A graduate from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Ritu Beri is an international fashion designer. She was the first Indian designer to present a couture show in Paris, where she successfully launched her first luxe collection in 1998 and also the first Asian designer to head a French fashion brand, Jean-Louis Scherrer in 2002. She was recently roped in to design the uniforms of the staff of Indian Railways this year.
For Beri, fashion designing was not something she always dreamt of to being in. “When I was young, I always wanted to be a doctor. Complete with stethoscope and a black bag for my medical tools, I must honestly admit my doctoral ambitions were somewhere thwarted by the fact that I spent more time musing over how the wardrobe of the medical team should look like rather than more noble and gory aspects of the trade. It was then that I first understood where I was heading to: being a fashion designer.”
Beri has almost completed 25 years in fashion. Beri believes that fashion industry has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis, since she joined the industry back in 1990. The consumers are increasingly shifting their focus from self-styled outfits towards designer wear which is also new. This is mainly due to the vast options available. “First, there are many talented new designers creating great innovative stuff today which was not the case 25 years ago. There are more fashion weeks than I can remember which goes to show the importance and popularity of the fashion industry. Today, the fashion industry in India is considered a serious industry even though it is only 25 years old. We have achieved a lot in this short time.”
Beri is the first Asian designer to head a French fashion brand, Jean-Louis Scherer. Back then, not many Indian designers had even done shows in Paris and for an Indian designer to be heading a French fashion house. According to Beri, international brands and international designers have taken over Indian markets. The purchasing power of Indians have indeed also gone up, boosted by a healthy economic growth. For the consumer, wants have become necessities. She says, “The marketing pitch is further bolstered by imagery, events, packaging which helps identification of a real brand. The traditional Indian perception of luxury has also given way to a modern concept. Today acquisition of luxury products is no longer an ‘occasion’ but an aspect of day to day living. Indians undeniably see luxury as a heightened sense of enjoying life.”
She has been recently appointed advisor to Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), a part of the Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, and Government of India. She says, “Khadi clothes are considered boring because of lack of trendy designs and colours. Khadi needs a complete makeover. I will give my best to make khadi a global fabric to reckon with.”
Having been associated with many charity works like Indian Red Cross Society, Baby Beri, a line of occasion wear for kids and many such organizations, Beri finds it very satisfying. “I launched the Blessed Hearts Foundation, a charity for children in 2009. The mission of the foundation was to support the less privileged children and to create awareness about autism. My collection Baby Beri was launched in 2009 as part of the various fund raising events of this foundation. We have to care today for a better tomorrow. I’m an active volunteer for every good cause that comes my way.”
She has also recently designed for Indian Railways’ staff. “I believe that the uniform of an institution creates the necessary image that is desired to uplift its perception and impact—so I offered to do my bit by creating a new look for the staff of the Indian Railways,” she says. Beri thinks that the idea is to create uniforms that are attractive, impactful and comfortable at the same time. Clothes should retain the traditional look but give it a modern twist keeping in mind today’s trends. Comfort of the uniforms is also key point. “The look of the Railway uniforms will be an ode to India and her exoticism. The focus is to reflect modern India whilst respecting our deep-rooted tradition and culture thus reflecting the glory of India. The uniforms will be Indo-western in cut and silhouette with comfort being the most important factor.
“One of our major shortcomings is that we tend to be heavily influenced by the West. There is a tendency to ape the West resulting in lack of creativity.””
Beri appreciates that India is growing as a fashion industry. The Indian fashion industry is growing at a rapid pace with international developments, such as the fashion weeks gaining popularity and annual shows by fashion designers being held in major cities of India. The industry is coming to power to be one of the major contributors in the economic growth of the country and is a profession where experimentation, taking risk and following one’s own passion being the key to success.
“The Indian fashion design scene is seeing interesting times — time when the fashion design scene is opening up and looking ahead to make a mark in the international scenario. There is a lot of potential in this country and there are several talented designers waiting to be discovered,” says Beri.
But there are things that Indian designers still need to explore. She says, “However, there are some gaps to be filled up first. One of our major shortcomings is that we tend to be heavily influenced by the West. There is a tendency to ape the West resulting in lack of creativity. Indian designers should explore the art and craft, and techniques of Indian culture.”
For Beri, to be a successful fashion designer, one should explore the impossibilities and work in an inspired mode. However, practically attained knowledge plays a major role and dedication to learn is the key to success.”Be your compassionate self and never let life stop you from being real, as you are today. For a successful career, one should be self-motivated and have full confidence in themselves even if it includes breaking the norms,” she concludes.