Beauty + A Better World: A Talk With Anita Dongre

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Anita Dongre's designs honor traditional craft with a modern point of view

If a trip to India isn't in your future, a spin through fashion designer Anita Dongre's website might be the next best thing. From embroidered summer dresses to exquisite bridal saris, Dongre's designs blend traditional craft with modern style, irresistibly. We caught up with her to learn about the inspiration behind all that gorgeousness.

Q. How did your love of fashion get started?

I was born and brought up in Mumbai, but always spent a lot of time in my grandparents’ home state of Rajasthan. It's the land of craft and color, and it's probably the most beautiful state in our country. The capital city Jaipur is filled with bazaars that are basically a riot of color — beautiful prints and handcrafted textiles, block printing, everything made by hand. Before I even started design school, my interest in fashion was generated from walking those streets.

Q. Your designs are all about tradition, but not exactly traditional.

I’m always striving to combine the very best of both worlds — I look for a way to use traditional Indian fibers or designs on a garment that feels modern but also timeless enough that women will wear it for years to come. It’s a very fine balance!

Anita Dongre creates opportunities for artisans in India

Q. Your Grassroot brand works with artisans from remote areas of India. Why did you take this approach?

I wanted to ensure that I was doing something to help traditional artisans have steady work so that their crafts can continue to flourish. Our program is just a drop in the ocean, there are thousands of artisans in India. But we had to start somewhere. We are providing jobs, helping with designs, and making their incredible work relevant in the marketplace again.

Q. Grassroot products are also cruelty-free and use organic textiles, right?

I'm a vegan and an animal lover, so this has been important to me since day one. We never use any animal skin in any of our products not even wool! Sustainability is also at the core of what we do, so we try our best to support weavers who use sustainable and organic fibers. (But only some of our fabrics are organic at this point.)

Q. You're a businesswoman, an artist, a designer, and you have a family. How do you balance everything and keep the creative flame alive?

It's something I have to concentrate on. Creativity comes to you when you're resting in peace, when you're quiet. So it’s important that I find time for myself. I lead a very simple lifestyle and seek out quiet time. It’s not that hard for me, though, because I naturally prefer one-on-one friendships and smaller groups to going out to big parties. Another thing that helps me stay balanced is my spirituality. I go regularly to get my chakras cleansed, spend a lot of time meditating, and focus on my inner self.

Anita Dongre's responses are condensed and edited for length.

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Beauty + A Better World: A Talk With Anita Dongre