We fell in love with Anamika Khanna. Again. We were meeting her post-show at Hyundai India Couture Week in Delhi, in association with Reliance Brands, an FDCI initiative, on Sunday, for a quick chat and she introduced us to her showstopper, actress Athiya Shetty, as her “special one... from Calcutta”. In that very moment, she ceased to be a star designer, who had just minutes ago set the bar of fashion reinvention higher and redefined bridal couture (again!) by marrying son Viraj’s “quirky” art to her signature languid elegance.
Throughout the day, Anamika had tried to accommodate us in her busy schedule, which kept getting derailed due to the “madness” called fashion week.
She was an emotion. One of care, honesty and kindness. Genuine effort and a striking presence. She in that metallic suit styled with chunky bangles. So effortlessly wow. A feeling that permeated throughout the showcase played out in her wonder garden at Taj Palace. Anamika’s sensational ease. And, her penchant for going against the grain.
Viraj Khanna took a long flight back to Delhi from Chicago where he was studying art, to see seven-eight pieces of his art get translated into couture pieces, a first for the artist who discovered art in the middle of the pandemic. He shared with t2 how this had been a family moment.
This must be an overwhelming feeling...
I was overjoyed because it came out better than I expected. I was amazed and shocked, despite the jet lag. It’s actually sinking in now... Athiya (Shetty; Anamika’s showstopper for the night), said it was for us boys and I had no idea about the thought process.
All the artwork that I was making, mom just decided to cut them up and turn them into different silhouettes. It was such an interesting mix of the quirky with the traditional. I am doing my masters in art in Chicago and took a 15-hour direct flight from Chicago to Delhi and walked straight into the show.
I also called for some in the galleries. I could select what could turn into an outfit. Then you have to keep experimenting and since it’s an artwork for the wall, it wasn’t made according to a pattern. That is why it had to be cut accordingly. After it was cut, more decisions about where it could go were made. That’s what made it more interesting and different. It’s almost like trying to blend it perfectly. It was the best form of experimentation.
She wanted to do something different and she’s always trying to break the barrier of sorts and she wanted to get in this experimental, fun and quirky. The other part of the collection was elegant and this was a breakthrough of sorts. She didn’t want to play it safe at all.
The challenge was to make it flow. Had she directly used the artworks, it wouldn’t have fitted in. A little bit of the embellishments had to match the previous part of the collection.
The whole family collaborated for this...
Vishesh handles the menswear department. He started it, the menswear line. The design is a collaboration between everybody, but he has a big role to play in the designing of menswear. To pull all of this off for the menswear, for him to do it, I think it was a big deal. Dad is (also) always there, but people don’t know about it.
What are your takeaways?
There are no limits or boundaries. If there is a boundary, it is in your mind and it has to be broken. It’s the only way to overcome it. Overcoming self-doubt and putting yourself out there is so tough. At least for me, when I am doing it, I am nervous and scared. I keep seeing her do this all the time and it is inspiring.
Hours before the show, in between checking on the models and the table setup, Anamika chatted with t2 on what to expect.
What will we see tonight?
This collection is the closest to my heart. It starts with this feeling of love, a feeling that we don’t have time any more to actually express enough, to feel enough, to just stay. It borrows from the old world, but it’s very contemporary.
This collection, also, I have stolen from Viraj. What else can I say? (Laughs) I cut them up. He was away! But he was so generous. So, yeah, it can’t get closer than this to my heart. It’s a collection I had tears in my eyes for. All of my team, we have put our souls into it. It’s one of those special things. It’s not a typical bridal couture show.
The set is lovely and the seating unlike a fashion show...
I just felt a bit tired that you have to decide who’s first row and who’s second row... who am I to decide? I just wanted couture to be presented like couture. I wanted this to be an experience where you feel everything, along with the clothes. The emotions that’ve gone in the clothes... that’s why I wanted people to sit and enjoy the experience. The whole idea of modernity but set in that old world. You borrow from there and you bring it to now.
How do you look back at this legacy of three decades? It’s been a lifetime...
This experience has been my life. Those three decades that you talk about, that has been my life. That’s what I lived for and that’s what I live for. And, when I look back, I don’t have a single regret. Except that I never have enough time. It’s the amount of emotions, learnings, experience, people... the amount of challenges... that kind of experience you don’t get just like that.
How do you think it channelised into what you do today?
All of it. It’s made me the person I am today; not just a human being, into what it’s evolved me into, but also as a designer. Also as a person. It’s not just about the clothes and what you sell, but about what it does to you. These decades have defined me as I stand here and talk to you today.
The last few times we have spoken with you, you have said you have become fearless. What has it done to you?
I have become more fearless... dyakha jak. What will happen? People will trash me? Let them trash me, but if I don’t try, then what is it worth? The minute you become fearless, you have nothing to lose. You are not scared to push boundaries. If I don’t push boundaries at this stage of my life, when am I going to do it? And, fortunately, the more I am pushing, the more people accept it, the more they want me to push.
The Anamika we know is shy and always behind the scenes...
I open up with people, I love it, but I don’t need attention. It comes to me automatically and I am happy with what I have... that’s me as a person and it works for me. Why should I change it? Why should I not be who I am?
You have amazing resilience. What is your message for every woman reading this?
Don’t give up. There’s nothing that can stop you. I have been through a lot in my life in terms of health... lots of challenges... work, bringing up kids, working, but why should I give up?
What did you tell your kids when they were young?
We respect them and trust my boys, completely, hundred per cent. Their opinion matters to me. I have never needed to question them and for us, it is a relationship of friendship.
We know you wanted to become a classical dancer. What dreams remain unfulfilled that you would like to try?
I’ll give up clothes and start the dance part again!