Mantha.
Style and beauty were also important when planning her own wedding, which included 10 bridesmaids. After struggling to find affordable gowns in her color scheme, a long-time friend, who is also a renowned evening gown designer, offered to produce the gowns Mantha wanted, if she could sketch them out – a collaboration that led to many friends asking for similar dresses for their weddings. This was the inspiration for Indira.
“I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to take the kind of couture experience I had access to and merge it with tech, manufacturing and innovation to bring that to a broader audience.”
Originally a biotech investor ensconced in a world of advanced manufacturing, Mantha had previously wondered how to bring that kind of production to the fashion industry. But as much as she loved the idea, she had never thought of herself as an entrepreneur and was hesitant to leave her lucrative Wall Street job.
“I joke that this company kind of sought me out more than I sought it out. I was toying with the idea for months and finally my husband was like, ‘You’ve been talking about this and nothing else during all of your free time for two months so why aren’t you doing it full-time?’”
Mantha’s husband, a financial analyst, joined the company after she had the scaffolding in place and was looking for someone to help build out the computer system. He had taught himself to code before he pitched the idea to his wife.
“My husband and I were actually competitors on Wall Street, so we really respected each other’s intelligence and work ethic long before we were ever romantically involved.”
The company, which was originally funded by Mantha and her husband until they felt that they had the proper manufacturing in place, later went on to do a friend and family round last year, with plans to do a larger seed round in the near term.
Now, the design work, sampling and pattern making are done in New York, while Indira’s primary manufacturing facility is in Miami and textile dying and jewelry is completed in Jaipur, India, where 80% of the world’s colored stones are cut – a convenient location that allows for real time production and no need to stockpile inventory.
India has proven to be a valuable resource in attaining the quality and customization that is the basis for Indira, but both Mantha and her husband can’t imagine their company being based anywhere other than New York.
“We do a lot of work with interactive e-commerce and interactive visual rendering and there are so many people here who do really interesting, smart stuff on that, At the same time we’re sitting right where everything happens in fashion.”
Aside from pop-up events, the company has several projects in the works, including the next collection of dresses, which will hit the market in October and which will include expanding the décor line and developing products for bridal showers and bachelorette parties. Indira will also launch a collection of prom dresses for next spring, inspired by girls who were using the social portal on the site to compare dresses and ensure that no one would arrive to prom in the same design.
Currently, the company is focused on meeting customer demands in America, but they plan to take the site international in the future.
And while these plans mean that Mantha works more now than she ever did on Wall Street, she’s excited to forge ahead. “It’s so much easier to put in crazy hours on something that you are absolutely passionate about, something that is yours and something you can impact right away.”