Two models in NYRAA clothing. The brand specializes in Indian designer craftsmanship, and all pieces are made to order. Credit: Provided

WEST LOOP — The Chicago Fashion Coalition and Indian clothing brand NYRAA will host the first Chicago Diwali Pop-Up at the Epiphany Center for the Arts. 

The pop-up will run from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday in the center’s Chase House, 201 S. Ashland Ave., and will feature 12 local vendors selling everything from clothing and jewelry to beauty products and food.

Attendees will also have access to a variety of experiences and activities, including henna artists and a 360-degree booth photographer. A DJ will spin Bollywood and Punjabi music during the event. 

The event is free to the public; those interested can RSVP here. A full list of vendors is available here

The pop-up is a preview of Diwali, one of India’s biggest holidays, which takes place on Nov. 12 this year. It’s known as the Festival of Lights and celebrates good triumphing over evil, said Nisha Saboo, founder of NYRAA, which specializes in sustainable Indian fashion. 

“I’m half Indian and half Nepalese, and I can’t remember a year where I haven’t celebrated Diwali,” Saboo said. “People come celebrate with food, music, dance. It’s a very lively kind of celebration.” 

Saboo said she wanted to help create that same sense of celebration in Chicago with the pop-up. More than 300 people are expected to attend, she said.

Chicago Fashion Coalition president Marquan Jones said the event is meant to be “fully immersive,” not just a space to buy products. 

Jones and Saboo met when Saboo ran a startup focused on the intersection between fashion and technology, one of Jones’ personal interests. When Saboo developed NYRAA earlier this summer, the two reconnected to plan the event. 

The fashion coalition runs a directory for Chicago fashion businesses. Jones said there are several South Asian businesses listed in that directory, but that there’s never been a space for everyone to come together.

It’s especially important to see more representation in fashion, Jones said. 

“People need to see themselves represented in the clothes that they see in advertising or the clothes that they see in the world,” he said. “People feel more connected when they see themselves being represented.” 

Part of the reason the coalition and NYRAA have focused on the Chicago market is to show that the city can be a big name for fashion. Though it may not be known as a fashion center compared to other cities, Jones said many famous designers and stylists got their start here.

With the right support and networking, Jones said he thinks the Chicago Fashion Coalition can help fledgling designers make it in the city.

“What we find far too often is people leave and go excel elsewhere,” Jones said. “I know it’s because of a lack of infrastructure and a lack of support from the state and the city, so we exist to bridge that gap.” 

For Saboo, the Diwali pop-up combines her culture with her passion for small business. She’s looking forward to meeting other entrepreneurs and said she hopes the pop-up will become an annual event.

“There is a very strong South Asian community here in Chicago, not only in the city, but in the suburbs of Chicago,” Saboo said. “It’s experiences and community events like this that help bring everyone together. People want excuses to come together to celebrate each other and that’s what we want to do.”

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