Passion for fashion: Tolani Collection, family business from Rancho Santa Fe, introduces new product line “Mahila”.

Growing up, Alka Tolani learned to make clothes from her mother.

“My mother is a designer in India,” she said. “I grew up in a design house. My mother loved to embroider, embroider and sew my clothes when I was little. I would watch my mother and help her.”

Years later, the Rancho Santa Fe resident revived her clothing skills and crafted items to raise money for fundraisers at Rady Children’s Hospital.

“That’s where it all started,” Tolani said of the company, which has grown into a thriving fashion apparel company today.

“It slowly progressed to some of the fundraising regulars saying to me, ‘Hey, can we buy some of your clothes for our stores?’

“Then it was on to selling the product at the California Market Center in downtown Los Angeles. Then we moved on to all the professional trading centers – Dallas, Atlanta, New York, New England, Chicago.”

Mother-daughter team: Alka and Aishya wear Tolani plaids.

(Photo by Scott Saw)

She and her husband Raj Tolani founded their company, Tolani Collection, which designs and markets women’s clothing ranging from boutiques to fashion chains and department stores to the QVC cable television and online shopping network.

Much of the clothing features floral patterns and artistic designs derived from the couple’s travels around the world.

“Design is my passion,” said Alka Tolani. “I love happy, flowy, fun and fashionable clothes. It’s something you could wear day in and day out. You could travel with it. In the evening you could go to a bar. You could wear it to the beach.”

Now the company, which the couple are calling “House of Tolani,” is launching a new line called Mahila, which Alka says is a Hindi word for “girl.”

Fittingly, the latest Tolani line is inspired by the couple’s daughter, Aishya, who is also a fashion designer.

Tolani’s watercolor inspired designs worn by models Oleska and Jasmine.

(Scott Saw)

Mahila’s concept is designed to capture the imagination of younger women.

“Mahila is my daughter’s vision of what a younger[woman]would look like in terms of what she would wear,” said Alka Tolani. “We are very excited about the launch of the Mahila line.”

Brenda Valdez, design assistant at Tolani Collection, described one Mahila customer as someone who is “not afraid to wear a little bit of everything. She’s not afraid to wear revealing silhouettes and different fabrics.”

Briana Gonzalez, colleague and design assistant, explained: “She’s trendy. She reads all fashion magazines and follows all fashion blogs. She wants to get things done and have some fun.”

Mahila products have been launched in Anthropology and other department stores, and the brand will launch in specialty stores in August, Alka Tolani said.

“It’s still a work in progress, but it’s looking good,” Raj Tolani said of the new line. “The most important thing in the (fashion) business is to create a product that is attractive to people and we have that feedback.”

Tolani Spring 2023 looks on models Oleska and Jasmine.

(Photo by Scott Saw)

The introduction of the new line is another emanation of a development stemming from the lessons Alka Tolani learned at her mother’s elbow.

Alka Tolani said that as a wife and mother of three in Rancho Santa Fe, little did she know she would one day build a successful women’s clothing business.

The demand that developed from these initial fundraiser efforts prompted the couple to explore marketing opportunities in the mid-2000s, resulting in Tolani products being sold in Los Angeles-area fashion stores.

One day they learned of an incident that would mark a turning point. Movie star Jessica Alba was photographed wearing a Tolani scarf at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game.

“Every magazine had this picture because she looked stunning in that scarf,” Alka Tolani said. “From that one scarf she wore to the LA Lakers game, she wore four more scarves, and then it went on and on to the (other) celebrities. About 15-20 of them wore the product for (several) years and we launched a ready-to-wear line.”

Alka Tolani said that an important aspect of the appeal of the Tolani collection is that all items produced are unique and feature prints that are non-repetitive.

“Each print has its own story of originality,” she said. “Celebs love to own these special pieces because they are one of a kind and they will never see them again. … It makes a person feel unique and special.”

Raj Tolani, who had retired from a career in technology, embraced the business, although not without initial doubts: “I thought she was going to lose money. I said, ‘Don’t lose so much money that I have to go back to work.’”

As it turned out, Raj Tolani would return to work because of the company’s success, not its failure. He runs the business side of the clothing company with the help of her son, Vijay.

“I was just supporting their passion,” Raj Tolani said. “I never thought it would turn into a business.”

Information on the Tolani Collection is available at


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