Several budding designers step into the glitzy world of fashion every year with dreams to make it big. But intense competition means that only a handful stand out. Those who’ve made it will tell you that the only secret to success is being yourself and playing to your strengths. We pick out five names — four youngsters and surprisingly, one veteran-of-sorts — who shot to the limelight in 2014, and tell you why you should keep an eye out for them in the new year.
Worn by: Sonam Kapoor, Ileana D’Cruz and Kriti Sanon.
USP: Full skirts, sports luxe.
The young designer set up his label in March, and by August, he’d had his first outing at a city fashion week. "Then, one day, I woke up to an Instagram post of Sonam endorsing my clothes," he says, describing his biggest high on the job. Kapoor’s been lucky to have international experience before setting up shop. Internships at Etro, and the design teams of multiple brands were part of his curriculum while studying in Milan, Italy. Back home, he also had a stint with designer Rina Dhaka.
The designer feels his sharp and edgy clothing is still finding its place in the Indian market. "My taste is all about contrast. I love blurring the line between masculine and feminine, complex and simple, minimal and excessive," he explains.
Worn by: Madhuri Dixit Nene, Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha, Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra and Huma Qureshi.
USP: Simple, wearable Indian and Indo-western designs.
Mehra credits her mother and aunt — who she worked with before starting her label in 2012 — as her mentors. Apart from designing, she’s been a store manager, merchandiser and marketing head. Her designs reflect her motto of "minimalistic and effective" and have been a hit with Bollywood stars. "I was overwhelmed when I saw Sonam in one of my creations. It's also flattering to see my designs being copied," says Mehra. Consistency in quality is the designer’s biggest concern going ahead. Even as she juggles her own wedding planning with a number of events that are being lined up for 2015, she tells us, "I really believe that one’s work speaks for itself. So, my biggest challenge is to constantly create and innovate."
Anavila by Anavila Sindhu Misra
Worn by: Kajol, Vidya Balan, Rani Mukerji, Tisca Chopra, Avantika Malik and Swara Bhaskar
USP: 100 per cent hand-woven linen saris.
Her label was launched only in 2012, and her first big show was in March 2014. But Misra isn’t among the new breed — she’s been working behind the scenes for years now, with four years as designer for Wills Lifestyle, Louis Philippe, and three years on a Ministry of Rural Development project with NIFT. Her design philosophy is simple. "Organic, raw materials with natural tones and texture appeal to my sensibility. One needs to be restrained when creating a piece that will be a canvas for the wearer to put it together their own way," she says. Misra says that innovation is her only challenge. Up next, she will introduce ready-to-wear separates and a home line.
Ikai by Ragini Ahuja
Worn by: Jacqueline Fernandez, Esha Gupta, Shibani Dandekar and Sonakshi Sinha.
USP: Boxy anti-fits adorned with edgy artwork and animated details.
Ahuja’s label was set up in 2012, after stints with designers Pankaj & Nidhi and Abhishek Gupta. She also worked on a sustainable fashion and zero waste project at a leading textile manufacturing company. Her first ramp show was in 2013, but it’s only in 2014 that she came into her own, with strong collections in March as well as August. Ahuja makes outfits that flatter every body type — something every designer says they do, but only a handful really deliver. "At Ikai, we’ve made unconventional use of leather and age-old techniques in offbeat ways," she says.
Reboot by Anuj Bhutani
Worn by: Aditya Roy Kapur, Parineeti Chopra and Fawad Khan
USP: Reconstructed menswear.
Only two seasons old, Bhutani considers his debut show at a city fashion week in August 2014 to be his breakthrough moment. His training includes working under designers Nitin Kartikeya (of the label Kartikey) and Ruchika Sachdeva of Bodice. While he counts the former as his mentor, the latter’s influence is far more prominent in Bhutani’s designs. The Reboot strategy is explained by the brand title. "It’s the process of deconstructing a basic product and reconstructing it with an experimental approach," says the designer, who loves being told that his wares are "comfortable". Up ahead, Bhutani is planning to expand his women’s wear portfolio. "My challenge is to balance commercial with fashion-forward," he says.