Exclusive: Anita Dongre on building a fashion empire bringing sustainability to Bollywood and more
Exclusive: Anita Dongre on building a fashion empire, bringing sustainability to Bollywood and more
by Nayanika Das | August 24, 2022, 15:05 IST
From dressing Kareena Kapoor Khan to the Duchess of Cambridge and Kim Kardashian: Anita Dongre has taken the fashion landscape in India global. The designer had the vision to infuse an element of comfort into designer outfits, ever since she was sixteen. In a career spanning decades, the vision has translated beautifully with her stellar creations. What makes her creations quintessentially elegant is that she factors comfort into high fashion. In an industry that’s all about glitz and glamour, the designer strays away from the concept that beauty is pain.
Apart from being an ace designer, Anita Dongre has been a pioneer when it comes to sustainability in fashion. She has incorporated consciousness into her business practices and is constantly going the extra mile to reduce the carbon footprint of her brand.
Her conscious practices and cutting-edge designs are what have made her a favoured choice of A-listers. She has dressed royals such as the Duchess of Cambridge as well as Queen Mathilde of Belgium. Hollywood celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, and Sophie Turner among others. When it comes to Bollywood, she has dressed the likes of Kareena Kapoor Khan, Karisma Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Janhvi Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif, Ranveer Singh, Kartik Aaryan, and others. Her designs were also the preferred choice of Neha Dhupia on her wedding day.
We chat with Anita Dongre who discusses fashion, bringing sustainability to Bollywood and shares her interesting encounter with Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge.
You started a fashion empire with your sister with nothing but two sewing machines on your balcony. From your journey from there to becoming a household name in the country, what is one thing that you have learned along the way?
When I was 16 and I went to learn design, my purpose was to always create fashion that would make women feel good about themselves. For me, fashion is a very powerful emotion and tool to make people feel good about themselves. And today that purpose is made larger by also making people who make our clothes do good. Fashion is really purpose-driven about making the wearer feel good and making the maker do good because this industry employs thousands of people and is such a huge income generator involved. That I think is my main incredible satisfaction today.
Your creations have been donned by the biggest names in Bollywood, from Kareena Kapoor Khan to Alia Bhatt. What do you think separates your brand from the rest?
I feel so wonderful when I see all these wonderful, amazing women wear our creations because I respect and admire each and every one of them. I think when I design, as a woman I bring empathy to the design table – my style is very comfortable and at the same time it is very elegant, and I think a lot of thought goes behind what we do. So, I would say it is thoughtful, elegant, and comfortable. I think women resonate with all these values I try to bring to my design and wear them so beautifully. I think the cherry on the cake is when a woman carries off or designs so well and she owns it when she wears it. I always think the woman should own the design and not the other way round and all these women that you named are incredible and how they make the clothes work.
Be it Madhuri Dixit, Karisma Kapoor, or Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the actors you dress are brimming with personality and an authentic sartorial sensibility. Who are some of your favourite celebrities to dress?
This is one tough question to answer because to me every woman is special. Whether she is a celebrity or whether she is just a client who walks into my store. Whether it is a woman who is going for her first job interview, it is her wedding, an actor wearing your creation at an award function, or in a public gathering, to me how they feel in the clothes is important. I really think today the women who wear me are my inspiration.
Is there any fashion advice that you have shared with any of the leading actors? Could you share that advice with us?
I say this to everybody, to my customers also – don’t follow trends blindly. I think everybody should wear what works for them, for their body type. To recognize your own body type and highlight the facets that you want to. An intelligent woman does not follow trends blindly and I would say, most of the women who wear me are pretty intelligent.
You have dressed Neha Dhupia for her impromptu wedding which was planned in under 48 hours. How was the experience dressing her for such an important day on such short notice?
I am very grateful to have such a great team. We have always risen to the occasion when we get last-minute requests and a bride for us is always priority number one because she has got so much to deal with before her wedding. So, I would just say thank you to my team and all of us who put it together for her – it was just great teamwork. Just making sure the bride was happy was the most important job for us at that moment.
You have dressed international celebrities such as Hillary Clinton, The Duchess of Cambridge, Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Sophie Turner, and more. How does it feel to be at the forefront of Indian fashion?
I have been saying this for the longest and we are almost there now – I really think it is high time Indian craft and Indian design deserves global recognition. When globally famous women like Kate Middleton wear us, it is a great day for Indian fashion and design. We need more of that to get recognized now. When we dressed Kate, Anita Dongre was the seventh most googled designer in the world so dressing celebrities like her does bring Indian design to the forefront.
Can you share any fun encounters with any of the international A-listers you have dressed?
Kim Kardashian was an editorial shoot, so I was not there, nor was I there for Beyonce. But I did have the good fortune to meet the Duchess of Cambridge in Buckingham Palance in London and it was a very lovely conversation we had. She shared her love for Rajasthan with me and said that if there is one place I want to come back and visit it is Rajasthan and Jaipur. She knows I am from there and said that that was the reason she chose my designs. So, we share our common love for Rajasthan and so much of my design is inspired from there; it felt so good to hear that she wants to visit there again because she feels she did not have enough on her first trip.
When it comes to celebrities, we have seen year after year that repeating outfits is not something that has been a trend. How can we change that?
Celebrities and media have great power, and they must use this power to influence the rest of society. I really respect Queen Mathilde, the queen of Belgium, she wore one of our outfits which she repeated. The Duchess of Cambridge also regularly repeats her own outfits. So, I think celebrities must keep repeating outfits to send the message that sustainability is the only way forward for the fashion industry. It is a huge responsibility which they must take very seriously.
How can we make fashion in Bollywood more sustainable?
I really think celebrities today should make sure they are wearing cruelty-free fashion and support garments that are handwoven and made by local artisans. Like I said they hold great power in their hands to drive this whole interest because today the world looks up to what they do. So, they must make sure that they themselves are making the right choices and so many more are going to follow. They must support brands that are circular, and cruelty-free; they must research and support those that are doing all of this.
You are not only a creative genius but also a sharp businesswoman with multiple brands under your name. What is the one piece of advice you would give to young women who draw inspiration from you?
I don’t know if I am a sharp businesswoman, I don’t feel like one. All these brands are created because they were my dream and I just basically come to work every day and fulfill the dreams that I have seen. So, I think I would tell every young person out there to believe in your dreams, persevere with hard work and determination and you can see your dreams come alive. I came to work every day and worked towards that goal – It all starts with a dream or a vision. And a belief that your vision is possible.