‘We are a country with huge diversity in skin tones, body shapes but most brands are still not inclusive’: Anju Modi

Anju Modi has achieved unparalleled success in the last three decades. He has not only worked with master craftsmen from across the country to bring out the best in Indian textiles and techniques, but has also worked on some of the most well-known filmmakers’ blockbuster Bollywood movies. Ask him what has been his biggest source of inspiration all these years, and the fashion designer replies that he “doesn’t actively seek inspiration”; It is his curiosity that “drives [her] Most”.

Talking more about his journey, the designer, however, told indianexpress.com that he had to “adapt and experiment” to stay relevant with the changing times and demands and also spoke about the evolution of fashion, the need for sustainability. and the inclusion, or lack thereof, in Indian fashion, and so on. Edited parts below:

From 1990 to 2022, you have been an integral part of India’s fashion industry. How would you describe your journey?

My design odyssey has given me both professional joy and personal fulfillment. It has succeeded in bringing me to a healthy mental, emotional and spiritual state. I am grateful for the leap of faith that I took three decades back and for all that I have achieved. Apart from my innate love for textiles, my first encounter with artisans across India, I think, was a significant motivation behind my success. Working with locals who have been weaving and practicing various indigenous crafts for decades has deepened my appreciation for our Indian fabrics, cultural history and ethos.

Is your journey the way you envisioned it, or have you had to take any (unwanted) turns to stay relevant to changing times?

Staying current on industry advancements is important for any designer or business expert. To put it more simply, the fittest survive. To be relevant and at par with global standards, as well as to grow as a creative professional, one must be adaptable and experimental.

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What has kept you going all these years — what is your biggest inspiration?

Most of the time, I don’t actively seek inspiration; Rather, it finds me. I have always been an adventurer, and this has taught me more about our culture, fabrics and textiles than any book ever could. I would say my curiosity drives me the most. Findings hidden in nature, architecture around the world, philosophy, poetry, a certain philosophy and other things inspire me.

Not only the fashion industry, you have close ties with the film industry and have designed costumes for many films. How was the experience?

I really enjoyed the process of making costumes for two blockbuster films – Bajirao Mastani and Ram-Leela. Costumes, being their own language, are crucial to the success of a film. You can have the best story in the world, but if the costume doesn’t match the atmosphere of the time period depicted, I believe it distracts the audience from the overall picture. The right costume has the power to transport both the viewer and the wearer to the historical time depicted in the film.

Creating a garment takes extensive research. Being faithful to the script, characters and time period is essential. Fabrics, colors, themes, needlework techniques and more are selected based on the plot and the director’s needs. It is important to understand the plot to respect the culture, history, values ​​etc. Working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, a filmmaker who is an absolute perfectionist, made the whole experience more interesting and exploratory. Although the process was time consuming, it was still a very rewarding experience.

Indian fashion, especially couture, has undergone drastic changes over the years. What took you to keep up with the changes?

Over the years, we’ve come to value the luxury of comfortable clothing but something that looks fun and playful. So, keeping in mind the needs of the customer, we try to experiment with significantly lighter weight silhouettes, making them easy to carry while ensuring that the user feels their best and looks attractive. One will find exquisitely hand embroidered overcoats, blouses with different sleeve designs, a varied color palette and more. Our color palette will have a lot of soft ivory and earthy tones and pops of color.

Similarly, sustainability has also become a huge trend. What is your opinion on the same?

Sustainability has been picking up steam for quite some time now, and I’m glad to see how open people are to discussing responsible fashion. Consumers have become aware of the need for time and are asking relevant questions. I believe we are beginning to see how important it is to be conscious consumers and develop empathy for how we treat nature. Also the concept of sustainability extends beyond nature as it has a lot to do with how we approach the process, the artisans we work with, etc.

Many celebrities have been seen sporting your creations, but if you had to choose one person who you think wears your designs best – who would it be?

I doubt I’ll ever be able to pick one of the top actors in our industry. They were all an absolute pleasure to work with and did a wonderful job carrying our clothes.

Inclusivity in fashion, especially in the West, has become a huge movement. Where do you think India falls on that graph and why?

Inclusivity is a sensitive topic that still needs more awareness and education among people who make fashion, especially those who cater to Indian women. We are a country with great diversity in skin tones and body shapes but most brands are still not as inclusive as we should be. In terms of inclusivity in fashion, I believe, we still have a long way to go.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently working on a collection called ‘Damayanti’. It is inspired by the creations of one of the most famous Indian artists, Raja Ravi Varma.

You are closely associated with Laksham NGO, which recently organized a ‘Fashion for a Cause’ event. Tell us about it.

My relationship with Laksham is incredibly valuable to me, and it is a joy that I cherish. Throughout my creative career, I have been extremely honored to receive so much love and appreciation. I can express my gratitude to the community for the kindness and constant encouragement I have received over the years as a result of my association with Laksham. The event is an opportunity for me and other creative people to come together and support those who need it most. It’s a great way for us to serve society through a fun process and doing what we do best, i.e. create! I believe that feelings of love and kindness are universal and the only possessions that are twice as much as you give.

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