Ritu Beri Curated
Indian Fashion Designer
CURATED BY :
Tell us about your journey as one of the pioneers of Indian fashion.
It has been a great creative voyage for me! We were among the pioneers in the business and we had no map to follow. For me, it was totally instinctive and I did all that I thought would work. As I went along, my most satisfying time was at Scherrer. I was the first Asian to head a French fashion house and it was a heady feeling. Back then, not many Indian designers had even done shows in Paris and for an Indian designer to be heading a French fashion house was an impossible dream.
What kind of businesswoman would you say you are?
I see myself only as a creative person; an intelligent, creative person, who knows how to extend one's creativity into business as well. As a creative person in business, I follow my unique artistic ways of nurturing my ambition.
How would you describe the brand Ritu Beri?
Ritu Beri, the designer, is known to be a pioneer with many firsts. I love taking risks and like to carve my own path, without following any set patterns or ways. I am a perfectionist and I'm easily bored by mediocrity.
What has been your process of evolution as a designer?
The experience was fabulous. My designs represent my journey as a human being, a true representation of all the influences that I have had in my life; most importantly, in India and Paris. I have learnt a lot and evolved tremendously as a designer and even more as a person.
What does luxury mean to you?
The definition of luxury has certainly changed through the years. There was a time when luxury was available only to the rarefied and aristocratic world of old money and royalty. Luxury wasn't simply a product; it was a lifestyle, one that denoted a history of tradition, superior quality and offered a pampered buying experience. For me, true luxury is exclusive, unique and not easily accessible.
How would you describe luxury in India?
History shows us that some of the largest fortunes were spent by our royalty on luxury and its products: the extravagance of the Cartier jewellery bought by the Patiala family, the Louis Vuitton luggage and, not to forget, the French chiffons worn by the Jaipur royal ladies. But, India today, is witnessing that luxury is no longer only the preserve of the royals. When India opened up to the world, in 1990, luxury entered a new consumer class, which comprised a large population of young working people, with increased international travel and real brand awareness. Hence, lifestyle and the habits of Indians have shifted from austerity to complete self-indulgence. Indians are now unapologetic about spending lavishly on luxury goods.
How would you describe couture in India?
India is no stranger to couture culture. Indian designers are primarily couture designers, so Indian consumers are aware of high fashion outfits. Our weddings are a great example of our couture culture. Bridal wear is a big part of couture in India. Eventually, designers try blending the old charm of traditional embroidery with a modern flavour in western silhouettes.
Name some legends that have inspired you.
I have been a big fan of Yves Saint Laurent for his classic cuts, Ralph Lauren for his unique depiction of sophistication and Alaïa for his genius. An international name in fashion that epitomised luxury dressing would have to be the late Yves Saint Laurent. This was before he retired and left the brand.
What’s your personal style statement?
My style is intrinsically feminine and romantic, with a flamboyant twist. It is about enhancing a woman's individuality and persona. Also, I love for women to look glamorous. A unique item in my wardrobe is a pair of gorgeous one-of-a-kind crocodile shoes, which I purchased on my last trip to Paris. Yves Saint Laurent had designed them for his last show. It is the only pair of its kind in the world and I have it!
What does the future hold for you?
I continue doing my work with passion but what I enjoy most are challenging projects that I feel are worth my time. I want to explore the impossibilities and work in an inspired mode only to satisfy myself and my passions. I dream of writing many inspirational books and more than anything else, I keep doing my bit for charity. I am involved greatly with The Blessed Hearts Foundation, a charity that works to improve and uplift the condition of the less-than-fortunate children. We work to raise funds for autism and create greater awareness for the same.
What are your thoughts on a 10th anniversary?
Ten is a powerful number and signifies a new start. I just returned from attending a friend's 10th wedding anniversary in the South of France. They were joined by their three kids, along with 100 friends, from all over the world. It was an amazing weekend of celebration and positive energy.
Your participation at the Bangalore Fashion Week is a huge deal. What got you to give your final nod?
Firstly, I love Bangalore. And then it so happened that I was to be in the city the day of the show so it was actually an impulsive decision to say yes. I also like to support upcoming talent and anything/anyone doing good for the industry.
What are you going to be showcasing at the show?
The collection is inspired by our rich culture and heritage. The line comprises of opulent and elaborate silhouettes. The spirit is intrinsically feminine, romantic but flamboyant. The collection is about rich, artistic handwork, modelled into contemporary silhouettes, with subtle details of embroidery to enhance the soft feminine appeal.
Bangalore Fashion Week is in its 6th edition. As someone with an international perspective, what’s your take on city-specific fashion weeks happening in India? Do you think this is the right way to make India fashion forward?
I believe fashion is a new movement and it’s about reaching out to as many people as possible. I do think there is too much happening; I don’t believe in city wise fashion weeks but I do think with time, the best will stay whilst all the rest will be over and up. Having said that it’s about fashion reach and education.
Having been in the industry for as long as you have, what are some of the developments in the Indian fashion scene that have excited you?
Fashion industry has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis, since I joined the industry back in 1990. Initially, fashion was more to do with ritual dressing like a wedding, festivals, etc. Fashion was only a diversion for small elite, but now it’s more about being well dressed and trendy all the time. Now, people are conscious about what to wear. They want to look their best at all times, which is fantastic! Also, today our designers are constantly showcasing in various fashion capitals of the world. India’s fashion is spotted on the fashionable ramps of the world and is a huge source of inspiration, internationally.
International fashion houses seem open to having Indian designers head them, today. What’s brought about this change in their mind set? Is it a better awareness of the country or is it just a telling comment on how talented Indian designers are?
History shows us that designers world wide have been inspired by India. From YSL to Lacroix and Gautier, designers have done a lot of work inspired by our rich culture and heritage. It’s natural then that India and its designers will therefore be noticed and celebrated.
What must Indian designers do today to get noticed and make a dent in the West?
The biggest challenge for any designer is to reach the proposed client, One should believe in what they do and follow their dreams. Indian designers are at a nascent stage as far as international market is concerned. Our designers are constantly showcasing in various fashion capitals of the world but for a designer to be taken seriously in the international market, he/she should be consistent and should prove themselves each time in showcasing their respective collections and be around each season.
You have lived in Delhi and Paris, two cities that have very strong, very individual identities. How have they shaped your design sensibilities?
Paris and Delhi are two cities very close to my heart, I am deeply connected to the two. Paris is where style is inspired and fashion thrives. People on the streets also carry a unique look from the clothes that they wear; to the attitude that they carry. On the other hand, Delhi is now slowly coming of age. One gets to see a lot more trendy, chic dressers. Western clothes are also getting more and more popular with the younger generation.
Being the head of Scherrer, you are at this unique position where you can set and change trends. As such, do you rewrite your own rules with every collection you come out with?
I follow my gut. It’s like a pulse, I feel strongly about doing a particular look/print/silhouette and suddenly do see a lot of that all over.
At a glance, one would say, you’ve had it all and done it all. What’s the next big dream?
Today, I have come a full circle and know what I should do and more importantly what not to do. The past 20 years, I have chased my dreams and worked on ambitious projects. I have been lucky to experience the world of fashion in India and abroad. Today, I continue doing my usual work but I enjoy most doing challenging projects that are worth my time away from my beautiful daughter, Gia. I am negotiating with certain international brands and hopefully interesting stuff will happen soon. I want to explore the impossibilities and work in an inspired mode only to satisfy myself and my passion. I dream of writing many inspirational books. Today, more than anything else, I am deeply involved with a charity for children, The Blessed Hearts Foundation that works to improve and uplift the condition of the less fortunate children. It also works to raise funds for ‘Action for Autism’.
Did you always want to pursue fashion?
I always wanted to be a doctor. However, when I was young, I spent more time musing over how the wardrobe of the medical team should look rather than more noble and gory aspects of the trade. Mentally, I was always designing the doctor’s overcoat with an interesting pocket detail for his stethoscope. My mind would buzz with designs for the nurses, starched headgear and improvisations for their apron. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was my calling.
Do you remember your first assignment as a designer?
I was intrigued by fashion design. I could not draw, so I hand-knitted a sweater and wore it for my NIFT interview to show how it would look. I was accepted into the fashion session of India’s fashion institute, NIFT and from there, with thanks, to the rest of the world. Ten woollen balls and knitting needles -- a recipe for my success!
Tell us about your first salary.
I have worked with Francois Lesage (French designer) and that experience was worth a lifetime.
What inspires / motivates you?
I love my work and enjoy most doing challenging projects that are out of the box. When working for yourself, you are working 24x7. I try my best to find a balance between achieving all at work and spending time with my daughter, Gia, and family.
Were you afraid of being rejected as a designer? How did you deal with it?
I love taking risks and like to follow my own chosen path. I try to be a perfectionist and aim at achieving the impossible, always. My work is greatly influenced by my personal state of mind. I love to explore the impossibilities and work in an inspired mode while mostly designing to satisfy myself.
Your advice to youngsters today wanting to get into design?
Youngsters today have more opportunities. Those who want to make it big must think big and be hugely experimental. There should be no limits and they must must push the envelope!
Your take – choose a career that pays or one you love?
I have always done what I love to do. And the result to it is my presence as an international designer. Whatever I felt I had to go for it, I never cared for the result. It is always the effort.
What does it take to be successful in any field?
For a successful career, one should be self-motivated and have full confidence in themselves even if it includes breaking norms. In order to do so one might have to stand away from the rest.
Describe your philosophy about the art of fashion.
Fashion is endless. The roots of fashion go deep into the yester years. Fashion is not restricted to clothes but extends to beauty, hair, footwear and other such accessories. It reflects on the personality, and is as important as a beautiful outfit.
Where did your sense of fashion first come from?
My mother inspired me a lot – she is beautiful and stunning. I remember as a child, she lit up the army evenings with not just her looks, but her intrinsic style as well. I always loved to watch her dressing up. Her pastel chiffons that floated around her, her elegance in pearls and diamonds were her trademark. My father too is an immaculate dresser and has a great sense of colors. With such fine examples, I had to be influenced and I ended up wanting to dress up everyone like that.