When we catch up with designer Anita Dongre ahead of her new store launch, she is, understandably, a mix of nerves and excitement. “I’m just excited to see it ready finally!” she says.
The designer has opened her flagship store in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda area. One of the label’s biggest stores in the country, it’s housed in the city’s famous Sassoon Building.
“It’s a beautiful old building,” she says, “We all know how it was in a really dilapidated condition and restoring it has been a labour of love.”
Restoring and preserving an old heritage landmark is an extension of the label’s, and the designer’s, core beliefs: Sustainability and preserving the heritage for the future.
Dongre has been at the forefront of India’s sustainable fashion movement with her eponymous label. The designer infuses her own personal beliefs of veganism and eco-consciousness into creating the awareness that luxury shouldn’t come at the cost of the environment.
“ I hope that the consumers of the world realise that just for the sake of fashion, you cannot carry a bag that’s borne out of cruelty to another living being,” says Dongre.
The designer has recently launched a line of vegan luxury accessories, including handbags and belts, that have been made out of a plant-based material that mimics leather but is 100 percent cruelty-free, natural, and bio-neutral.
The material, MIRUM, has been gaining popularity for being an alternative to leather and Dongre says she had been waiting for a technology that could help her make accessories without compromising on her vegan ethos.
“The vegan accessories line is a dream come true with material sciences presenting us with leather alternatives that are luxurious and high quality while being cruelty-free and environmentally friendly,” says the designer.
She claims that she has been a first-hand witness to a shift in consumer ideology, especially when it comes to eco-conscious fashion. “People have been waiting for these products,” she says, “It’s definitely a need in the market. It might be small and very focused and niche but the awareness is growing every day.”
Dongre doesn’t deny that she has had to reimagine her design language in order to accommodate a new material like MIRUM but says that the limitations are not challenges, but opportunities to show her creativity.
“There are a lot of restrictions with this material. For instance, right now this material is only available in black. It’s not available in silver or gold, or in the way I wanted it to be. But I think, as a designer, you have to use your creativity to work within these limitations.”
The designer has managed to marry the quintessential Anita Dongre aesthetic (“simple, elegant, and feminine”) with the new material and created a line of accessories that are virtually indistinguishable from any luxury, traditional leather goods.
“It’s all about taking small steps towards sustainability,” she says, adding that consumers need to educate themselves and be more aware of where their fashion is coming from if they want to create a better world for themselves.
You heard her. Mindful choices and sustainable fashion is the future.