“The most beautiful brave life ever lived,” wrote designer Rina Dhaka on Instagram, remembering Simar Dugal after she passed away Wednesday at the age of 52.
The model-turned-designer’s inspiring journey seems straight out of a novel — a young girl from Amritsar who broke all barriers to live her dream of becoming a model. “I have known the family for a long time, from my childhood in Amritsar where they lived. Initially, they were conservative and wary of her desire to become a model. Her first assignment was a rather naive shoot at our showroom, when she was in her teens. Subsequently, Simar moved on to become one of the most known faces on the Indian ramp,” designer Ritu Kumar wrote on Instagram.
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With a heavy heart today we got the news that Simar Dugal is no more. She passed away last night at 2.30 at her mother Rita Sawhneys home , at a very young age of 52 years. I have known the family for a long time,from my childhood in Amritsar where they lived. Initially they were conservative and wary of her desire to become a model. Her first assignment was a rather naive shoot at our show room, when she was in her teens.Subsequently Simar moved on to become one of the most known faces on the indian ramp and was a muse for many design houses. She was special to me, and modelled for my book “The Costumes and Textiles of Royal India”, —in picture, as well as for a dozen or more Tree of Life shows that we did, telling the story of indian crafts. We all travelled all over the world and she was particularly interested in history and content. On the ramp, she brought to the table a grace, attitude and intelligence, as well as beauty which was all her own and rare in the world of fashion. Her body language told a story which conveyed much more than the clothes she wore. She was highly intelligent, a wonderful human being and a friend as we shared a love for textiles. She fought a very difficult battle, for several years now, with cancer, and survived the years she lived ,with a brave face which was exemplary. For me her passing away , seems as if an era of fashion in india has also gone, perhaps not ever to come back again in quite the same way.I have also lost a friend , and a muse. She will be truly missed. My deepest condolences to her family, who have been pillars of strength through her tough journey to the end. – Ritu Kumar
Later, Dugal also modelled for Kumar’s book The Costumes and Textiles of Royal India, apart from her signature Tree of Life designs.
But it was designer Suneet Varma who gave Dugal her first professional break. But this came after she had her baby boy with then (ex) husband Premjit Dugal. Varma recently told ETimes in an interview, “I met Simar when she was 17, at the Delhi Golf Club and I remember just being stunned by her beauty… was the first one to encourage her to model. Her first ever shoot was with me. This was after her son was born and I took her to Karma (Delhi) and we shot a picture of hers over there and that’s how the whole thing started.” The model’s photoshoot featured in his book, Suneet Varma by Niyogi Publishers.
Dugal went on to become the muse for many eminent fashion designers. Besides Ritu Kumar, she also worked with Tarun Tahiliani around 1995. In an Instagram post, the designer wrote, “When I moved to Delhi in 1995, she was the star for many shoots and covers for which we travelled around Delhi, Rajasthan and to shows around the world. Always quiet, always poised she ended many shows as the bride with a translucent glow that will be missed.”
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The fashion industry today has lost one of the most elegant, graceful, intelligent, refined faces in the passing of Simar Dugal. She battled cancer very bravely for years in the same way that she fought other challenges in her life. She was the beacon of hope and light. When I moved to Delhi in 1995, she was the star for many shoots and covers for which we travelled around Delhi, Rajasthan and to shows around the world. Always quiet, always poised she ended many shows as the bride with a translucent glow that will be missed. She will always be loved for the wonderful times we had together. Love you Simar. RIP.
While Dugal won a lot of attention and praise for her well-sculpted features, she did not subscribe to the conventional idea of beauty. “Beauty is in-depth. It is the whole personality which makes a person stand out. Look at Chandralekha (the dancer) and Shabana Azmi, for instance. They probably don’t fit into the conventional ideas that people have about beauty, but I think they are stunning,” Dugal was quoted as saying by PTI in 2004.
Eventually, Dugal quit modelling and focussed on manufacturing garments and leatherwear. Her designs were worn by several Bollywood celebrities, from Malaika Arora, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Athiya Shetty to Shilpa Shetty.
The much-loved personality succumbed to cancer after a long battle on August 12, 2020.