Self-taught fashion designer Anushree Reddy, who started her wedding trousseau label in 2010 has now transformed it into a major bridal trademark across the globe.
Anushree’s regal designs never stray far from her roots, with pieces that exude a generous use of traditional Hyderabadi zardozi embroidery as well as inspiration sought from the city’s lineage, art, and architecture. Her couture has not only made a show-stopping appearance on runways but is also worn by Bollywood celebs like Shilpa Shetty, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Katrina Kaif, Ananya Panday, and more.
With a successful run for more than a decade, Anushree reminisces how it all commenced, foraying into a saturated market, surviving the pandemic, and more.
Excerpts from the interview:
What was your calling into fashion?
During my stint as an editor of a fashion magazine I was already around designers, interacting with them, attending events and fashion weeks, and my love for clothing, fabrics, and designs was innate too. The textures, fabrics, colours, all drew me towards them, and that very love for clothing never died or even faded. I gradually decided to shift out of the editorial role and take on the fashion world, hands-on, to create clothing that I loved and truly believed in.
What hardships did you face while competing in a saturated market?
When I entered the market, it was a saturated one. Although there was nobody who hailed from Hyderabad or had their roots here, the big designers had already made their mark with stores and exemplary designs that brides loved. It was daunting at first, however, I noticed that not many worked on floral prints and lighter, easy bridal wear. So that’s the market I tapped into.
Do you recall ideating your first collection?
It was for the Lakme Fashion Week Summer Resort 2013, where I was debuting with my bridal collection. I had a line-up of 12 outfits which included saris, anarkalis, lehengas, and flowy jackets in whites and washed-out pinks with a touch of vintage rose prints. I drew inspiration from the old-school romantic vibe, hence the dull vintage shades to go traditional. I paired it up with Chantilly lace with Nizami zardosi. Being from Hyderabad, I’ve grown up with these rich embroideries around me, and this is where I draw my roots from. I worked with karigars whose families have been specializing in Nizami zardosi for over 100 years.
What are the life lessons you’ve picked up along the way?
As cliche as it may sound, my biggest lesson has been that one never really stops learning. Whether you’re working with a celebrity, a karigar, or an assistant, giving them a chance to have their say can be a great learning experience for you. The more you listen, the more you learn, and that’s what I’ve done over the years.
How do you battle criticism?
I create what I believe in and I completely understand that not everyone out there may like what they see. Of course, that doesn’t mean I turn a deaf ear to what they have to say. I take the learnings from the criticism, and if I completely agree with it, I try to incorporate it into my professional life. While I do pay heed to what is being said, I make sure to act on it only once my heart agrees.
How do you deal with work pressure?
Funnily enough, I work especially well when I’m under pressure. I’m an absolute workaholic and if there’s a bigger demand, I’m all the more excited to take it on and work round the clock to meet the demand.
Did you face any difficulties during the pandemic?
All of us were indoors for months together, we had to shut shop and let go of our teams and it was definitely a hard time. We felt uninspired to create, and for designers, that’s truly a low time. However, on the brighter side, staying at home gave me enough opportunity to explore the business aspect of my career. I spent all of my time on research, drew inspiration from magazines, books, shows, and sitcoms, to plan collections that went beyond the usual nature-inspired ones I do.
What measures did you take to ensure the stability of your employees?
We understood the gravitas of the situation. While for many of us the lockdown was hampering our physical and mental wellbeing, for the karigars, it was a matter of financial concern and we did our best to fill that gap. My team is like my extended family, and who doesn’t go the extra mile to ensure that their family is secure?
Your favourite showstopper (Bollywood) on the runway?
Each showstopper who I’ve designed for has been special and unique in their own way. Be it a Shilpa Shetty, who I’ve been watching on the big screen ever since I was a child or a newcomer like Ananya Pandey - we aspire to create something fresh and different for each celebrity, making sure it matches their grace and personality. From Deepika Padukone to Alia Bhatt, I’ve had the best time creating outfits for each one of them.
A fashion mantra you always stand by
Design only what you believe in. If you design something that doesn’t bring out your belief and personality, you’re never going to do justice to it. What you create with joy is what’ll bring joy to others too.