Anita Dongre: If I Hadn’t Been Stubborn, Would Have Never Made It

From Mumbai to New York: Anita Dongre who recently opened two flagship stores in New York shares her inspiring story

Anita Dongre is an inspiring woman. She is one of the biggest names in the Indian fashion circuit who has recently expanded to New York as well, with the launch of two flagship stores in SoHo. Her journey, like that of many other successful women, has involved a lot of determination, hard work, compromises and well, lots of stubbornness.

In a post on the Facebook page, Humans of Bombay, the designer says that if she hadn’t been so stubborn about fighting for her dreams, she would have never made it.

Anita Dongre, Indian Fashion DesignerWhile growing up, I would notice that the women around me would work very hard at home but still weren’t well respected because they were economically dependent. It was since then that I wanted to be financially empowered. I knew I wanted to be a designer when I was 15 — it was just one of those things that was my calling. My mother would teach me how to cook and then think that I was learning some ‘basic embroidery’ like all ‘good girls’ are supposed to — she never thought of it as anything more. But the business bug caught on early — since my first year of college I would participate in exhibitions with my friends and all the clothes we made would sell out — I’ve been financially independent since I was 20!Initially, my parents were against me starting a business. It was 1982 and women were expected to just get married — but I couldn’t be stopped. I sat in my room with two tailors and designed from there, because my work has been my religion — it’s that sacred for me. My parents used to watch people coming home through the day wanting me to design and they would ask , ‘are these people really coming for your clothes?’ and I think that’s when they slowly accepted my work.Around this time, I met my husband — we’d been dating on the sly for a few years, because we were from different religions and my parents were against it. But he was a charmer — one by one he started meeting all of my family members and they fell in love with him and then they all got together to convince my dad— it was all very filmy! It’s funny how we even spoke about marriage — my friends asked me ‘where’s this heading?’ and I said, ‘ I don’t know let me ask him’ so one day while we were hanging out I just popped the question- ‘so what are we? Are we friends? Are we just having fun? Are you going to marry me? — I need to know’ and he said, ‘ofcourse we’re getting married!’ and that was that!There was never a question of me stopping work post marriage. Very often, it’s taken for granted that if there is a choice between a man’s career and a woman’s career — the woman will give hers up. A woman’s career choices are somehow never given as much importance — but I made it infinitely clear that work is my religion. I still remember once, very early on in our marriage when my in-laws wanted me to stay at home and not attend a particular fashion week — they thought this was just some hobby I’d picked up and I could miss it…but I went and spoke to my husband and said, ‘I have to go— it’s important’ and he said ‘I’ll handle it, don’t worry’ and that’s the kind of support every woman needs. I’ve been through pregnancy, and been involved in my son’s life — but that didn’t ever mean that I would stop working. There have been days I’ve missed his PTA meetings, or sports days and as much as I would have liked to be there, sometimes I just couldn’t make it and sometimes my husband couldn’t — why is it always taken badly if a mother can’t make it but it’s okay if the father can’t?At times we both couldn’t make it and we’ve had an excellent support system — my mother, mother in law and sisters who have stood by us and in so many ways they’re the reason I’m here today. From two sewing machines in my balcony, to a brand, from that first Anita Dongre store at Crossroads to hundreds… if I didn’t have these people by my side and I wasn’t so stubborn about fighting for what I love every step of the way… I would have never made it.”

You can find her story here.