‘Women are capable of doing it all’

Alisha Shinde
Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Ace designer Anita Dongre, who was in town, talks about how she has always tried to make designer wear more affordable along with bridging the gap between artisans and customers, and how her brand brings out the best in women

Who wouldn’t want to flaunt designer wear or clothes right off the fashion ramp? But then most of us cannot afford them. Anita Dongre, known for her bridal couture and handcrafted luxury pret clothes, has always aimed at building a bridge between budget and designer clothes. We caught up with the designer when she, along with actress Pooja Hegde, recently visited her AND store in Phoenix MarketCity, Pune, to know about her journey and philosophy.   

A busy year 
2019 has kept the designer on her toes. Anita was part of two panel discussions at Davos, at the Economic Forum — Three Trillion Reasons to Help the World Spend Better and The Fashion CEO Agenda Roundtable. After which she got busy with Lakme Fashion Week, where she collaborated with the Austrian company Lenzing which makes Tencel for her Spring/ Summer collection on Sustainable Fashion Day. 

Filling the gap
Anita says that each of her brands was created with an intention to fill the gaps within the Indian fashion industry. “While AND caters to young women who love experimenting with Western outfits, Global Desi offers a contemporary fusion of ethnic and Western wear at an affordable range,” she says adding that as a young woman growing up in India, she too, like several others, wanted to buy ‘affordable’ designer wear but it was not available back then. 

Anita says that the problem in India is that designer wear is limited only to bridal fashion. “But that is not what I wanted my line to be. I wanted designer clothes to reach young women who were even on a budget. As a designer, I have always believed that clothes play an important role in making up one’s mood throughout the day, and I wanted to be that designer who would keep in mind that designer wear does not always mean what most people cannot afford.”

Empowering artisans
The queen of pret is hopeful about bridging the gap between weavers and artisans, and customers. “With fashion being such a huge industry in India, it can do wonders to empower the traditional artisans and weavers,” she says.  

With her brand Grassroot, Anita firmly wants to revive artisanal crafts and offer a livelihood to the artisans. “We have incorporated a lot of embroidery styles like aari, soi and bharatkam which are all done by these women at several NGOs that we have collaborated with,” says Anita adding that many of the garments are also locally produced in villages so the labels now even make a special mention of it. “Our designs must carry a part of their efforts because we owe it to them and a garment wouldn’t be what it is without their soulful hard work and dedication towards it,” she adds. 

One of Global Desi’s initiatives is to send across all the leftover pieces of cloth to NGOs, where women make accessories out of them and earn a living. Anita says that it is the responsibility of the designer to incorporate these aspects into the design in such a way that they stay true to their craft, and the marketing aspect is also brought in.

Local connect
One of the most coveted bridal collection line — Pichhwai that she released in January this year has a rather interesting story behind it. “We were shooting for another collection at the City Palace in Jaipur and while we were in action, I noticed this man, who was restoring the murals on the wall, lost in his work. When he completed his work I asked him if he was employed all through the year and he replied, “No one makes palaces these days, so it is tough to find work.” His dedication and art stuck with Anita because of which she asked him if he would be interested in collaborating with her on a bridal series — Pichhwai. As part of the collection, the artist went on to paint more than 100 lehengas, all by hand, which was liked, picked and sported even by several celebrities. 

Sustainable fashion
The designer has been building a green fashion label for years now. The fashion house even became a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a global alliance for textile, apparel and footwear industries to promote sustainable production processes. “Sustainability is something that every individual out there has to make it their mantra and live by it and see the difference themselves,” says Anita. 

When it comes to sustainable fashion, no one would wear or invest in something that they don’t like. “The fabric, though sustainable, has to look and feel good, and has to match mainstream fashion. That is probably the only way for it to work,” she says.  

‘And’ I Rise
Anita has always believed that women can be whatever they want to be. Keeping that in mind, AND launched the #AndiRise movement as a platform to share stories of various women from different walks of life. The initiative celebrates the strength of these courageous, offbeat women who overcame all kinds of adversities. “Women are capable of doing it all. The reason the brand is called AND is because of the many possibilities and dreams that a woman is capable of. At our brand, we believe in bringing out the best in women through our designs and giving her a ‘little’ more of the confidence that she is born with,” says Anita. 

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