Designer Anamika Khanna: People get the impression that I might be elusive
Anamika Khanna was in town recently to kick off the 15th edition of the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour with her muse Rhea Kapoor - her theme is ‘My craft, my pride’, and the entire tour is based on the premise ‘Pride,’ as an expression of success and individuality, with the focus being on India with its indigenous craft.
The Kolkata-based designer, who started her career in 1998, is known for modernising Indian craft. Though her collections are graciously Indian, they also have strong shades of bohemian and goth. Khanna was among the 33 designers to be part of India’s first Lakme Fashion Week, which took place at Taj Palace, New Delhi in 1999. Talk show Czarina Oprah has worn her outfits at various occasions, and a 10 kg velvet lehenga, studded with pearls, gold and silver, designed by Khanna was gifted to Lady Gaga by Simi Garewal, during her talk show, Simi Selects India’s Most Desirable.
Her twin sons, Vishesh and Viraj have also joined her firm, and were behind the AK-OK collection, launched in late-2018. In an open chat, the designer spoke to us about how Kolkata has influenced her, whether she’s a scary boss, not taking holidays and much more.
Has Kolkata had any part to play in honing your fashion sense?
For a designer, it is very natural to be impacted and to be influenced by where you live and the people you meet. Living in Kolkata, I think number one, I’ve been able to find my own space and find my own voice and not get crowded.
Secondly, I also feel that in Kolkata, there is an inherent craft and culture. And you automatically imbibe that as you grow up there. So yes, Kolkata has been a very big influence.
Kolkata has the most vibrant culture in all of India. Which is your favourite club there?
(Starts laughing) That’s an interesting question. Living in Kolkata you cannot run away from the clubs since they’re an inherent part of your life. I would say RCGC is one of my favourites!
And your favourite restaurant?
Chinoiserie, at the Taj Bengal.
You have the unique distinction of being one of the people who’ve actually met the Queen of England and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace. What was that like?
The whole feeling was ethereal, it was like we were in a movie.
How easy or difficult has it been for you to maintain the position you’ve reached in the fashion industry?
I don’t think anything comes easy. Unless you give it all you’ve got with everything that you’ve got, you’re not going to be able to achieve the enormous target you set for yourself. I have worked non-stop for the last 20 years.
I don’t think I’ve had a day when I’ve actually put my feet up and said, ‘Okay, I’m not working.’ It’s not been easy, but it’s a journey that I chose and that I love.
Are you trying to say that in the last 20 years you haven’t taken a day off?
Yes, because your mind is always working. Even when you’re on a holiday you are inspired by something and you’re back at work. It’s not like one doesn’t take days off, but you’re always at it. It’s just something that you love so it just becomes a part of you.
Would you prefer Netflix or a party out?
With regards to fashion, who is your favourite, Madonna or Michael Jackson?
Madonna, because of the fact that over the years she’s been able to be reinvent herself and yet be so powerful at her age and have that energy and the charisma.
People say is that Anamika Khanna has a reputation of being elusive. Would you agree or disagree with that?
(Laughs) I’m just shy, not elusive. Secondly, I stay in Kolkata, so I’m not available for everything. Generally, as a person, I just feel that I would like my work to talk rather than me speaking, so yes, people get the impression that I might be elusive.
Is Anamika Khanna the kind of boss who people would be afraid of?
(Laughs again) People are petrified!
It’s not that they’re afraid of me, but somehow they listen!
The author tweets at @shadowwarior and can be reached at email@example.com