It all started with the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who chose to sport designer Anita Dongre’s creations on her maiden visit to India in 2016. This was followed by Queen Mathilde of Belgium wearing two of Dongre’s ensembles during her 2017 visit. The latest entrant to this high-profile clientele of Mumbai-based designer is the Canadian first lady Sophie Trudeau, who was spotted in one of Dongre’s designs. while visiting Ahmedabad with husband and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and their three children.
“It’s always a delight and pleasure to see such strong women wearing my designs. They embody what my designs stand for — wearability, their comfort levels and of course, elegance. These are all very busy women, and on state visits they are always on the go, with back-to-back commitments. I’m glad that they wore my clothes. I admire all of them and have had the good fortune of meeting all three,” says Dongre in conversation over the phone.
Almost every big name from Bollywood has worn Dongre’s creations. Her couture line is something that many brides aspire for, and her pret brands AND and Global Desi are known to most urban dwellers. She recently forayed into organic clothing with her venture Anita Dongre Grassroot and also opened her first store in Soho, New York. But of late, apart from just the locals and the India-enamoured NRIs, the state dignitaries, guests and members of the royalty have also chosen to wear her designs, giving cultural diplomacy a welcome Indian touch with an Indian designer as it’s face. The Mumbai-based designer gave us a low down on various ensembles worn by these dignitaries and what made them so special.
The Canadian first lady, Sophie Trudeau, opted for a golden yellow ensemble on her visit to Ahmedabad as part of the eight-day state visit. The Trudeau family, which was colour co-ordinated to a T, wore matching pyjama kurtas and churidaar suits. The first lady wore a golden yellow kurta paired with palazzo pants and a dupatta. The outfit was from her recent Spring-Summer ‘Songs Of Love’ (2018) collection. “This ensemble was made with handwoven chanderi. We embellished it with a very understated and intricate gotta patti embroidery and mother of pearl work. It’s paired with white palazzo pants, making it perfect for a summer day,” says Dongre.
Kate Middleton wore a mid-calf length tunic during the Mumbai leg of her India visit. She wore the georgette tunic in bright shades of teal and pink with hints of white. “The Duchess gave the outfit her own twist and paired it with wedges. There was no embellishment on this, the print made the dress stand out. It was part of my spring summer 2016 line, ‘Love Notes’, a line of occasion wear where we used bright prints and juxtaposed them with pastel fabrics in cotton, georgettes and chanderi,” says Dongre. Middleton wore the outfit for almost the whole day. She even played cricket in it with Sachin Tendulkar and Dilip Vengasarkar at the Oval Maidan in Mumbai. The Duchess was also seen wearing jadau earrings with pearl drops from the designer’s jewelry brand Pinkcity Anita Dongre last year at a reception for the UK-India Year of Culture in London.
Queen Mathilde of Belgium
On the state visit of the king and queen of Belgium in November 2017, Queen Mathilde wore Dongre’s designs twice. For her day at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, she sported a navy hued ankle length tunic jacket with trousers. “ This was made with rich woven fabric, and we used intricate gota patti work to give it a hint of elegance. We embroidered the kejri tree as a motif on the dress — elemental to the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan, and their reverence for nature,” says Dongre.
This dress was from the ‘Tree Of Love’, winter 2017 collection, and used a lot of silk, organza and tulle. Queen Mathilde flaunted a full length red number — a printed silk gown — for a traditional farewell concert held at the NCPA, Mumbai. The floor length gown had the top half embellished with gotta patti embroidery. “I use a lot of gotta patti in my work , and trace it to my love for the desert state. It adds the perfect touch of elegance, but without making it blingy and overwhelming,” says Dongre.
Fit for Bollywood
Their colour co-ordinated clothes have made sure that the no one’s going to forget the maiden visit of Canada’s first family to India in a hurry. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, has definitely caught the attention of everyone with his bright kurtas and sherwanis. Not to mention even the kids sporting achkans, churidaars, and lehengas. They even got the juttis right. But the over the top gold sherwani that PM Trudeau wore to meet Shah Rukh Khan in Mumbai, begs for a monosyllabic question to be asked. Why? We understand cultural diplomacy, and Trudeau trying to fit in.
But his sartorial choices leave us a bit stunned. A bright red kurta for a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram? These are clothes that even Indians relegate to the wedding shelves. But we wonder who is advising him? Does he have a stylist? Or is the government ill-advising him? It looks like the memo that went out took ‘blend in India’ too literally.
One state dignitary, who aced cultural diplomacy and her look in the process in the past has been Michelle Obama as the American first lady. She wore Indian-American designer Naeem Khan’s creation as she welcomed the then PM Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur to the White House.
She sported understated designs by Bibhu Mohapatra often on her India visit and wore Vera Wang while Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife, Peng Liyuan were visiting America on a state visit. But she never overpowered the cultures she was trying to borrow from. Trudeau family could definitely get some tips from here. We love his quirky socks and ties. One wishes he had stuck to them.