FREAKY FRIDAY – How the ‘House of Anita Dongre’ becomes a showstopper in the fashion world

From starting a label with only two sewing machines in the early 1990s to opening her first store at the Crossroads Mall in South Mumbai in 1999, The House of Anita Dongre (HOAD) has literally come a long way.

Songs Of Summer, her latest bridal collection, which went on the ramp at the recent Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) Summer/Resort 2018, is a fuss-free collection in pastel shades of powder blue, pale pink, sage.

From boutiquewali to fashion trendsetter: How the journey started?

One might notice the sprawling, lush green office located in Navi Mumbai, but the hardwork behind creating the mansion is worth looking for!

Initially, the brand was started as a boutique, later expanding to a store in Soho, New York in 2017. The beautiful space is located at the iconic 473 West Broadway, a pre-war building dating back to the 1900s, in the heart of New York’s most vibrant shopping thoroughfare.

Designer Anita Dongre has built her clothing empire within two decades with four labels—AND, Global Desi, Anita Dongre bridal couture and prêt including PinkCity jadau jewellery, and Grassroot by Anita Dongre. Grassroot works with rural artisans to promote craft.

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.

AND is an Rs 680-crore company of Dongre, as per latest FY18 numbers.

In an exclusive interview with the Economic Times, Dongre was quoted as saying, “In the 1980s-90s, people would gawk at me when I visited the cloth markets. I was the boutiquewalli. But after 30 years in the fashion business, it is these little things that stand out, shaping me both as an individual and an entrepreneur. I remember my initial struggles with mall owners regarding store space, or even, for that matter, to be taken seriously by everyone at work. That has changed significantly over the years,”

From Royal family to Bollywood actresses: Who are the muses of Dongre?

Her designs have always been everyone’s favourite. In 2016, Dongre was handpicked by Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, who wore her floral tunic during an India tour. A full-length version of Kate’s dress was showcased at Dongre’s catwalk show, titled Love Notes, at Lakmé Fashion Week.

Dongre was recognized again by the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, who chose her yellow chanderi salwar suit for a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram.

Not only this, former first lady of the U.S., Hillary Clinton, also worn some of the Dongre’s best creations. Dongre also made it to Google’s list of most-searched designers in 2016.

Dongre’s designs were worn by Bollywood celebrities such as Karishma Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor and wife Mira Rajput, Vidya Balan, and Sonakshi Sinha among others.

Who is behind the gorgeous threadwork on Dongre’s lehenga?

All those exquisite threadworks that you witness on those bridal lehengas are hardwork of some of the women living in Bakutra, Gujarat. Yes, you read that right!

According to a report in Vogue, the women are part of SEWA (Self-employed Women’s Association). The designer has been working with these women for over three years, commissioning work that adorns her Grassroot and bridalwear lines.

Comprising of 600-700 women aged between 17 and 70 years of age, the pieces take anywhere between 25 and 60 days, depending on the intensive work.

The core of Dongre’s inspiration for her couture brand comes from the women of Rajasthan.

Currently, Dongre is associated with 1,200 women on ari and kantha embroidery, ajrak printing, chikankari, dabbu block printing and bandhini, among others, the report further stated.

A close-knit family affair:

According to an Economic Times report, Product Head Meena oversees buying, innovation and merchandising while elder sister Priyanka Hira, a special education specialist, is in charge of customer relations.

The number-game:

The House of Anita Dongre’s partnership has interpreted to a pan-India network of 300 standalone exclusive stores in 76 cities and over 915 multi-brand large-format outlets in 176 cities, employing 2,800.

HOAD witnessed a net revenue of Rs 680 crore for 2017-18, against merchandising net sales of Rs 590 crore in the previous year. Profit after tax was Rs 20 crore in FY17. Figures for FY18 have not yet been audited.

According to a report in the Femina, Dongre admires Stella McCartney as she is a vegetarian and a crusader for sustainable fashion, and would like to collaborate with her in the future.

Speaking to Femina on the future initiatives, Dongre said her plans include celebrating craftsmanship in the best way we can and trying to find a way to being a kinder, completely sustainable brand.

Successful as a brand and born in the commercial capital of India, after graduating from the famous SNDT Women’s University in Mumbai, with a degree in fashion, Anita has created high impact with timeless classic touches.

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