Parekh Bugbee: Louisville’s Fashion Link to the East

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

We all know what a great investment a well-made scarf can be. They can add a pop of color or change the vibe of even the most mundane ensemble. If you haven’t already fallen in love with them, you’ll want to get familiar with Parekh Bugbee designs. These scarves are the embodiment of art, history and style, all wrapped up in a family business that’s made itself a second home right here in the Bluegrass.

With no less than a dozen steps in the creation process, Parekh Bugbee scarves embody true craftsmanship and a long-standing history of the East Indian culture, something that modern techniques simply cannot reproduce.

Payal Parekh Bugbee’s father, Bharat Parekh, built his factory some 45 years ago in Mumbai, India, from recycled goods and is eco-friendly to this day. Payal speaks of her father with tremendous love and respect, “My father built his business from scratch. He wanted his daughters to learn and travel. He was very forward thinking. Education was important, not just marriage.”

It was her love of fashion that took her to New York to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). There, she developed a love of photography and began working in the fashion industry. She spent 10 years in New York and made a return to India in 2004 to immerse herself in the family-owned business. It was upon her return that she developed a greater appreciation for her father and his passion for keeping the integrity of the craft alive, which shifted her perspective entirely. Textiles is now her sole focus.

It was on a business trip to Thailand that she met global health photographer Geoff Oliver Bugbee. They fell in love and were married six months later. She moved to Kentucky with her husband in 2012 and was immediately taken with the equine industry and the region’s love of horses. Bugbee’s skill behind the lens further cemented their connection and Parekh Bugbee was born.

Payal started doing trunk shows and pop-up boutiques to introduce Parekh Bugbee to the horse-lovers of Kentucky. It was while doing a show at PYRO Gallery that she met noted visual artist Keith Auerbach, who had expressed an interest in textiles. They discovered a common love of the equine spirit. The East meets West collaboration resulted in the Silkhorse collection. After many calls and much persuading, they convinced a fifth-generation Indian artist to draw the legendary Manaki, a mystical and magical horse in the Indian culture that was the centerpiece of their fully funded Silkhorse Kickstarter campaign last November.

Now, more of these stunning creations can get in the hands of Louisville’s discerning fashionistas. Scarves, shawls, stoles and pocket squares in a vast array of tones and hues to suit every taste and whim are just a few clicks away. If you desire the touchy-feely experience before buying, drop in The Kentucky Museum of Art & Craft, the Speed Art Museum gift shop or Bella Rose boutique in Lexington.

What’s on the horizon? “For spring, we are changing and doing a series of paisley scarves and introducing our Fantasian series,” Payal says with excitement. “Using oranges and reds, vibrant blues and roses…fire colors.” She continues, “By buying Parekh Bugbee wearable art, you will be supporting men and women from a rural Indian community that has remained loyal to their small scale production line for three generations. True skill and craftsmanship is at the core of this slow and deliberate process of handmade clothing. It is simply an art and craft that mass production cannot achieve. Our products are sweatshop-free and represent limited editions that help to support a vibrant community. It’s all part of the enjoyment of wearing them.” VT

For the full selection of scarves, helpful videos on how to wear them and instructions on how to care for your silk treasures, visit parekhbugbee.com

By Kristie Hicks Crenshaw.

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