We have seen the courtyard of the most happening place in Chandigarh tricity, the Elante Mall, buzzing with activity, ringed as it is on three sides by outlets of some of the most popular food and beverage brands. But it is the till now isolated far side of the courtyard which is starting to catch eyeballs. The name, Anita Dongre, in glittering gold colour displayed across a white typically Rajasthani style facade with the trademark arches reminiscent of palaces, rings an instant bell in the minds of the fashionistas. It is the stand-alone store of India’s biggest fashion designer and sustainable fashion warrior’s couture line.
The 55 years young Anita Dongre, into her fourth decade in the fashion world, today lords over an empire of 271 stand-alone stores and another 650 large format stores, across five brands she owns under the umbrella of the House of Anita Dongre. The five brands are AND (125 stores), her weste wear brand for women; Global Desi (133 stores), her boho-chic line; Grassroot, her youngest brand that focuses on sustainable luxury; and her luxury bridal and occasion wear brand, Anita Dongre (13 stores); besides flagship stores in New York and Mauritius.
Photos By : Life In Chandigarh
Sharing her thoughts with LifeInChandigarh.com on the sidelines of a recent sneak peek of her 13th Anita Dongre store for a select media, the classy fashion designer, who has dressed the likes of Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Sophie Turner, Hillary Clinton, Kate Middleton, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Huma Abedin among others, says though latest trends do influence her creations, but she prefers to stick to the classic and the timeless designs and styles for her expensive line.
With her roots firmly entrenched in Jaipur, where she was brought up amid the traditional and timeless Rajasthani crafts, Anita does not hide the immense influences these have had over her designs. But she does take inspiration from just about anything she experiences in real life, from books, paintings, palaces and occasionally even women she comes across in her daily life.
The store in Elante Mall, the first north of Delhi NCR, retails a select collection of Anita Dongre’s ready to wear men’s wear, women’s wear and silver jewellery. A separate section for men displays an impressive collection of pocket squares, kurtas, bandis and sherwanis. The rest of the spacious store, dedicated to women, has an exhaustive range of foil lehengas, printed kaftans and dresses, along with a curation of silver jewellery.
It’s also an ideal place for would be brides looking for an ensemble that is effortlessly elegant and designed for the mode woman. Anita Dogre’s garments come with pockets, for added comfort on those delightfully chilly baraat nights, and for carrying a mobile phone.
Anita welcomes the increasing trend of brides-to-be being given ample freedom to shop for their trousseau. She feels that young girls are more tuned in to fashion and are able to make better choices, not necessarily sticking to norms, and instead experimenting with new styles and colours. “So, it need not be typically red and gold for their wedding dresses, but different shades of baby pink, yellow, or even white,” she shares.
Ask her for her opinion on what brides should keep in mind while dressing up for their memorable ceremonies, she asserts “the young girls should definitely not over accessorise. Care must be taken to ensure that the jewellery and the make-up is just right for the occasion and compliments the dress. The one mistake most brides make is wear too much and too heavy jewellery and get over make-up done. Since most brides would want to themselves indulge in dance at their ceremonies, so the dress also needs to be light, yet elegant,” she adds.
Anita Dongre has won international acclaim because of her tireless efforts focused on reviving and sustaining the crafts in remote villages of India, and creating mass livelihoods for rural women artisans, as also her worldwide advocacy of practicing sustainable fashion.
She has been working with hundreds of women artisans in different parts of the country. Particularly noteworthy is her collaboration with Ahmedabad-based Self-employed Women’s Association (SEWA), helping combine the embroidery craft of its members with mode fashion that sells. She is a firm believer that the craftswomen should be allowed to stay true to their craft. Each garment needs to be created around their unique motifs and stitches so that they take pride in a sense of shared authorship, she feels.
As a strong votary of sustainable fashion, Anita is convinced that moving forward every designer worth his or her salt has to become mindful of, and focus as much on environment and the society or community as on profits. From discussing sustainable fashion at the World Economic Forum at Davos to showcasing a spring-summer collaboration with Austrian company Lenzing (makers of sustainable fabric Tencel) at the Lakme Fashion Week coinciding with Sustainable Fashion Day, Anita has given ample proof of her commitment.
Last year, her fashion house also became a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a global alliance for textile, apparel and footwear industries to promote sustainable production processes.
“It is a great time to be a woman in India right now,” she opines and adds that women are being given ample opportunities to explore themselves. “Now, it is for the women to shed their inhibitions, their mindsets need to change. They must start believing in themselves, in their abilities.”
So, where does she find herself in her career spanning three decades? “I am dying to do more. I am still as full of energy, excitement and passion as an 18-year-old.”
With her sisters Meena Sehra and Priyanka Hira, her brother Mukesh Sawlani, who is the MD of the company, son Yash and nephew Deepikesh, Anita has steered the House of Anita Dongre (earlier AND Designs India Ltd.) to the top of the fashion house hierarchy in the country.
What differentiates her from the rest? Fashion critics feel that Anita Dongre is not about expensive clothing alone. Her deep understanding of pricing which is justifiable, and her penchant for creating trendy, wearable clothing that perfectly fits the criteria for mass retail is the biggest differentiator. Moreover, her garments are beautiful, feminine, sustainable and mainstream, they explain.
The celebrity designer is currently working on a select collection with Kashmiri craftsmen. She is also exploring possibilities with Punjab’s own phulkari. Hand weaves with North-East clusters for making of sustainable fabric is on her agenda, too.
LifeInChandigarh.com by APR Media House is an enjoyable digital reading startup, which keeps you abreast of the latest meaningful happenings of interest to large sections of folks in Chandigarh tricity, and expats from the region. It has been promoted by a public spirited senior journalist and media consultant with a view to encourage good quality and healthy journalism, a dire need of the times.
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