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All for feminism

chandigarh Updated: Apr 20, 2012 18:19 IST
Usmeet Kaur
Usmeet Kaur
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

For a refreshing change, it's a brand that has a voice - that of stimulating the spirit of Indian women. Taking inspiration from machinery, gadgets and junkyards, the 35-year-old New York-based Punjabi, Kanika Saluja, has made a breakthrough in international fashion, with A-listers such as Mischa Barton, Rihanna, Paris Hilton, Ashanti and Tyra Banks wearing her designs.

In a tête-à-tête with HT City on Thursday, Kanika opened up with a bold statement, "About 80% of Indian designers' fittings are horrible."

The reason, she explains, is designers not being familiar with the technicality of the field. "A designer should know where and how the production process begins, and then plan his or her designs accordingly.

I don't mean to brag, but I actually spent more than four years in factories to learn production and manufacturing," she said and added, "The mantra of being a successful designer is to be true to your art and identity. I am one designer who is dressed up (read high heels), even if I am buying apples.

I breathe, eat and sleep fashion. But back here in India, anyone who can just about design clothes is being termed as a designer."

On the scenario being different in the West, she said, "The competition there is extremely fierce. Thus, the designs call for class and quality."

Born in Delhi, Kanika spent her childhood at her parents' beading factory in Delhi, where she would sit with skilled craftsmen as they ornamented Oleg Cassini's wedding gowns and produced luxurious clothing for Roberto Cavalli and Adrianna Papell.

After graduating from the Philadelphia College of Textile Design and Engineering, Kanika moved to New York to help her brother, Arjun Saluja, launch his contemporary women's clothing line, Rishta.

Thanks to her background, she developed a collection of embellished t-shirts, which were picked up by Barneys, Henri Bendel, Nordstrom and others. "When I came up with these crazy, punk rock T-shirts, nothing like it was available in the market. So, they became a rage. Then, in 2003, I launched my contemporary clothing brand, Nikka New York."

To get married, Kanika visited India in 2007 and felt the urge of being closer to her family, following which, she shifted base to Delhi in 2008 and began work on her luxury-clothing brand. "After training workers for two years in Delhi, I came up with Anaikka, which was launched in New York in 2011 and then for the first time in India at Wills Fashion Week, New Delhi."

Talking about her love for metal being the foundation of her collection, she said, "The brand is just not a brand, it's an alpha-female movement. The voice of every Indian woman should be heard, which is what I've tried to put across in my collection, which will be showcased in Chandigarh for the first time. I am here to get acquainted with Punjabi women. If I am able to understand them, I will come back and open up a store here."

Kanika will be launching her first exclusive store in Delhi in July. Her city exhibition will showcase dresses, tunics and accessories in bright yellow, electric blue, ivory and soft pink.

The exhibition is on from April 20 to 21 at Girl in the Café, Sector 17, from 11.30 am to 10 pm