She went abroad to use her design sensibilities at a time when the Indian fashion industry was very niche. In the business for over two decades now, Ritu Beri calls herself "the first idiot" who got up and followed her dreams in the world of fashion.
She admits that the journey hasn't been easy, especially in the West, where people once considered Indians as "great copycats". "Everyone says that I am the first Indian who took fashion abroad, but I think I was the first idiot who got up and said, 'I want to do this'. I have no real map to follow, there was nobody I could actually use as my example. But yes, I was passionate about what I was doing," Beri shared at a forum here Tuesday.
She spoke on the sidelines of a panel discussion arranged by the FICCI [Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry] Ladies Organisation (FLO). Over the years, Beri has made a mark with her chic apparels.
From showcasing at the prestigious Paris Fashion Week to dressing up noted international celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and Nicole Kidman, the designer's journey is a perfect representation of Indian fashion's inroads into the worldwide fashion scenario.
"I just believe that in India, because we were new and we were fresh, it was so easy to please everyone. People who watched the glamour, especially fashion shows for the first time, were awestruck. I think the concept of fashion was so new to India (when I began my journey), that it fascinated the audience," she added.
A graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, the designer launched her label in India in 1990.
She became the first Indian designer to present a show in Paris, where she successfully launched her first luxe collection in 1998. Her gradual success led her to be named by Time magazine among the People to Watch in International Business. Beri, now a known name in India and abroad, says she developed cold feet when she knocked the door in the international fashion world. But she was determined. "When I was exposed to the fashion world in Paris, I had cold feet and I was wondering if it would ever be possible for me to make a mark. But I think I am a sucker for challenges and I did that.
"I just wanted to be in Paris and wanted to see my collection on runways there. I chased my dream and followed my stars and I was also quite surprised to know that I am right there presenting my first collection in the year 1998," she said. That the French people weren't exposed to Indian fashion, was another challenge.
"They only know about snake charmers and all that ethnic traditions. The other thing which was really negative for me was that everyone there thought Indians are great copy cats and they can copy anything at half the price. "So when I was there, people were scared to show what they could do for me or help me because they all felt that I would come back to India, do the same thing at half the price and kill their market. So, I dint have too much support during my starting phase," she added. However Beri, who sells her creations through boutiques in France and Germany and a store in New Delhi, is happy to see the scenario has changed.
"Today it is wonderful to see the changed perspective of people from around the globe towards Indian fashion industry. India is looked up with such respect. When somebody sayS that he or she is from India, all doors open for them. "Also, Indians are one of the greatest buyers worldwide, so I think we have come a long way," she said.