Over the weekend in a rare appearance, the former 2016 presidential candidate, secretary of state, and first lady Hillary Clinton wore a tunic by Anita Dongre at Ozy fest, a two-day event described by the New York Times as “part music festival, part TED talk, part food fair.” Clinton appeared fresh-faced and comfortable wearing Anita Dongre’s Erisha Tunic in blue, pairing it with white linen pants and layered gold medallion necklaces. Clinton’s blue silk tunic features a V-neckline, 3/4-cut sleeves, and digitally printed floral and vine motifs. The blue tunic is currently sold out online, but it is still available in blush pink for $210 if you happen to be a size U.K. 12.
This is the second time Clinton has worn Anita Dongre. The first time was during a visit to India’s ancient city of Mandu in March 2018. Similarly, both the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and Canada’s first lady, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, wore Anita Dongre during their respective visits to India over the past two years.
In 2016, Middleton wore a vibrant, bohemian maxi dress by Anita Dongre to a cricket match in Mumbai. Soon afterward, customers were eager to get their hands on the dress and caused Dongre’s website to crash. In the same year, Anita Dongre became one of the most Googled names in the world and made the top 10 list for most-Googled fashion designers. This surge of interest can largely be attributed to Middleton, Dongre tells People, “I couldn’t have been there without her. It was because of her.” Middleton’s endorsement quickly escalated Dongre to become a rising global fashion star.
However, despite the rest of the world just catching onto Dongre’s prowess and fashion talent, she is no stranger to India. Since establishing her label in 1995, Dongre has opened hundreds of stores and points of sales across India, where she sells womenswear, menswear, couture, bespoke bridal, shoes, accessories, and fine jewelry. Dongre’s dresses are dreamy, to say the least, with many featuring hand-embroidered crystal details, embroideries, and prints. Dongre’s designs feel honest and faithful to Indian heritage, but still refreshingly modern.
For two years in a row (in 2016 and 2017), Dongre was named by Fortune India as one of the top 50 most powerful women. Even so, Dongre tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I feel honored by the recognition. However, I hope that we all are validated for our talents in spite of our gender.”
Dongre’s business has been going strong for over 20 years now, but how did Dongre first get her start? “I grew up in a traditional household at a time when women were not supposed to work outside of the home, but I always felt the need to create. After graduating from design school, I saw a need in the marketplace for clothes with an Indian aesthetic and a contemporary hand. So I started the company with my sister doing private label for other brands — from our bedroom in our family home. The designs immediately were a hit. After several years, I decided to launch my own label. Fast forward 23 years later, here we are!” Dongre tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Dongre is one of the few fashion designers who integrate female empowerment into her business model. This first starts by working directly with skilled local Indian artisans, to not only provide them with an income but to also efficiently utilize their unique artistry. “I met artisan women from remote villages and came to understand that India’s cherished centuries-old crafts were dying. The crafts were traditionally passed from mother to daughter, generation after generation. However, with rapid changes in our society, the younger generation no longer wanted to learn this craft. Many villagers are no longer able to sustain themselves so are moving to large cities where adjustment is very difficult. I saw an opportunity to both contemporize and nurture traditional crafts and to provide employment to artisan women in remote villages,” Dongre tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
This has created a new standard of living for these artisans, which they did not have before. In fact, “Now these women that we work with substantially out-earn their husbands. Family dynamics are changing. When women have economic empowerment, they are empowered in every part of their lives and have the potential to change the world.”
Sustainability is a core part of Dongre’s ethos, emphasizing slow eco-fashion. Through Dongre’s specific eco-conscious line, Grassroots, customers can shop hand-woven, printed, and embroidered garments and cruelty-free accessories.
In April, Dongre opened her first stateside flagship store in the heart of Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood for one main reason. “I want my customers to enter the world of Anita Dongre — to touch and to feel my designs, to see all the collections that reflect a different part of my personality, and to take in even the house scent that is in every Anita Dongre store.”
You can shop Anita Dongre online at anitadongre.com, or if you’re in New York City, you can visit the flagship store at 473 West Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10012.
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