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Not many fashion designers have turned out to be great entrepreneurs. In her own words, however, she set out to be a designer and luckily turned out to be an entrepreneur. Anita Dongre on balancing the art.
Anita Dongre was the first woman in her family to step out of the comfort of the home and do something on her own. “I was fortunate that as soon as I graduated from school at 15, I knew I wanted to become a designer,” shares Anita. Talking about her initial struggle, she reminisces, “I started designing with two sewing machines in my balcony. Clients came and placed their orders. After a while, I started supplying to the stores.
From there, I opened my first brand, which led on to where we are today, with the House of Anita Dongre having a reach that extends beyond the borders.” Within India, the network includes well above 700 points of sale, with more than 185 exclusive brand stores and over 596 multi-brand large format stores in 84 cities. Globally, the company marked its presence in Mauritius with the launch of its first international Global Desi store in 2013. It was followed by a flagship store housing all three brands in November 2014.
Currently, Anita employs 2,800 people in the organization. Apart from her presence across India and abroad, she has made her online retail presence stronger by enabling the customer to make direct purchases from social media. On her inspiration, Anita says, “As a child, I spent at a lot of time at my grandparents’ home in Rajasthan. I am strongly inspired by the place, the culture and the rich heritage.”
Anita started in 1998 with the launch of AND - a ready-to-wear affordable western-wear label for women. She wanted to make it their go-to fashion brand – a brand which would be an expression of every woman’s personality and not just a fashion trend. Then came Global Desi. As per Anita, it is a reflection of her in her 20s. The bridal line, though inevitable, came much later. Anita Dongre is a metaphor for supreme craftsmanship, which showcases Indian aesthetics in a contemporary language. Inspired by Rajasthan and India’s rich craft tradition, the handcrafted bridal gota patti lehengas, hand-woven heritage benarasi creations and bespoke menswear are some of her best creations. Grassroot, a sustainable and ecoconscious luxury prêt label, was born out of her commitment to revive, sustain and empower Indian crafts and artisans. Though it began eight years ago, it was formally launched last year.
Creativity and business are often looked apart. On how she balances the two, she says, ”Not all creative people can think scale. Being creative and being able to think scale is very challenging. If you are a creative person and can’t think scale you should ideally partner with someone who can. In fashion, partnerships work very well. One creative person, and one for scale. It’s impossible to do it alone. Look for someone who shares your value system.”
On how she deals with her highs and lows, she concludes, “I deal with both in the same way, it’s just business. Bill Gates put it very well, he said, “Its fine to celebrate success but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
(This article was first published in the November issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)