Anita Dongre has come a long way from using two sewing machines in her bedroom to creating one of the biggest fashion houses in the country. Not only is she a favourite among Indian women of all age groups, she broke the internet when Kate Middleton wore her label. Her fashion house has 4 brands – AND, Global Desi, Anita Dongre (Bridal) including PinkCity jadau jewellery, and Grassroot. She has the most important ingredients that go into the making of a successful fashion designer and they are creativity and a keen business sense. Unlike many designers her clothes are a hit among the masses for their practical designs and their affordability. We had a cosy chat with Anita where she told us about her journey so far and shared some wonderful fashion tips for Indian women.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I think the shopkeepers in Jaipur realised I would be a fashion designer well before I did. I would go there for my holidays and spend time designing my own clothes and lac bangles. Much later I decided to study Fashion Design at SNDT. My first design was a one shouldered jumpsuit that I conceptualised, cut, stitched and even modelled!
What led to you starting AND and Global Desi?
I started AND to address the need of the working woman then who was becoming financially independent. There was a need for affordable and stylish western silhouettes to wear to work. Global Desi has a touch of Indian prints and colours with free-spirited Boho silhouettes.
What does the word “fashion” mean to you personally?
Expressing myself in my unique style. It’s also a movement that has the power to change within the many lives it touches.
Your fashion tip to Indian women would be?
Be yourself. Pick styles that allow your personal style to shine through.
How have you evolved as a fashion designer?
I think the Indian consumer has driven me to design garments that are effortlessly stylish. It started with western wear from AND and we grew into a multi-brand fashion house. As a designer I feel like I have stayed true to putting craftsmanship and quality at the centre of my work. In terms of expression though I have evolved and adopted the many lives my clientele lives whether this is as a college student, working woman just starting off, a bride or as a woman with a global outlook.
Not only are you a fashion designer but also a very successful entrepreneur. How do you manage these two sides of the business?
Design is my passion but I feel I inherited my business sense from my father, it’s in my genes! I am fortunate to have my family’s active support in my business which allows me to go forward and realise my dreams for House of Anita Dongre.
Do you at times feel that being such a huge commercial success has led to you compromise a bit on creativity?
Fortunately, no. There is a purpose to every brand and we have not compromised on any front. For me, creating is my key role. I have a wonderful team that takes care of the rest.
Tell us about Grassroot. How is it special for you?
Grassroot is particularly special to me. After thirty years of dreaming about it I finally have a label that revives Indian craftsmanship and presents it on a global platform. The purpose of the brand is to provide artisans a sustainable means of income in their villages thus driving economy back through textile crafts. There is so much to learn from these master craftspeople and not the least of it is the simplicity of the lives they live.
When Kate Middleton decided to wear your label on her visit to India, is it true that your website crashed in a few hours because of how many women wanted to buy that dress?
Absolutely, we certainly weren’t set up for that volume of sales at that point. We sold over 1000 pieces of that dress.
One thing that sets you apart from other designers is that you care about wearability than just watching how clothes look on the ramp. Has this led to the young consumer base that you have?
I wanted to make luxury accessible to every woman—she deserves to feel empowered in what she wears. This aesthetic has made my brides the happiest dancers to be honest though, this design aesthetic translates to all the brands I work on so it’s a truth across age groups.
Along with success comes criticism and stress. How do you deal with that?
I maintain a very healthy work-life balance.
How would you describe the Anita Dongre bridal collection?
For me the bridal collection is always about effortless luxury. The bridal collection takes intricate Indian craftsmanship and makes it contemporary for a bride who is resplendent, confident and radiant– a woman of today. Each collection is designed around a feeling of joy and celebration and that’s what this is about.
What are your future plans?
Future plans remain celebrating craftsmanship in the best way we can.