When news arrives that Anju Modi will be displaying her eponymous collection somewhere, women flock to pick up a gorgeous piece inspired by traditional India. After all, the woman is the creative genius behind the grand and regal ensembles showcased in the most successful period dramas over the last few years. While Ram-Leela and Bajirao Mastani were critically acclaimed, the costumes received equal praise. The celebrity designer will be here this week to launch her beautiful Bajirao Mastani-inspired collection for the first time in Dubai at Label 24. Masala! finds out more…
In this day and age where Dubai is a hot market for fashion designers, you are finally showcasing your collection here. What brings you to the region?
We have experienced the Dubai market before but now we are coming with a revamped strategy. We want to cater to the growing aspiration among the consumer for our products in the region. Through an association with Label 24, we are looking at expanding our presence in the region.
What are your expectations of the consumer here? Do you envision them to be very different from your regular clients?
Our consumers in Dubai have a very similar design taste for Indian ethnic wear as they enjoy the same traditions in this part of the world. I have been catering to some of the elite clients in this region for years and have found them to be quite interested in my designs.
Which collection are you bringing here? Are you generating a special collection for the region?
Summer is creeping in and so appropriate collections will be offered to the customers. We will be bringing new collections to discerning clients in this region as and when it is available to meet their expectations.
Is your approach to design very different when you are designing costumes for a film versus when you are designing for a customer?
Designing costumes for a movie definitely requires a different approach as I have to be more specific to the script and the requirement of the characters. I try to choose movies that fit to my taste and give justice to the same. Designing a collection needs inspiration from a culture, preferably from the Indian heritage, to cater to a larger segment of customers so that they are able to relate. While designing for my clients I keep their specific needs and aspirations in mind and I try to do full justice to it.
Ram-Leela was your first Bollywood venture. How was that experience?
It was excellent. Playing with cast characters was a marvellous experience, especially for Deepika. Bringing out her beauty and mischievous character by dressing her with apt designed costumes was simply amazing.
Bajirao Mastani was your next Bollywood flick – given the grandeur of the movie, was it overwhelming?
Bajirao Mastani has been a mega-mega project, especially given the scale of the work that has gone behind the movie. Working on the three lead actors, the primary characters of the movie, has been a lot of hard-work and it is exciting to see how the churnings of my creativity appeared on-screen and be praised by the audiences and members of my fraternity.
You’ve worked with both Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra twice now for such culturally and history-inspired costumes. What was that like? And how different are the two?
While both Deepika and Priyanka had to portray very contrasting roles, they are also such different actors. Their appearances played a significant role in the way we used each of their features to narrate the respective character to the audience. Priyanka’s eyes helped showcase the innocence of Kashibai in Bajirao Mastani; her features highlighted the vivaciousness of the character and her figure emphasised the beauty of the Nauvari saris she is wearing. Deepika’s character in the movie is a fierce warrior with moments of intense vulnerability. The innocence of her eyes and the softness of her face aptly portrayed Mastani.
Share with us an anecdote from the set of one of the films. What was the most memorable moment?
Bajirao Mastani is period movie based on the Maratha Peshwa – Bajirao’s life, with a focus on his relationship with Mastani. With enough historical records at our disposal today, the costume design, especially for Ranveer Singh (Bajirao) and Priyanka Chopra (Kashibai), was largely based on these historical references, on the code of dressing in that era for Maharashtrian nobility and people of stature. Also, since the narrative is based on real-life personalities that have left an indelible mark in our history, we wanted to maintain the authenticity of the time, era and stature, keeping true to their essence. However, there is not much written or recorded material on Mastani. For that character, being beautifully portrayed by Deepika, we took many creative liberties based only on inspirational references.
You’ve dressed a countless number of celebrities ranging from Madhuri Dixit to the new-gen like Athiya Shetty. How do you ensure your pieces are so classic and timeless that they are suitable for everyone?
This is the core DNA of my designs, classic and timeless, which is something we keep in mind while we start to think for our new collection. It should have these qualities in order to suit everyone.
You are one of the founding members of the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) and have been in the industry for over 25 years… What’s the biggest change that you have seen over the years?
There has definitely been a big transformation in the Indian fashion industry which is quite visible with the number of established as well as upcoming designers. The FDCI has fostered the growth and aspiration of Indian fashion by providing the right platform for new designers under the guidance of already established designers in the country.
With the foundation of your collections relying on traditional textiles and age-old crafts, what’s the one trend that you’d love to see back in fashion?
Indian handcraft is one area which has been left behind and the skilled artisans who produce handcrafted textiles are losing sheen because of the lack of focus and attention. I would like to work with these artisans and extend my support to them by inculcating beautiful textiles from different parts of the country in some of my upcoming designs in a contemporary fashion. But there has to be dedicated work with the textiles to ensure authenticity and revival – I would love to see that happen more.
What can we expect from the next collection that you’re working on?
It is inspired by our ancient history and their traditions. Indian heritage and its culture is always my main source of inspiration. Right now, it is too early to reveal what we’re working on but we’re sure the fashion influencers will like it once it is on the ramp!
Anju Modi will be showcasing her Bajirao Mastani collection on March 16, from 4pm to 8pm at the Label 24 store in Jumeirah.