Fashion for everyone

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Designer Anita Dongre tells us how she imbues style and substance to a diverse range of bohemian, traditional and modern outfits

In the post-liberalisation era when the upbeat corporate world and private companies started recruiting women employees, there existed a pressing need to meet their fashion needs – make them look avant garde and in sync with the Western world. In short, matching the international eclectic style. The credit for giving stylish, sparkling and special priced women’s wear and thereby decreasing that widening gap between demand and supply goes to the inimitable Anita Dongre.

Not one to blow her trumpet, Anita has a different take to the two-decade old times when she was instrumental in kick-starting women’s wear. “Indian women in the 1990s needed Western wear as they had started taking up careers. When I launched AND in 1995, I was simply addressing the need of countless women who were looking for formal and evening wear that was comfortable yet chic,” says Anita.

Balancing contradiction is Anita’s strength. While Rajasthan occupies a special place in her heart, it is Italian couturier Giorgio Armani, whose cuts and designs inspired her to create exquisite craftsmanship. While Armani’s garments suit the super-rich, Anita made chic-looking clothes affordable. “I wanted to make luxury accessible to every woman; she deserved to feel empowered in what she donned,” says the designer.

Resting on past laurels is not Anita’s way of addressing the changing diverse needs of men and women. She recently opened her sprawling flagship store in Delhi and is now giving the finishing touches to her collection at Lakme Fashion Week which commences next month.

Excerpts from an interview:

Explain the methodology of balancing the dichotomy existing between your brands like AND, Global Desi and your belief in slow fashion.

While growing up, I was highly influenced by the splendour of Rajasthan, its architecture and vibrant colours. There was a bohemian spirit in me which wanted to create a medley of hues, prints, patterns and designs. That is how Global Desi was born. So, while AND was answering the needs of office-going women, who needed formal and evening wear, Global Desi was catering to the fun, boho-chic vibe I connected with.

When I was travelling to villages, researching textiles, I met many gifted artisans who had knowledge of the craft, but not the resources to sustain them. That is where Grassroot came in. It propagates slow fashion, as it is completely dependent on what the artisans can produce, and we are not in a position to plan huge numbers or turn it around as per what the consumer wants. Sustaining the craft is of paramount importance, and through Grassroot, we are giving fashion the slow, steadfast care it deserves.

How have you been able to strike a balance between Western wear and using traditional crafts like Andhra Pradesh’s Ikat and Lucknow’s Chikankari on garments.

My belief is that these age-old crafts deserve to be preserved. Otherwise, they will be lost in this world of constant change. Introducing quintessential Indian crafts in Western wear shifted the attention to the former and brought about a much-needed intervention.

Average Indian takes as many cues from an international supermodel as from a Bollywood celebrity. How do you weigh these contradictory factors before designing?

I create by taking a cue from the everyday woman and man. My designs are wearable ensembles that provide both comfort and confidence to the wearer, and these factors override trends brought in by international supermodels and Bollywood celebrities.

Shed light on your finale collection for the upcoming Lakme Fashion Week.

The collection is inspired by the glistening sands of the Rajasthan desert and the unique flora and fauna of the State. I love the fact that organic trends are making way into our modern lifestyle. So this time round I am looking forward to bringing alive the liquid gold theme through my designs.

What are the challenges in re-creating traditional sherwanis, bandhgalas, kurtas in order to ensure they are in sync with modern times?

Our menswear has a subtle detailing that adds an element of modernity within the traditional garments. Whether it’s the details on the buttons, the pocket squares, or the butti print on the inner lining of a bandhgala, there’s always a minimal touch of modernity. The garments are all sold as separate pieces. Men can choose to wear it in their own style like an open sherwani with a pair of denim or a bandhgala with fitted trousers.

With the onset of 2017, how would you dress up young men and women

The label Anita Dongre pret is ideal for that mix of tradition and modernity. I feel the New Year has come with new hope for reviving the old; we will see a lot of handicrafts making their way into fashion. This year will see a good mix of Western fittings and traditional outfits. That is the beauty of India; there is a space for both styles to co-exist. Every woman’s wardrobe will have a mix of sarees and skirts and every man’s wardrobe will see both bandis as well as shirts.

Indians spend much more on weddings than anyone else on the planet. Is this going to change post demonetisation.

I think the concept of the big fat Indian wedding is always going to stick around because we truly believe in relishing the revelries. However, we have heard of some weddings being postponed due to demonetisation, which is understandable, as each big change brings with it some new trends. Allow some time for things to settle back and the Prime Minister’s efforts to prove successful. It is too soon to comment yet.

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