Bringing together the best of both worlds

Bringing together the best of both worlds

Bringing together the best of both worlds
When Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, recently wore an Anita Dongre-designed dress during her India tour, the dress became the talk of town. Eventually, the designer’s website crashed, unable to handle the flood of orders. The fact is that her designs aren’t just popular with the royals, the Mumbai-based fashion designer is loved by almost all Bollywood celebrities, sportspersons, businessmen and even politicians. Who doesn’t want to flaunt an AND (Anita Dongre’s label) attire! Known for her work with grassroot craftspeople and her passion for organic and vegan fashion, the fashionista has been bestowed with many awards, including ‘Excellence in Fashion Designing’ by the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry Ladies Organisation, Bombay Chapter. In fact, she was also listed amongst the 50 most powerful women in business in India. In a free-wheeling chat, Anita touches upon everything that makes fashion tick. Excerpts:

At a time when fashion designing was an alien concept, you decided to jump into it...
Back then, ‘fashion design’ wasn’t considered a serious profession, and I faced a fair share of opposition from my family members. But I was determined, and started a small workshop in my bedroom balcony with support from my sister. I started designing for friends and supplying to boutiques. Seeing my unrelenting passion, my father gave in, and offered me a loan (to be paid back with interest) to start a small factory of my own and ever since, there has been no looking back.

Do you believe Indian designs are finally getting their share of attention?
Indian designs are getting popular world over. Coping up with trends, every designer should have their own design aesthetic that makes them stand out. I love all things Indian, and being inspired by Rajasthan, I use of lots of Indian weaves and techniques, with gotapatti being a signature element in my designs. My dream has always been to enable access to the modern Indian woman with Indian aesthetics and a touch of tradition.

The Internet has revolutionised the fashion industry in more ways than one. Retailing internationally isn’t as challenging as it used to be. E-commerce websites have been a godsend, helping us designers design for a wider international audience. And that’s why every designer tries to create an innovative product, which while appealing to a global audience, remains true to its traditional roots. Juxtaposing western trends and Indian outfits is catching on and this is especially fascinating as it brings together the best of both worlds.

How helpful are fashion weeks for designers as well as the masses?
The recently-concluded Lakme Fashion Week was a great platform for designers all over the country as it helped reach out to a wide audience all over the world. The average Indian who is now exposed to experimental fashion is bolder and ready to set foot into newer areas. Bollywood has always influenced fashion in our country, but I see more number of people opting for versatility in their fashion choices. I believe that one should always dress in a way that allows their personality and individual style to shine through, instead of blindly copying runway or celeb styles.

The changing face of bridal attires...
My bridal trousseaus are designed keeping in mind what the modern Indian woman seeks — elegance, style and comfort. She wants an ensemble that allows her to enjoy her own wedding as much as everyone else. All my bridal wear is lightweight while also being versatile enough to be worn on numerous other occasions. It doesn’t have to get stashed away after one use.

The role of fashion in the age of sustainability...
The role of fashion is to lead and not follow the consumer, and sustainable brands will create the market for it, as we go along with fashionable ensembles that have an Indian soul.

We have already seen the excitement with consumers and are confident that the enlightened, evolved and global woman of today feels the need to not just own a garment, but see it as an act of wearing the country’s craft and helping the cause of talented artisans in India.

Can we save the traditional crafts of India from obscurity?
The craft industry is dying every day and some of our best artisans and craftsmen who have been weaving magic are giving up on their craft. The sorry fact is that this is a tradition, which lives by passing on its legacy and wisdom from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters, down generations. Today, children are not taking up the tradition as they do not see any monetary value in this art form, and are switching to more rewarding professions in computers, BPOs, etc.

The need of the hour is to have fashion houses partner with the artisans and craftsmen and help sustain their longstanding work.

Fashion houses need to back them with a design platform to showcase their work, thereby ensuring it is a win-win partnership for both. My jewellery line ‘Pink City’, made of exquisite gold, jadau collection, is all about revisiting traditional crafts of Rajasthan and celebrating it with the vibrancy of current trends. This helps the karigars there.

On donning many hats and winning several accolades...  
It always feels good to be complimented or appreciated for your work. To be a great fashion designer, one needs to have a strong business acumen. These accolades only make me want to work harder, and continue to deliver on the brand’s promise of quality, craftsmanship and supreme design aesthetic, whilst being able to cater to the ever-evolving needs of our customers.
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