AND: How Anita Dongre Built A House Of Purposeful Brands
Brand Breakdown is Shopflo’s monthly 4-part newsletter, in which we deep dive into an Indian D2C brand, and understand its constituent elements to figure out what makes it tick ⏰
A brand that has found residence in the urban women’s closets, AND is a trailblazer that brought global contemporary silhouettes to India. We kick off this month’s newsletter by understanding the woman behind the brand and the empire she built.
There are more than 600 fashion design institutes in India churning out millions of fashion design graduates every year. In the 1980s, Anita Dongre was one of them.
The 80s and 90s were a period that saw India’s fashion industry thrive. For the first time, a designer seemed like a viable profession for Indians with the emergence of Ritu Kuman, Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla, Tarun Tahilani and Sabyasachi Mukherjee.
The culture of boutiques gained its footing, and NIFT was set up in 1986 to pioneer fashion education in the country. The first ever Lakme Fashion Week took place in 1999, and the fashion industry became synonymous with celebrity and glamor.
Never underestimate the power of a pissed off woman
Growing up in a Sindhi family in Mumbai, Anita Dongre had seen her fair share of successful women in business, which inspired her to both break away from the traditional Sindhi housewife mold, and identify an opportunity to create workwear for women.
Armed with a degree from SNDT, Mumbai, Anita Dongre’s story begins in 1995 in a small 300 square foot space that she rented out with her sister Meena. With just two sewing machines, they’d create western outfits and supply them to well-known stores across Mumbai.
This period also came with a lot of rejections from fashion retailers and mall owners who refused to lease her space to set up her own shop. This just fueled the desire to create a brand even more. “I got so angry that I decided to start my own brand and do it myself,”
And thus, in 1999, AND established its first store in Mumbai’s mall-Crossroad.
From a street in Mumbai to world domination
With each collection AND grew its consumer base, and store after store popped up throughout the country, and even ventured abroad with a store in Mauritius (more on this in the next edition). Her sister Meena, and brother Mukesh joined the company and they set up a factory and office with a dedicated team of employees. AND soon became a staple in the Indian working woman’s wardrobe.
Anita Dongre’s unrelenting faith in her vision helped her grow her company to include four other brands under its umbrella:
Anita Dongre Bridal Couture: A brand created for empowered women and new-age brides (their lehengas have pockets!), Anita Dongre’s bridal couture line, strikes a balance between conscious and luxury with exquisitely embroidered and printed pieces created in collaboration with SEWA, and other Indian craftsmen.
Pink City: Inspired by family heirlooms and watching the women in her family lovingly craft pieces for special occasions, Pink City was created to add a quiet, effortless grace to her bridal outfits. Inspired by jewellery from Rajasthan, this collection aims to revive the traditional craftsmanship of jadau and polki.
Global Desi: A brand that pays homage to India’s rich tradition of colours, textures and prints, and combining it with modern silhouettes, Global Desi is a brand that appeals to an international audience as well. A fusion-wear brand, the collections aim to bring a creative spin to everyday clothes.
Grassroot: “My core passion is to design clothes that hold a purpose”, and that’s the ethos Grassroot lives by. A collection of contemporary clothes that use traditional handweaves, embroideries and other textile crafts like block printing and bandhani, Grassroot was Anita Dongre’s entry into the US market with a store in New York.
Brands that are built on the bedrock of purpose are the ones that stand the test of time
At a time when fashion designers were only catering to the higher end, luxury segment, Anita Dongre started her business for the average working woman. The biggest key to the success of all her numerous brands has been a consistent focus on wearability (did we mention that the lehengas have pockets?). Each style that goes out to the store is painstakingly taken through numerous rounds of fits and trials to suit each body type.
The House of Anita Dongre has been a house of brands that shines a spotlight on the Indian artisan community, whether it be training and employing women in their own headquarters to releasing a luxury pret collection that incorporates Pichwai painting. Conscious practices are encouraged not only in the clothes the brand puts out, but also in the daily practices that go into creating these garments(more on this in the upcoming edition).
A company that has been consistently keeping a focus on sustainability for more than 20 years is rare to come across, and from this lens, the empire that Anita Dongre has built is one for the ages.
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In the next edition of this month’s brand breakdown, we’ll take a deeper look at the growth journey of AND, and the factors that contributed to it.
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