Inner Wheel District 329 chairman Jyoti Mahipal along with the district executive committee presented an inspiring evening for committee members, guests and students at their Intercity Meet — ‘Believe in yourself, you are unstoppable’, hosted last month, at G.D. Birla Sabhaghar. Fashion designer Anamika Khanna, who has been ruling the fashion scene in India and globally for more than two decades, was in a candid conversation with Kolkata Literary Meet director Malavika Banerjee at the event, sharing her inspiring journey as a designer and how she still harbours the desire in her heart to be ‘unstoppable’. The Telegraph lends an ear:
Hard Work, the Hero, and Being Unstoppable
“When I think about achievement, I feel my journey has just started. Success is relative. I am someone who wakes up every day in the morning and feels I have just started. That is a challenge for myself because I am putting these targets in front of me,” said Anamika. Talking about her past and present challenges, she said, “Of course, when you start and you are on a path, you face a lot of challenges. It is a struggle of learning, survival and constantly being at war with yourself and that’s what I did for so many years. When you get recognised, people automatically accept a lot more, but then in my own mind, I am still challenging myself about what’s next. There’s never a moment where I am saying it has been enough. That keeps me going,” she added.
The Creative Process
“It is interesting that people think I don’t do anything. I actually work really hard. When we talk about a creative journey, it is not like taking out a sketchbook and sitting in some bar. There is a thought — why are you creating, who are you creating for. Once that thought is formed, then you start the creative process. It has to be logical and you let the thought fester within. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work. Then there’s the ‘aha’ moment which can come at any moment in my mind, while I am sitting here or sometimes for a year I don’t know what to do with a certain collection. You design what you feel. If you are feeling agitated, angry, or going through a phase where your health is not okay, it reflects in your design,” said Anamika, elucidating on her creative process.
Sharing how she started out as a designer, she said, “I didn’t know how to make clothes or what a metre of fabric was. It just happened. I wanted to do a show. At that time, I did not have any exposure. I bought a book on African textile and I started the process. I thought, if I have to do it, I have to do something new. I realised it is my job to inform myself. I will keep experimenting and put something new on the table.” Elaborating on her love for Indian fashion and experimenting with it, she said, “When I went international, it was a very important realisation that everybody looked at Indian fashion as costumes. For me, India is as modern as the rest of the world. If it is not relative, it will start becoming obsolete and people will stop accepting Indian fashion. If it is not made relative in the modern context then the younger generation is not going to accept things as they are. So, that started my love for Indian textiles, Indian fashion and how to make it relevant and wearable. Like what I did with the dhoti. There was a pujari, I was fascinated with his dhoti. I called him, asked him to drape it on a mannequin, added a zipper to it and made the waist suitable for womenswear and that is how the dhoti pants arrived.”
Focus on the Creation and Being under the Public Gaze
Her focus lies on the creation, first, and then on reaching out on social media. Anamika explains, “While creating anything, it is the substance first then the rest of it. If it needs to last, it needs to be substance. If it is that noise first, it is temporary. For the last 20 years, I have woken up in the morning, in the middle of the night, it’s just design. You cannot negate the importance of social media because it is there. But if that becomes the end all and be all of me, constantly influenced by how someone else is better or wearing better clothes and has a better body and I am constantly undermining myself, where is my confidence then? If your mind is full, how will you create something new? I have taken this very conscious decision, while it is a part of my life, it has not taken over my life.”
Pause, Self-care, and Work
Talking about the need to pause in order to be more productive, she said, “I think, not just as a designer but as a woman, I have this habit of doing 30 things at a time. I did have a brush with health a couple of years back and that’s because I chose to run, run and run and achieve and want more and achieve more. Just stressed out with everything. Besides being stressed out, I was constantly working. Plus, running the business and having an image to project, all of that put together, I feel I bought this on myself and did not realise the importance of my own time or the importance of self-care as a woman. This learning did not come easy to me, I got really unwell. I realised if I am not okay, God is going to take away this extra special gift that he has given me, where he allows me to design and that is when I realised, I need to pause. If there are 30 things that need to be done and I can do five and I can do it well, it is okay. For one hour in the morning and evening, I won’t do anything else, it is just me. Now, I seem to be doing 10 times more than what I was doing. I have opened my heart, there is more love in my designs, there is more love in my relationships. It is a mindset. I will pause, take those five minutes and change my mindset, and learn to say no.”
AK-OK and the Brand Goals
“There are two schools of thought. When I first experimented with the sari, I had a panic attack. I am touching something that should not be touched. I am messing with it but I am still respecting it. All I am doing is taking something age-old, beautiful and bringing it to relevance. That is important. Sometimes when we do something to get some name or earn a quick buck, that is not where I am. I am experimenting with an understanding that I am not going to disrespect it. I am not going to take the essence from it. I am just adding to it,” said Anamika on her label’s experiment with Indian designs.
“AK-OK is interesting, it is about acceptance. A lifestyle, a thought process. What started out for the millennials, spread out. Even a 60-year-old today is hardly 60, they are 25 or 30. Age stopped getting defined, styles stopped getting defined. There are no boundaries. That is what AK-OK is. Everything is AK-OK, where everything is okay,” she added.