If you’re an Indian bride-to-be or have traveled to India and shopped local designers, chances are you’re familiar with Anita Dongre. The Indian designer is renowned in her native country—Bollywood celebrities and royals are known to wear her clothing—at the helm of four fashion labels, Anita Dongre, Anita Dongre Grassroot, AND, and Global Desi. Under her namesake label, Dongre offers intricately crafted ready-to-wear and fine jewelry with couture bridal wares for Indian brides ranging from traditional lehengas and sarees to formalwear for men. Every piece is a work of art—local Indian artisans are employed to craft each item with beading, dying, and hand embroidery techniques that are incredibly elaborate and one-of-a-kind.
Until recently, Indian brides would have had to travel to India to secure Dongre’s exquisite bridal designs, but after opening her first U.S. store in New York City in 2017 with her Grassroot label (which is sustainably produced in India), Dongre made the decision to bring her couture bridal wares to the Big Apple by opening a second store in Soho under her namesake label. Now, Dongre is taking her bridal business one step further with the debut of her first-ever collection of western bridal gowns called One World, during this month’s fall/winter 2019 Bridal Fashion Week.
In honor of this milestone, we chatted with the celebrated Indian designer for an inside scoop as to how her One World bridal collection came to be and why the beauty and glamour of traditional Indian craftsmanship translates for modern brides, Indian or not.
Why did you decide to start designing western bridal gowns and what served as the inspiration for your first collection?
“I’ve always loved the multicultural vibe of New York City and its inherent sense of fashion. With multicultural marriages on the rise, brides want to have a white wedding as well as a traditional Indian wedding. One such beautifully elegant bride, who managed to find a one-off white gown I had created years ago, urged me to create an entire line. And so here we are in the city of dreams—just in time for New York Bridal Week with a limited edition collection of 25 bespoke bridal gowns.”
What are the biggest differences you've seen between western brides and Indian brides in terms of their desired aesthetic?
“Craft, tradition, and heritage are the biggest differences. A traditional Indian bride is dressed in red and her outfit is elaborately embellished with hand embroidery techniques that date back thousands of years. On the other hand, an American bride is dressed in white with filigree lace, sheer tulle, and a beautiful veil. We’ve drawn inspiration from traditional Indian handcrafts and western silhouettes, creating a collection that is the best of both worlds.”
How was the design process different for you coming from a background of designing for traditional Indian brides?
“The excitement of working with sheer whites is unparalleled. The sheer delight of all white; the joy of seeing white beads and sequins create a pattern on tulle; the simplicity of cutting silhouettes that flatter the body; the show of skin through embellished tulle; and then the absolute delight of seeing the sketched design worn elegantly on a bride. It’s a different world from the Indian reds and pinks and the creativity and space they both provide is exhilarating.”
Did you have an idealized western customer in mind when designing this collection and do you envision these gowns appealing to modern brides, those who still prefer something more traditional, or both?
“Our first-ever classic white gown was designed almost five years ago and the order queries have never stopped pouring in since. Our signature style is feminine, elegant, handcrafted outfits with an underlining simplicity, and my muse is a woman who appreciates this aesthetic. This urged me to design for a city which is home to cultures from all over the globe. As a brand, we’ve always catered to the global woman and this collection is a marriage of cultures where contemporary western silhouettes meet classic Indian embroidery.”
How do you think this new collection appeals to Indian brides who are not having a traditional Indian ceremony and want something more modern?
“Our One World collection is comprised of gowns in traditional Indian embroidery and designs, apt for all occasions. It features gowns in pastel hues which are perfect for a day wedding, two cocktail gowns for a glamorous evening reception, and a stunning red gown which is a modern retelling of the traditional Indian red lehenga.”
Do you have a favorite gown in the new collection?
“I truly love the entire collection, but if I have to pick a favorite, it would be the wedding dress with my favorite bird motif. This dress was inspired by a bride who wanted a classic and effortless wedding dress for a small ceremony attended by close friends and family at the registrar’s office. I added my favorite Indian bird motif on sheer tulle—a classic silhouette yet traditional in design.”
What are some details of the design process that we would not know by simply looking at images of the gowns?
“To New York, we bring a collection of bespoke bridal gowns that is the perfect mix of traditional and contemporary—the sleek silhouettes embellished with motifs inspired by the flowers, songbirds, wildlife, and ancient palaces of India, all embroidered by hand with pearls, crystals, sequins, and our signature craft, gota patti on rich silks and sheer tulle. Gota patti is a unique craft of India where tiny hand-cut leaves of gold or silver ribbons are embroidered by hand onto exquisite fabric. Every single gown in this collection is handcrafted and takes time because there are so many people who give it the love and time fashion should deserve.”
What’s next for your bridal business?
“We will continue to celebrate Indian craftsmanship through contemporary bridal fashion with a focus on cocktail dresses, evening gowns, and red carpet looks.”