When Anita Dongre started out with a store in Mumbai’s Crossword Mall, not many believed in her vision. The Indian fashion market, which did not have many contemporary options for urban women, quickly picked up Dongre’s clothes launched with AND, a clothing brand for working women, followed by Global Desi, typically western wear with Indian prints. Both brands are a huge success among urban women with 125 and 130 stores, respectively, across India.
The 56-year-old designer later introduced her couture Anita Dongre brand known for intricate lehengas with pockets. The designs struck a chord with many celebrities, from Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt to Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton.
Dongre, who releases two fashion lines every season, discussed her journey with Entrepreneur India at the TIE Con event in Mumbai.
Dongre did not do any market research and just went with her gut and common sense. Women around her had started working and had started thinking of careers, but there were not many clothing options for them to wear every day that was global and contemporary. So, she became sensitive to the society around her and started figuring out what women need.
“I launched in a very small way with one small collection in one store. Then one store became two stores and then a few years later, we got some funding and it all happened very organically,” she said.
General Atlantic invested in the brand about six years ago. Dongre’s company is a self-sufficient and debt-free company. “We don’t need any further funds and whatever growth we do now is organic,” she added.
Over the years, Dongre has started commissioning designing work and plays the role of creative consultant at Global Desi. “But when I did it all these years, I have enjoyed it. I like switching from one to the other. It is interesting,” she added.
When she started 34 years ago and ran a small boutique on Linking Road, located in Bandra, a suburban area in Mumbai, Dimple Kapadia was the first celebrity bought her dresses. “I was supplying to some store and it was my first range I had supplied to that store and I remember the store calling me and saying ‘Dimple Kapadia walked in today and she bought three of your dresses’,” she added. Kapadia selected cotton-shift dresses.
So does she keep celebrities in mind while designing? “My job is to design for my customer who walks into my stores every single day and nobody else. I know my customers and some of the customers might be celebrities and I do design keeping them in mind. But usually, it is for the everyday customer we don’t know about who likes my clothes,” she said.
Business and Family
Dongre said besides work and family, and a few close friends, she has few people in her life and claims not to be a social person. “I am an introvert. I don’t party and I don’t socialize because it is not something I like,” she added. She is happiest at home after a hard day of work with close family and friends. And throughout her life and career, she has squeezed out time for friends and family. “As a woman, it is very important to bring balance. I am happy with the balance I have struck,” she said.
Advice to Young Aspiring Fashion Designers
“I think today is a very special time for women in India because we are finally being, I would hate to use the word ‘allowed’, but finally have fought for living life on our own terms,” she said. According to her, it is a great time to be in India now. One can be career-minded, have a great career and balance family. “If I have done it anyone can do it.”