Ace Designer Anita Dongre Is On A Mission To Empower Rural Women Artisans And It Is Inspiring!
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — Audrey Hepburn.
These are a few gems of truth that ace designer Anita Dongre seems to live by! The House of Anita Dongre, situated near a green and picturesque hill in Rabale, opened its gates for us recently. The occasion…to introduce their new understudies! We met a group of six inspiring rural women artisans from the organisation SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), who for the next week will train in design and fashion management. The artisans belong to the craft cluster of Bakutra, a village in Gujarat, is one of many that is involved with creating employment for women working from home. Dressed in their traditional, vibrant garb and narrating the stories of their life, the women managed to leave a lasting impression on us!
What an experience this was. We, a group of journalists, sat in front of them, listening to their struggles and how they managed to rise above it and it was eye-opening in many ways. Joining the interaction was Anita herself, who spoke about her passion for lifting Indian craft up. According to the fashion house, “Through the course of their five-day long residency at House of Anita Dongre headquarters, the craftswomen will be guided on the business of fashion, offering them a deeper, previously inaccessible, understanding of the industry. We hope that the skill sets they refine during their time with us will help empower these women to upturn traditional gender roles, build their own businesses and succeed independently—maybe even become the next industry leaders.”
This is not the first association for Anita and the women of SEWA. As a firm believer in the ‘Revive. Sustain. Empower.’ philosophy of her eponymous brand, Anita Dongre has consistently collaborated with these artisans. The work we see on her Grassroot and bridal wear lines come from the skilful hands of these women. The craft that has been passed through generations, is what Anita hopes to keep alive and make sustainable. Anita’s aim is to not just shed light on these women but also provide employment opportunities and empower them to be self-sustained individuals.
It was an afternoon like no no for us young and green fashion enthusiasts. A quick tour through the huge facility was highlighted by their sustainable process…right down till composting their own waste! We spent some time by the kennels for adopted dogs, and we were soon whisked away for a feast of home cooked vegetarian Sindhi lunch brought in by the designer herself. The whole experience managed to give us some insight the designer, who does not follow the popular norms of Indian fashion. It’s not about the celebrity show stoppers she gets for her shows, but the real women who make them. And that just managed to brighten our rainy Mumbai afternoon a whole lot!