Anita Dongre is one of the most successful designers in India. Her collection is known for its ethnic touch and also features rich craftsmanship, dying embroidery techniques like Gotta patti and Rajasthani designs. Her labels AND and Global Desi which includes a wide repertoire of designs caters to youth, professionals and celebrities from Bollywood.
She derives inspiration from cultural heritage and has continuously worked for uplifting the craftsmen and empowering them. She is one of the most popular designers amongst Bollywood celebrities and was also the part of the advisory board of Lakme Fashion Week 2015.
In conversation with Guardian 20, Anita Dongre talks about her love for rich traditions of India and what it takes to be a successful fashion designer.
Q. Mughal architecture, traditional craftsmanship and the rich cultural heritage of India is reflected in your collections. How do you combine these elements?
A. The source of my inspirations has always been India’s rich craft tradition and heritage. Being true to my roots, traditional craftsmanship inspired by Rajasthani architecture is reflected in my collections. My creations are a tribute to revive the glory of India’s magnificent past. The majestic combination of these elements helps me recreate magic!
Q. You are a member of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). What made you sign up for this cause? How do you feel about as designers who still use fur and leather in their work?
A. I have been a vegetarian since I was 13 and have recently turned vegan. My love for animals has consciously motivated me to be a part of foundations and movements like PETA which gives me a platform to extend my support and create awareness.
I am strongly demur against the concept of killing animals for food. Killing them for fashion is just not an option for me. We have created an accessory line with absolutely no use of leather and animal products. Staying true to sustainable fashion, we affirm to cruelty free products.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of being a fashion designer?
A. As a designer finding the right balance between innovating a unique product in a highly competitive market, along with keeping a consistent focus on the business aspect of it is a challenge we face every day.
Q. What do you find simpler - designing clothes for women or men?
A. Designing is an intuitive and creative process, it has no boundaries. Everything I design is a piece of art for me, be it menswear or women wear, my creations are an extension of me and hence close to my heart.
Q. Tell us about your continued association with women artisans. Why is it important to support them?
A. Women Empowerment is a cause extremely close to my heart. We have recently partnered with a member of parliament Ms. Poonam Mahajan to generate employment for women in Charoti which is a small village 100kms from Mumbai. We have set up a training and manufacturing centre that helps women develop skills which they can use to earn a living thus empowering them in society.
Q. What are the latest designs that you are working on?
A. We are unveiling our Spring Summer’16 bridal line in the next few days. In this, I’ve used my signature gota-patti work and have given it a very fresh, new look. I’m very excited to unveil this line. You will have to wait just a little bit longer to see what’s in store.
Q. Who, according to you, is the best-dressed Bollywood icon? Is there any recent film that impressed you in terms of costume designs?
A. Deepika Padukone according to me is a true fashion icon and has a unique sense of style. She experiments with different looks and can carry them with ease. From a heavily embroidered lehenga to distressed jeans, her fashion game is always on point.
Q. You were part of the advisory board of Lakme Fashion Week 2015. Are you happy with the kind of work that young designers in India are doing?
A. I love the way the newer designers are coming up with such fabulous works. It amazes me to see the immense talent that the future of the country beholds. During the selection process I was amazed to see how much thought and effort the budding designers put in their work. It was a truly enriching experience for me.
Q. How much can one learn about fashion from what’s on display in an average Indian wedding? Tell us about your new show which explores the wedding circuit in India.
A. At a wedding or otherwise, fashion is a form of self-expression. People are giving traditions a modern twist and personalizing their big day, be it customs or their outfits.
Yaari Dostii Shaadi is a wedding reality show on NDTV Good Times that delves into all the fun and madness that comes along with the Indian weddings from the point of view of the best man and bridesmaid. The show is a perfect blend of drama, emotion, fashion and humour. The show gave me a freedom to style the looks like the ones I would do for real bride and groom and the family, using pieces from my bridal and occasion wear line. I’ve also used some stunning Pink city jewellery on the brides. The fun element in the show really appealed to me. It was a chance for me to create some amazing looks for the couple and their family to all the fun.