Anaka Narayan, in conversation with Venkat Nilakantan, thinks back to the beginnings of her evolution in style, and the journey since.
‘Today fashion is more about your look rather than which designer label you are wearing. The way you put together stuff – you don’t have to wear expensive pieces to look interesting’
‘I derive a lot of inspiration from energy — interaction with other people, not just looking at them. I often think of personalities as a muse for me. I want to get into their mind’
What do you get when you throw an economics degree, a corporate career, a bright idea, and a childhood surrounded by Indian handmade textiles, into the mix? For Anaka it resulted in a roadmap for her business and the birth of a brand.
Early on, a six-year-old Anaka would make her hopscotch game special by playing it with her mother’s saris and dupattas laid out on the ground, in all their natural dyed, block printed and hand woven glory. She’d jump from colour to pattern, texture to weave, with little realisation of how this would stay with her in her creative journey.
As a young adult, Anaka moved to NYC to live and work there, in an economic analysis firm. She found her aesthetic sensibility caught somewhere between the fashionably tailored rigor of the NYC 9 to 5 corporate collective, and the explosion of irregularly unique hand processes on textiles during her visits back home. She was hard pressed to find a happy blend of the two, which is what
she was looking for.
Having identified this glaring gap in the market, it seemed worth pursuing, so she quit her job in NYC, made her way home, only to discover that it wasn’t going to be easy finding her feet in an industry she admittedly knew very little about.
She tried finding a job in fashion, and was rejected roundly — who would hire a fresher to fashion with a finance background? Undeterred, she decided the way to go was to partner with a designer, to create the brand. There was one small problem: she knew exactly what the product needed to be and couldn’t find a designer who’d interpret it right. It seemed like there was no way.
Till a friend suggested she stop looking outward and to others, and instead look inward, pick up a pencil, create a clothing line, and start up, solo. The rest, as they say, is history and hard graft.
Anaka’s personal reflection on her idea of style found a timely resonance in several women who felt like she did: why was it that handmade indigenous textiles ended up as either high-end, high-ticket, largely inaccessible fashion, or low quality, poorly made “ethnic” fare? Where was the middle ground? She felt she had the answer.
From her childhood hopscotch game to her working days in NYC, Anaka created a language for design-led, quality-driven, tradition-enhanced contemporary clothing.
Her style speak remains accessible too, and reflective of the zeitgeist of the bright, burgeoning space that women continue to occupy in India’s business and lifestyle choices.
All this, from an idea that just wouldn’t quit.
>> Next week: what’s up, Doc?
hair & make up support: Pinky Lohar, STYLESMITH