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Anita Dongre, a Successful Entrepreneur in the Heart of India
- 14th Jan 2021
People in fashion industry are well-acquainted with the name Anita Dongre, who is an Indian luxury fashion designer and entrepreneur. The stalwart designer founded House of Anita Dongre and under its aegis AND, Global Desi, Grassroot, Pink City and her namesake signature label Anita Dongre are her different subordinate brands which encompass of various other dimensions of fashion. The 57 year old designer is a social activist too, and shoulders several less-privileged women in the villages to become independent financially through her brand. Due to her steps to empower women in the underdeveloped parts of India, she was honoured by several prestigious awards including EY Entrepreneur of the year in 2012, and was mentioned in the Most Powerful Women in Business India, 2013 and was even featured in CNN’s ‘Growing India’ series in 2015.
Anita Dongre has been a designer who had perfectly blended western modernity with Indian traditional art and crafts in her creations. She draws inspiration from Indian artisans and their crafts whilst keeping in mind the needs of a modern woman who aspires to have a tinge of modernity in their clothing. Having been in the industry for about 20 years, Anita Dongre as a brand has evolved rapidly but it has kept its DNA intact by providing enchantingly exquisite outfits as per the situation. Anita, as a designer specialises in designing wedding outfits and other traditional outfits which have been favourite of Bollywood and other celebrities.
Dongre was inclined towards fashion since her young age, when she closely observed her own mother who created clothes for her and her siblings herself. Anita's artistic abilities could also have been set in motion due to her frequent visits to Jaipur in her childhood days, where she was highly influenced and mesmerised by the artistic abilities of local people. Later she moved permanently to Mumbai, Maharashtra and started living there with her parents. She pursued her dream to helm her own fashion house and studied Fashion at Fashion Design SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai. From calling the shots for herself and launching her start-up with two sewing machines in 1995 to becoming the revered designer of the well established brand with turnover of over $130 million or 800 crore in Indian currency. She became the first Indian female designer to open her two flagship stores in SoHo, New York, the dream destination for several designers for their brands.
However, things were not always flowery for Dongre. She worked hard from the ground up, starting from convincing her conservative family. Anita belongs to a typical Sindhi family, where women were supposed to stay in the private sphere and men of the house would rule the public sphere. The designer confessed that she was the first woman of their house who had planned to earn for herself by becoming an entrepreneur. She faced hostility and reluctance from her family and relatives but she stout-heartedly cajoled everyone and her father even financed her business during the initial days. Although, interestingly, her father charged interest on the money he lent to Dongre to teach her the value of money. In an interview, Dongre confessed that her father played a huge role in teaching her and her siblings the value of money and to respect it.
Moving on to a later phase of Dongre’s life, she struggled to supply her designs to the retailers, who did not accept her modern designs. One thing led to another, and Dongre ultimately decided to pull the strings herself and launched her own label and started designing for her own brand. Gradually, her designs got fame and got in demand due to her different approach to fashion. The Indian designer gradually started manifesting her ethics into her brand, and started empowering women across the country with the assistance of her foundation, The Anita Dongre Foundation.
Anita Dongre has been actively interacting with various artisans across India and is attempting to protect and preserve the art and culture of India. Under the shelter of her foundation, Anita Dongre trains indigent women in various districts of India with the help of other activists. After training them to practice sewing, embroidering, printing and other skills, they are employed by the House of Anita Dongre and are regularly assigned work and are paid appropriately in their village itself. Charoti, Jawahar, Dhanevari and Modgaon are the few districts in the state of Rajasthan and Maharashtra where unemployment was on rise and the income of households were deteriorating and consequently rate of migration started increasing. Through her non-profit foundation, Dongre created multiple opportunities especially for women in the village to boost the household income and to provide job opportunities in the village itself and hence reducing migration for jobs. As a female entrepreneur, such attempts of empowering women have led to manifestation of a positive picture of the brand for the customers and other competitors.
“We need to empower women by providing them sustained, gainful livelihood opportunities in their own villages, without them having to migrate elsewhere.”- This is the philosophy followed by Dongre vis-à-vis the foundation.
Other than providing employment opportunities for under-privileged women, Dongre also practices vegan lifestyle and veganism in her brand too. She is also a member of ‘People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA), an animal’s rights organisation. In another attempt to promote eco-friendly practices, Dongre shifted her headquarters to the rolling hills of Rabale, Navi Mumbai where the office is in sync with nature. The brand and its subsidiaries are bound with strong ethics of Dongre including veganism, sustainability, empowering women and preserving and respecting Indian artisans and their handicrafts.
Dongre’s focus for 2021 is to promote sustainability through her brand and create clothes for the customer and not the ramp. Through the course of her life, Dongre has smashed and set aside societal norms attached to women in a typical Indian patriarchal social setup. She rebelled to turn things around for herself several years ago and is now using her privileges and position to further empower women in the country. Other than being a social activist, Anita Dongre is also an efficient designer and her designs are appreciated all over the world. She has regularly designed for Bollywood actresses and other unknown figures. However, she is supported in this venture by her sister, brother and son, who have helped her to manage her business. Anita Dongre is one of the successful entrepreneurs who have managed to firmly establish their business but on the top of it she has come off as a strong personality for the society.
You must be the change you wish to see.
Anita Dongre has rightfully become epitome of empowered women and inspires every women through her hard work, perseverance and wilfulness.