Designer Anita Dongre is trying to bridge the gap between aspiration and accessibility with her ubiquitous brand presence. Rushmika Banerjee talks to the woman in charge
The House of Anita Dongre (HOAD) is built on resilience. From starting a label with only two sewing machines (early 1990s) to opening her first store at the Crossroads Mall in South Mumbai (1999) and eventually expanding to a store in Soho, New York (2017), designer Anita Dongre has built an empire within two decades with four labels under its umbrella—AND, Global Desi, Anita Dongre bridal couture and prêt including PinkCity jadau jewellery, and Grassroot by Anita Dongre. Each label has a unique identity and yet, they are all bound by strong virtues of sustainability and an uncompromising passion for design.
Dongre was a visionary from the beginning. The brand, founded in 1995 along with her sister Meena Sehra and brother Mukesh Sawlani, is touted as the most influential fashion house in the country today. She conceived her minimalist fusion wear label at a time when Indian designers relied heavily on ostentatious ensembles. When Dongre conceptualised her signature gota-patti lehenga with pockets and put them on the ramp, it became a trendsetter. Apart from her strong aesthetics, the designer’s business acumen is apparent in the placement of her brands in the commercial sector—AND and Global Desi cater to the masses, while her couture line woos the luxury segment. The designer has also been a strong champion of women’s empowerment, and her label Grassroot seeks to revive native Indian crafts and simultaneously empower rural artisans. Her designs have adorned royalty (the Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton wore an AND dress during her visit to India in 2016), former first lady of the U.S., Hillary Clinton, and Canada’s first lady Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Dongre also made it to Google’s list of most-searched designers in 2016. In this exclusive interview, the designer reminisces about her childhood, talks about holistic sustainability and what the future of HOAD looks like.
What inspires you to create?
Rajasthan. She evokes memories of dancing peacocks, majestic elephants, sleeping on the terrace while monkeys prance around and the beautiful songs of the birds in summer. Every time I am there, I see something and feel something new that rejuvenates my creativity.
Tell us about your early years in Rajasthan.
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