StyleEsteem: Fashion as Armor

The Greenwich resident who transformed her cancer diagnosis into a revolutionary collection of women’s headwear

At 29 years old, Sonya Keshwani was diagnosed with breast cancer, and after undergoing chemotherapy, she lost her hair. Sonya found that there were little to no hair styling options available that were equally stylish and comfortable. She grew frustrated that no head coverings resonated with her story and her style. 

Taking matters into her own hands, Sonya decided to channel her creative and fashionable traits into producing her own head coverings. During her recovery periods, she bought fabrics from a fabric shop near her hospital and used her mother’s sewing machine, ultimately creating her own turban collection. She felt herself “getting that voice, power, and confidence back,” finding within her what had previously been lost from cancer. Now, four years later, Sonya is the founder of a successful fashion label, StyleEsteem Wardrobe, designing luxury turbans for “people of all hair journeys.” 

While the brand was started because of Keshwani’s hair loss during chemotherapy, her turbans is designed for anyone, like those with alopecia or hair loss, or anyone who may just be having a bad hair day. Sonya emphasizes that StyleEsteem is “a place where women can find fashionable head coverings for every season and occasion,” making the brand incredibly inclusive for any customer’s personal style or preferences. With the range of styles across all seasons and occasions, StyleEsteem hosts turbans with SPF 50 protection, whose fabric is embedded with aloe vera microcapsules for extra cooling during the summer, and turbans that fall under knitwear, for the colder days of fall and winter. 

Sonya said, “I wanted women to be able to shop for head coverings the same way they shop for clothes.” Her turbans are not intended to be simple add-ons to one’s wardrobe, but rather a piece of it that holds it all together.

Another crucial, defining aspect of StyleEsteem is its history. This spring, Sonya launched the Couture Turban Collection at this year’s New York Luxury Bridal Fashion Week. The collection looks back on the 4000 year history of turbans and the role it has played across many countries, cultures and religions. Sonya highlights her own Indian heritage in many of her turbans, specifically the Indian pagri, a traditional turban for men whose masculine elements she has transformed into headwear for women. Taking inspiration from a range of cultures, time periods, and styles highlights the “globalized, diverse collection of head pieces,” as defined by Sonya, that StyleEsteem provides.

Sonya not only prioritizes the reflection on the history of turbans, but also emphasizes the idea that anyone who wears her headwear today will become part of that history as well: “We hope to continue to evolve that couture collection to include more history. Whether it’s looking backward or looking forwards, it’s something that I think grounds us in who we are.” 

In describing her business in three words, Sonya said StyleEsteem is defined by “connection, personal stories, and inner beauty.” It is about the story behind every customer’s hair journey and how wearing a StyleEsteem turban can bring them together. StyleEsteem makes its customers know that they are part of a larger community: “We are a fashion label, but it’s with a purpose of creating community, uplifting others and giving the people who need confidence the most that boost of self esteem, or in this case StyleEsteem.”

It's really about having fashion be this armor in the world that expresses who you are and helps your inner beauty shine.

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