Self-taught designer and couturier extraordinaire, and the first Indian designer to have an international label, Anamika Khanna has been a stalwart of the Indian fashion industry for decades. The Kolkata-based designer’s signature dhoti saris paired with hand-embroidered separates are today considered modern Indianwear staples. Her unique colour pairings, modern silhouettes, and a fresh take on design and drapes make Khanna one of the few Indian designers who have not just been able to balance traditional Indian craftsmanship with contemporary needs, but also showcase its appeal to an international audience. It is this approach that made the prestigious Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019-20 join hands with Khanna.
In its milestone 15th year, Blenders Pride Fashion Tour has been envisaged as a larger than life, multi-city, multi-concept festivals of fashion celebrating the themes of ‘craft’, ‘blend’, and ‘identity’. The narrative of ‘pride’ has always been the halo for Blenders Pride Fashion Tour. With designer Ashish Soni as its curator and an exclusive collaboration with the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), the platform is showcasing Indian design in a never-seen-before way.
The Kolkata edition was truly a fashion extravaganza. Segments like ‘Collection Gallery’ displayed 58 iconic pieces by over 40 popular designers including Kallol Dutta, Dev R Nil, Ayushman Mitra, Paromita Banerjee, and Divya Sheth, while ‘The Showcase’, a talent hunt launched in October, put the spotlight on winning Ladakhi designer Stanzin Palmo. Her label ZILZOM has Ladakh at its heart, and contemporises traditional silhouettes from the region using local fabric (like Ladakh Pashmina) and signature prints.
In ‘Style Forum’, where an exchange of ideas among industry stalwarts on game-changing influences in the fashion arena took place, designers Anju Modi and Paromita Banerjee, photographer Anushka Menon, and Sunil Sethi of FDCI, among others, explored how traditional craftsmanship can survive in the modern world. Given the focus on various aspects of Indian fashion design, all the segments drew keen interest from student participants.
Key in this edition was Khanna’s ‘My Craft, My Pride’ themed fashion show, for which the designer created young, energetic, almost flamboyant looks in traditional khadi, lustrous satin, rich silk, and lace organza. To element of ‘craft’ was heightened by the bold usage of embroidery and appliqué in silhouettes like capes, cigarette pants, modern lehengas, and dhotis’. The top it all, the show saw mega stars Janhvi Kapoor and Arjun Kapoor, who donned modern avatars of the lehenga and bandhgala, as showstoppers.
“In a predominantly mechanised world, craft slows everything down, keeps traditional techniques alive, and enables us to create and express freely,” says Khanna. “Through my association with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019-20, I take immense pride in showcasing the importance of craft by representing the diverse and impeccably rich culture of India.”
We spoke to the designer to understand her vision for Blenders Pride Fashion Tour more deeply.
What made you join hands with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour?
Besides the fact that this prestigious platform celebrates new design talent, it is also a complete celebration of ‘The Pride of India’. It’s innovative and pushes fashion to a new level. Through my association with Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019, I take immense pride in showcasing the importance of craft by representing the diverse and impeccably rich culture of India.
Tell us about the craft and textile techniques you have used in the collection
This is a specially curated craft-based collection, which focusses on the importance of craft in the country and doesn’t underestimate its relevance in modern times. It is young, versatile, exuberant, and almost flamboyant. Metal techniques of shibori, embroideries of Bengal, Kutch, and Rajasthan, and zardosi are some of the different crafts used.
What about the silhouettes?
There are two diametrically opposite sentiments complementing each other at the same time — one with an Indian ethos, and the other, totally international. Richly embroidered pieces combined with easy modern shapes, lustrous satins, rich silks paired with khadi cottons give the collection its own identity, while lace organza and tulle extend an etherealness.
One thing that defines great fashion…
Great attitude. It isn’t just about trends; it’s about developing personal style and finding what makes it work for you.
What does the term ‘pride’ mean to you?
Pride for me is the journey I have taken on in life. I am proud of the fact that I’m Indian, and proud that I’m able to take Indian craft and put it centrestage, thanks to a platform like Blenders Pride Fashion Tour 2019-20.
The next chapter of the tour will see designer Manish Malhotra in Hyderabad, showcasing his interpretation of ‘My Identity, My Pride’
All images: Courtesy Blenders Pride Fashion Tour