The spotlight has finally arrived on Indian heritage crafts: designer Anita Dongre on dressing up Kate Middleton, Beyoncé
Celebrated fashion designer Anita Dongre shares how starting her journey from a balcony meant everything that followed later became a milestone.
Anita Dongre is no stranger to fame. From her luxury pret line, bridal couture, or menswear collection—the ace fashion designer’s intricate designs showcasing India’s rich textile heritage have taken the world by storm.
House of Anita Dongre—her eponymous label founded in 1995—comprises AND (western wear), Global Desi (contemporary wear), Grassroot (sustainable luxury), Anita Dongre (bridal wear), and Pinkcity (jewellery line).
From the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, to global celebs like Priyanka Chopra Jonas, singer-songwriter Beyoncé Knowles, and politician Hillary Clinton, and back home, actresses Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor Khan, and Sonam Kapoor have all been spotted in Dongre’s creations.
What sets Dongre apart? Her drive towards sustainability seamlessly infused with luxury and comfort. Continuing her passion, Dongre recently launched a line of cruelty-free vegan accessories.
All in all, Dongre walks the talk when it comes to ethical practices. An Anita Dongre bride is a true reflection of the designer’s personality—a new-age woman who prioritises ease and effortlessness over trends and is comfortable in her skin. Her latest bridal collection ‘There She Glows’ is a love letter to Indian crafts, marrying contemporary silhouettes with nature-inspired motifs.
In a candid chat with YS Life, Dongre speaks about her illustrious journey in the world of fashion, her relentless drive toward sustainability, and what makes a new-age bride tick.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
YS Life [YSL]: You started young, and now you are internationally acclaimed. What prompted you to become a designer, and how has the journey been?
Anita Dongre [AD]: My mother always had a huge influence on me. She would tailor our clothes and, in a way, was the first designer I was exposed to. Early on, when I would visit my grandparents in Jaipur, I recall heading to the local markets and getting my own bangles designed.
My journey first took shape on the balcony of my parent's apartment, with a sewing machine and my sister Meena. That 20-year-olds’ dreams and passion made everything a reality.
YSL: How challenging is it to dabble in both ready-to-wear and bridal wear?
AD: When I design, my muse is the purpose-driven modern Indian woman. I create according to her needs. Whether it’s using eco-friendly fabric in ready-to-wear or supporting the craftsmanship of our women artisans with our bridal line, our signature aesthetic comes through in every garment.
YSL: The Anita Dongre brand is one of the leading fashion names today. What are some of the milestones close to your heart?
AD: I started this journey with my sister. Everything that has happened ever since has been a milestone. It was a proud moment for us to have our first international flagship store in the heart of New York.
We recently became the first Indian brand to be available in The Dubai Mall. It’s been a fulfilling journey showcasing the exquisite work of our artisans globally.
YSL: You’ve been a passionate advocate of India’s textiles and crafts. Do you have a soft spot for any specific work?
AD: The handcrafted embroideries by the women of SEWA (International Design and Development Centre) will always be close to my heart. They stand as a testament that fashion can empower. The women get economic independence and respect in the community, all while working from the comfort of their own homes. It’s been an exhilarating experience working with them and getting to witness up and close the way their lives have transformed for the better.
A close second is the hand-painted art of Pichhwai that we have adapted into a textile craft, thus creating collectables passed down as heirlooms from generation to generation.
YSL: Let’s talk about the new-age bride. Has the brand adapted following their changing needs and preferences?
AD: My designs have always been inspired by the bride who wants to dance at her own wedding. Over the years, more women have resonated with that feeling, but the brand, in its principle, has not changed over these decades. We have always stood for timeless classics and effortless grace and will continue to do so.
YSL: What are some styling tips that you have for new-age brides?
AD: My number one styling tip for all brides is you wear the outfit; don't let the outfit wear you.
YSL: How is ‘There She Glows’ different from your other bridal collections?
AD: This collection has been such a joy to create. We’ve done new craft interpretations—there’s the Lippan-inspired mirror work lehenga and fun silhouettes for the unconventional bride like an ivory pantsuit with a veil. It’s a reflection of the playful mood of the Indian bride today.
YSL: Kate Middleton, Beyoncé, and several other international celebs have worn your brand. Do you believe India's textile heritage is having a global moment?
AD: It is my honour and privilege to dress women who change the world, from the woman leading a boardroom to royalty, and performers who rewrite the norm. Between the Indian diaspora taking over the world and India's growing disposable income, the spotlight has finally arrived on our heritage crafts, and I couldn't be more excited.
YSL: You've recently launched a vegan accessories brand and once again reinforced your commitment to sustainability. Tell us more about it.
AD: Mindfulness has been a baseline principle of the Anita Dongre brand for as long as I have designed. The brand is an extension of my beliefs, and we try to do our part as much as possible by working out of an energy-efficient workspace, composting, and plastic recycling.
I have always dreamt of a cruelty-free, plastic-free luxury handbag but was limited by the available materials. With recent material innovations like Mirum, this passion project has finally come to life.
YSL: You are vocal about your support to Indian artisans. How are you trying to uplift them?
AD: I am passionate about ensuring that Indian crafts are not only preserved but also celebrated. I think the only way that can be done is by providing sustained employment to artisans.
So, season after season, we try our best to highlight their master craftsmanship in our collections. Reinventing every season with them is an exciting creative collaboration.
YSL: Fashion holds different meanings for different people. How do you view it?
AD: Fashion, to me, is a powerful tool of empowerment. Whether it is used to express your individuality or empower and sustain the cultural legacy of our artisans, it’s so much more than just clothes. It’s a statement of your beliefs and a vehicle to create a positive impact.
Edited by Suman Singh