Back To The Origin: Iconic Designer Anamika Khanna On Her First-Ever Fashion Collection Advertisement

Back To The Origin: Iconic Designer Anamika Khanna On Her First-Ever Fashion Collection

"Those days were full of challenges. I failed many times as I did not have technical training in fashion and it took me a long time to understand the construction process."

By Ruman Baig  July 22nd, 2021

These are some names that are definitive of the Indian fashion industry: Anita Dongre, Anamika Khanna, Raghavendra Rathore, Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla and brothers Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra. You’ve seen them take a bow with their showstoppers on countless runways, but we bet you can’t recall their maiden collections. In fact, we wondered if they could too! So we asked them to jog their memories and take us back a couple of decades to their raw beginnings. Here are stories of working out of backyard tailoring units, discovering classic trends from fashion faux pas and more, as the creative visionaries share anecdotes from their rookie days.

Collection

Image from Anamika Khanna’s early collections 

In this 5-part series (Anita DongreShantanu & Nikhil and Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla), next, we have iconic couturier Anamika Khanna, who spoke about her inception collection and how it paved her journey ahead.

How It Began

“I am not trained in fashion! I was a Science student and later switched to Arts. I used to sketch in college and my friends pushed me to send those for a fashion award and so I did. Surprisingly, I received a call that my sketches were selected and I had to do a show. Up until that moment, I hadn’t made a single garment in my whole life. I didn’t even know what a metre of fabric was. I won that contest in Kolkata and headed to Mumbai for the final round. After my presentation, I showed my samples to a few multi-designer boutiques. Kavita Bhartia from Ogaan saw the samples and gave me a call to find out more about me. I was surprised when she informed me that someone bought my samples! She then placed an order for eight pieces of each style.”

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Image from Anamika Khanna’s early collections 

First Collection

“I had this book on African textiles; inspired by it, I decided to create my own textures. I did not want to buy fabrics from the market, stitch it and call it designer wear. I started painting on top of embroidery, creating shades and adding layers. My first fashion week was India Fashion Week in New Delhi. I remember being clubbed between two designers whose aesthetics were contradictory to mine. We had to do common hair, make-up and ramp. As crazy as it seemed, it was euphoric nonetheless.”

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Image from Anamika Khanna’s early collections 

Hurdles & Challenges

“My first small set-up was a place on rent. I didn’t have any designers on board and I was even doing the deliveries by myself. Those days were full of challenges. I failed many times as I did not have technical training in fashion and it took me a long time to understand the construction process. I also used to run out of money sometimes. Not that I had a shortage of people for help, but I was determined to do it on my own.”

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Image from Anamika Khanna’s early collections 

Memories

“The 2014 Cannes moment where I layered Sonam Kapoor Ahuja’s sari with a jacket and nose ring became historic for me. Another such ‘eureka’ moment was during my rookie days in my Kolkata workshop, which was next to a temple—I used to observe the panditji’s neatly draped cotton dhoti. One day, I requested him to come in and asked my masterji to imitate that drape. It took us a month of trial and error to remove the excess bulk, give it a slimming effect by adding zippers and a waistband, and make it wearable for the ladies. I remember for one of my shows, due to the humidity of Mumbai, the glue from 40 pairs of wooden block heels came off right before the show. As a last-minute fix, we tied the shoes together with thin rope-like strings. Later, we were applauded for sending down innovative shoes on the runway. If only they knew!”

Image from Anamika Khanna’s early collections 

Reinterpret Or Pass?

“I am one of those people who is overly self-critical. Sometimes I laugh at my work, wondering what I was thinking when I see an older line. I have literally thrown away my own creations at the last minute only because I wasn’t satisfied. So yes, if I could recreate my first collection, I would 100 per cent do it!”

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Reinterpreted sketch by Anamika Khanna 

Picture Courtesy: Anamika Khanna

Find ELLE’s June 2021 issue on stands or download your digital copy here.