Anita Dongre is known for creating sustainable and effortless luxury. Here’s an excerpt from an interaction with the designer about her creative process and love affair with Rajasthan. By Priyanka Chakrabarti
Nature plays a crucial role in your design aesthetic. Why is that?
Nature has always been a large part of my life. I find myself vacationing in places that keep me in touch with wildlife. A peaceful environment away from the hustle-bustle of my busy life is where my thoughts flourish.
We often see elements of Rajasthan in your collections.
Ever since I was a little girl and spent summers at my grandparents’ house in Jaipur, I had admiration for Rajasthan. I have clear memories of my grandmother taking me to the Hawa Mahal market, where I would try my hand at making lac bangles with the local artisans. I used to watch the local women with their vibrant cholis and lehengas. Rajasthan slowly became the place I went to for inspiration.
How are you incorporating sustainability in your labels?
As a brand, we believe that sustainability is about respecting our planet, artisans, and their skills. We incorporate this mantra by using handwoven fabrics or partnering with manufacturers who’re thinking of sustainable options at a larger scale. Since I started working with new-age fabrics such as R-Elan, we’re on the lookout for means to experiment with new fabrics that are beautiful, environment-friendly, and sustainable. Our SS’19 collection in collaboration with Tencel was a successful emergence of that; we wanted to create designs with minimal impact on the environment. Today, we work with sustainable fabric companies like Lenzing across all brands under the House of Anita Dongre. Our efforts also transcend into enabling local artisans. At our Northeast Show at Lakme Fashion Week, we showcased garments made of Eri silk and handcrafted fabrics that were woven by self- employed artisans. We also work with local artisans who use traditional colours derived from vegetables, flowers, and plants.
Can luxury and sustainability go hand-in-hand?
The fashion industry is evolving. The process needs contribution from both, consumers and brands. Customers are beginning to make more environmentally-conscious decisions in their shopping patterns. This cultural shift goes far beyond owning something ‘expensive,’ and is more about experiencing a said ‘luxury’—much like the timeless Indian crafts that are perfected over generations, allowing a sense of uniqueness to the wearer.
Where do you travel in India to source fabrics?
We travel all over India. Our favourite regions include Phulia in West Bengal, Benaras, and Andhra Pradesh.
What’s the story behind your label, Grassroot?
Being introduced to the women of SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) is where the Grassroot story began. After hearing their stories, I was determined to find a way to give these talented women a way to attain economic independence. Through this label, we now create our clothing with the help of artisans across India. Through intelligent design intervention, we bring these crafts into mainstream fashion, making them accessible to the public. This provides the artisans employment, and therefore, better livelihoods.
Where does Indian fashion stand on the global map today?
The Indian fashion industry is evolving. Designers are keeping up with new trends while adding their own flair—expanding the scope of what this industry has to offer. Personally, my designs reflect the use of Indian weaves and techniques. Our vision is to address the constantly evolving sartorial needs of the global woman.