Anamika Khanna Curated
Celebrated Indian Fashion Designer
CURATED BY :
What makes a good designer?
Tell us how you manage your label.
What do you think about pseudo-designers?
Tell us about the inspiration and thought behind one of your most popular collections.
Share with us your take on Indian couture. Where is it headed?
What according to you are the mistakes the Indian brides make while selecting their trousseau?
Suggest some tips for the brides-to-be.
Being in the field of fashion, we all know that change is constant. From where do you constantly get inspired from to create new designs?
Who are your favourite designers and why?
What is your take on showstoppers?
What are the fabrics used to keep this balance of sculpting and fluidity?
We are using a lot of silk dupion and canvas and other materials that will give a structure. We are also using softer fabrics like satin dupion, crepe and chiffon to give it that fluidity.
You are known for your signature pieces like the dhoti sari and capes. Will you present a new must-have garment structure?
You will see a lot of innovation. It’s a theme that allows me to push myself and try new things, yet keeping my own signature. There’s a lot of deconstruction I am working with which I have not done before. You will see structure, you will also see fluidity at the same time. I want to do a timeless collection. It’s got nothing to do with the season, or get defined by anything.
Why don’t we see more of you in Mumbai?
It’s very hard to keep running from Kolkata. I think I am a bit shy and I like to hide in my space and just work on design. That’s what excites me the most. I am also going to be associated in Delhi with the Fashion Week in a small way. It’s a big thing for me. I hope there are no big projects for sometime. I am really tired, I don’t want to do anything.
Other than fashion what are the things that interest you?
There are a lot of things. I want to go back to Indian classical dancing and painting. At one point of time, I wanted to be an Indian classical dancer. But I was not allowed to take it to a professional level as I come from a traditional Indian family, Luckily, I chanced upon fashion. And crime serials! Anything to do with murder, law and order, courtrooms and lawyers. Every night I watch one murder and sleep. It’s horrible!
What’s the best thing about being a fashion designer?
You get to live your dream everyday. You think of something in the air and it just happens.
What kept you away from the ramp in the past few seasons?
Doing a show at Lakme Fashion Week is always special. But sometimes it's important to take a step back and think. That gives us the space to push fashion boundaries further.
Tell us about your collections, like from where do you get inspiration.
It is very experimental, using couture techniques. The inspiration is the new millennials who are bold enough to wear their individuality on their sleeves. This time, the mix of materials is done, which has never been used before. A lot of fabric development and manipulation techniques are used.
How has the Mumbai market evolved over the years for designers?
It is difficult to segregate Mumbai as a separate market. I think fashion and the market in the whole country are going through a huge change. On one side, you have the extreme bridal space and on the other there is the young, bold and experimental fashion. I feel the middle path is getting blurred; there is no such thing as safe fashion.
With Kareena being your showstopper, are you planning to do some Bollywood association with your brand soon?
Bollywood films is a different space. It needs the skin of costume design and more than fashion; it needs to relate to the script. It's not like we have shied away fully, but we are into fashion for the industry .
Who is an Anamika Khanna girl?
She's free-spirited. She knows her mind. She's intelligent and she can do her stuff with things around.
Does Kolkata pose to be an inspirational city given that Sabyasachi Mukherjee is the opening designer and you doing the finale? What are your views on the same?
I am very proud of that fact. When we started, we were branded like ‘Oh from Kolkata; it’s a village, what clothes are they gonna do, blah blah’. But I think we have come a long way and people have begun to respect Kolkata and the fashion that comes out of the city. The fact that it is away from the hub of fashion (Mumbai and Delhi), away from social activities, helps. We have our own quiet space where life is not hectic. I can go to my office in my pajamas and chappals and that’s fine and that makes a difference. If you come to Calcutta u feel it.
When did you decide to take this field as your career and why?
I didn’t decide that I am going to be a fashion designer. I was always sketching in some form or the other, not necessarily fashion. So this award thing came (Damania Fashion Awards), I sent my sketches, I won the award, they asked me to make six garments… that was panic attack because I had never made clothes before! But when it came to me, I was like ‘I love the idea’. So then it struck me that if I have to do it I’ll have to really do this well. I said let me not go to the market and buy fabric and go to the tailor to make garments, let me figure out how to create something which has not been thought of or done. I bought a book on African textiles, then I started creating textures looking at those Shuar textiles. Once that happened I started thinking of shapes, different things…. I don’t know how it all started.
Share with us your taste of success in this big crowded world of fashion.
Success is still long miles away… there’s so much to achieve. You know it’s weird, people say you’ve achieved so much, somehow it doesn’t affect me. Something happens and you move on to the next. So I have never been able to say that okay this was my big thing… somehow I feel it’s a long way to go. I have always had that. And then, how do you define success… what might be success for me might not be relevant to someone else. My career from the time I started has been an incessant journey of all sorts of experiences... good, bad, success, failure, extreme struggles, extreme agony and extreme happiness at the same time. But somehow I didn’t feel anything. Also I have been very lucky, because I’ve never had to sell my clothes, I’ve never been able to produce enough, I’ve never had to do any marketing, people have been after us to give them clothes. The other thing is, throughout my career I have never thought I am going to become this and I am going to become that, it’s always been about the journey than the end and as I grow up I realise it more and more. I feel so blessed, and I feel god has given me something, which is to wake up in the morning and want to go to work. I am excited, I want to run to work every day. It’s tough, because you have to sacrifice a whole lot… you don’t have time to blow-dry your hair and go to a party! And it’s a tough job to do, but I won’t change this journey for anything. When somebody asks me what would you do if not making clothes, I don’t have an answer.
How did your design sensibility awake? Did it happen all of a sudden?
My most vivid memory of fashion as such, and it still is my most cherished memory, is a picture of mom and me, both of us are wearing these fuchsia pink safari suits, with belts, like really chic and stylish, mowing the lawn. Every image that I have of mine as a child, I am dressed up, either in a sari, or a lehenga, or somebody has put flowers in my hair. So it’s not suddenly that my design sensibility awakened… it was almost there throughout the process of my growing up, in some form or the other. It may not have been designer clothes, may not have been fashion in that sense, but there was always something design somewhere or the other. My mom was fully into fashion, she had these Chester coats, she had these shoes lined up in her wardrobe… so those images are my memories.... She was always into this designer space. So that must have rubbed off somewhere .
What is your advice for the new design interns?
My first piece of advice to my interns is to feel free, be creative. In my place there’s no restrictions.
NAME A BOOK ON FASHION THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOU THE MOST.
I think I went and read a book on fashion vocabulary… so it was this thick book that had every description of every corset, every neckline… it really intrigued me. Then Fifty Dresses That Changed The World and then a book on Valentino, his life history. Those three-four books really made a difference to my life.
Have you ever worn an Indian designer?
Rohit Bal… many years ago… it was an ivory kalidar kurta which made me feel like a goddess, then I went and bought one more and then I asked him to make another one, he thinks I’m mad (laughs). This was after I started working, but before that when I was in college there used to be lots of clothes from Monapali. Now I wear Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Bal of course, Savio Jon, Rohit Gandhi, Dries Van Noten, Max Mara, Valentino… and many other international designers .
TELL US ABOUT VERY FIRST COLLECTION.
My first six garments were for the Damania Fashion Awards. You can call it a collection, but I was surprised at myself how I made a collection… similar colours, similar stories, similar inspirations. But honestly I didn’t know anything about fashion as such or making garments… I didn’t know what a metre of fabric was… but somehow it worked. And when I made that presentation, some of the stores were already telling me that they wanted to keep my clothes. And for me that was like… when they are stocking Tarun (Tahiliani) and Gudda (Rohit Bal) and JJ (Valaya)… where am I?! This would be around 1995.
Which was your first ever garment that sold and where?
This collection that I made, Yashodhara Shroff from Ffolio (Bangalore) saw it…. And then Prasad Bidapa (fashion promoter) forced me to send samples to Ogaan, then I don’t know what struck me, I sent the samples to Ogaan and they started placing orders in multiples... and I was getting panic attacks, like hello, what’s going on!! Yashodhara Shroff took the collection and started selling it and that’s how I moved from one store to another… but the first garment sold would be from Ffolio. It’s really amazing you know, because I came out of nowhere and that too from Calcutta… and then suddenly you have your clothes in a multi-brand store. It was very unnerving… I sent four samples to Ensemble, and then I met Tarun and I got scared… he wouldn’t remember… I didn’t have the guts to send more than four samples. Now it has become very easy, that time it was not so… the designers were like The Designers, it was a different ball game, everyone was not a designer that time. They got really fed up because I wasn’t sending any more and they put those on the racks and apparently they got sold in one hour. Then they asked for more clothes… that’s how the journey started.
Where did you showcase your collection first?
Damania was officially the first show. Then between Ogaan and Ffolio they did a lot of promotions in the stores. But my first big show was in Lakme India Fashion Week. When they started, I got a call from them saying they’re offering me a three-designer show. So that’s how it started, I had a booth which I was sharing with two other designers.
Where did you put up your first store? How long did it take?
The Flagship store at 2/1 Outram Street, a lane off Theatre Road… it opened around 12 years back. I am planning to open in Delhi and Bombay now. Yeah, everything I do very slow. It’s high time I had my presence. But life has been very full, with the boys and all. But you know, I don’t know anything but clothes… if you put a million other things this side and one garment on the other side, I’ll run to the garment. That’s just me. My interest level is so high in that that I forget everything else. So everything else happens very slowly. My friends and colleagues think I am an idiot .
Making a name in this field must have been tough. Who all acted as your mentors to bring you where you are today?
I think Prasad Bidapa, he was my mentor in my starting days. And then Ritu Kumar and Monapali… they were the ones who came up to me and talked about my collection… it was very big for me at that time, to get it from such seniors is a very big thing.
Share with us your feeling of contentment in work.
Contentment is not there only, I hate everything I have just done… and I move on to the next one. I wish there was some contentment that way… I am content with my life… content in my heart, my soul, but I don’t have contentment in work. Even today there was full drama in my office… I am like ‘this is bad, that is bad, let’s re-do this, let’s re-do that’… they are like ‘what’s wrong with you?!’ I don’t want to be content, I don’t want to say ‘oh my god, this is it’, because that day is probably the day I am going to say ‘I’m quitting’. The day I am going to be able to make the simplest garment perfectly without a single piece of embroidery or work... it needs to be flawless, needs to feel like butter on the body… that day I will be like I have done it. I am not ready for it yet. What we do is endless… this constant learning, this constant movement is a beautiful thing. And brides… it’s such a beautiful moment… somebody told me recently that so many parents must be giving you blessings every day… when the daughters feel so happy on their special day… such a nice thing to say, it touched my heart.
Who are the people you and your designs have been influenced by?
Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood. When I first discovered Vivienne Westwood, I went mad… I was so taken in by the madness of the clothes. I didn’t understand the intrinsic reason for it and why she did what she did… I just went so mad with the courage. And the way the draping was happening, the way she dressed… it was insanity. It just sort of messed my mind up, and it changed something. So Vivienne Westwood was a very big influence in my life. And then Madonna… like I said when I started there wasn’t so much knowledge available, you just got bits and pieces of information in magazines… so when Material Girl came, when all those songs of her came and that avatar of hers, the way she dressed! Then Tina Turner… these people really started influencing me because these were very powerful women. And these women had a mind of their own in terms of fashion, each one had their own identity. Madonna kept reinventing her look every single season, every single song! It was really amazing how she was doing it… like you change your clothes, but how do you change your body type, your hair each time? I was obsessed with Bruce Springsteen… like, really obsessed, I had pictures of him…. So these people, besides fashion people, were the others who influenced me.
When did you start gaining a name globally?
Was with Ana-Mika (her pret label for the global market). It just started off with an idea… my partner (global venture) came up to me and said that people use India for outsourcing, no one is thinking of taking an Indian label globally. It was just a small idea, I didn’t take it that seriously but got into it. Sent some samples for London Fashion Week, got called, showed there. And then the stores started picking us up… Harrods picked us up, and couple of other stores picked us up, then one thing after the other, by the end of the fourth year we were selling in more than 100 stores all over the world.