“I have become a lot more braver, experimental and fluid. And well, it’s been more than 20 years in the industry,” says designer Anamika Khanna, over the phone from Kolkata, when we finally catch her. Khanna has had a busy week, with Pujo celebrations and whole of the city being shut, and she having to design back-to-back collections. Khanna is showcasing at the finale of the Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020, presented by the Fashion Design Council of India. Khanna shall be presenting on the theme of #MyFashionMyTribe, where she will be joined by Manish Arora, Wendell Rodericks and Rajesh Pratap Singh for the grand finale, which takes place on October 12.
The Kolkata-based designer was quite taken with the theme. “Don’t we carry people with us? And they leave their mark on us and our style. We all curate our own looks, and we are identified by that — it could be western, Indian or a mix. We invoke our own tribe with that. And today, we all carry bits and pieces of the people who surround us, our family, a favourite colleague, they all form our tribe. This forms a big organisation in our head, and they form an umbrella of sorts,” says Khanna.
“I wanted to extend the organisation — the said tribe — and bring the world into it and create a melting pot of sorts. In a single garment, I have used the craftsmanship from Gujarat and other Indian regions and presented it in a very contemporary silhouette and cut. The collection is extremely eclectic and experimental. And there are no underlying rules,” she adds. Khanna promises this is something that we haven’t seen before from her label. “I was feeling a lot more freer, and expressive. In a way, I feel I have created new fabrics, by the sheer layers of embroidery. And of course, there is silk, tulle and organza in the work,” she remarks.
A global silhouette with a very local Indian aesthetic is something of a calling card for Khanna. Over the years, she has successfully blended Indian artisanal handiwork with western silhouettes and drapes. A flowy embellished cape, paired with a jumpsuit, a long jacket, where sleeves touch the floor, worn with a lehenga. A bolero-cut jacket with a long train, worn with a saree. There is a distinct boho-nomadic vibe to Khanna’s work.
“That was my starting point. I knew that ethnic Indian fashion may not be something that people all over the world would wear. A lehenga-choli or a Banarasi saree might not be feasible for working women in New York or Japan. But our textiles, weaves and crafts are much appreciated. So why should we limit ourselves, we need to make it relevant to a global world. And we in India ourselves don’t wear a lehenga to work. A salwar-kameez works better, right ? I have always wanted to take these beautiful crafts to the world,” she adds.
Khanna was one of the first Indian designers to have an international label, Ana mika, and a subsequent show at the Paris Fashion Week in 2007. Since then she has become a global name. Her global recall value went through the roof when Bollywood actor Sonam Kapoor wore her work at the Cannes red carpet. And Khanna has since become Kapoor’s go-to designer. Kapoor wore Khanna again at Cannes, this time in a red and yellow swim suit. Even at her own wedding reception, Kapoor chose Khanna, who designed a white and beige lehenga, which gave out a distinct chevron print look.
“It was all hand-embroidered with zardozi. I used to cringe when someone said it’s a print. But then, I was like if they think it’s a print, we have done it well,” says Khanna.
On her bonding with Kapoor, Khanna says, “We were one of the first people for whom she walked the ramp. We have evolved together. She knows the ins and outs of fashion more than any stylist. She is clear with what she wants, and yet she carries off anything with panache. When she says, ‘ I am thinking long, thinking red,’ I know what she wants. Then I am like, ‘I am thinking trousers.’ She gets me. We work well together. But she has the attitude and the flair and she is very inspiring.”
In today’s times when there is a lot of talk about sustainability and the need to be more eco-friendly — especially where fast fashion and high-street brands are concerned — Khanna is optimistic, that at least conversations around the subject have started. “I am glad dialogues on sustainability have started. It might not be imperative that I literally use sustainable fabric, but if I give you something of such fine quality in my clothes that you can repeat it for the next 10 years, that’s equally sustainable. We need to invest in timeless, classic pieces, which will last,” she says.
On the ramp
The Lotus Make-Up India Fashion Week Spring Summer 2020 kicks off today, at Delhi’s Major Dhyan Chand Stadium. Here are the highlights:
-Ikai By Ragini Ahuja (pictured) is the opening show of the fashion week. October 9, 3 pm
-HUEMN, the designer label run by Pranav Mishra and Shyma Shetty, known for their strong socio-political themes. October 9, 9.30 pm
-Mumbai-based Falguni and Shane Peacock being Bollywood’s favourites, you never know which A-lister will be the showstopper. Oct 10, 9.30pm
-Young Guns, a show that gives new and younger labels such as Bareek, Countrymade, Notebook and Sameer Madan a platform. October 12, 3 pm
-Designer Stockroom, where you can get designer wear at bargain prices. October 13, 11 am-7 pm