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Designers turn Dubai into powerhouse of Indian fashion

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(29 Jan 2018) LEADIN:
Indian fashion designers are carving out a niche for themselves in Dubai.
Two women have created brands which attract the biggest stars from their homeland as well as an international clientele.
Vivid colours, sparkling sequins and delicate beading – the hallmarks of Indian couture fashion.
But these gowns are not hanging in a boutique in Delhi – they are made and sold in Dubai.
The high-end fashion is the work of Anjali Khushlani, the founder and designer behind the brand Anjali K.
When she started her business six years ago she says there were few Indian couture designers in the UAE.
She says her customers wanted something that was “a notch higher” than the mass-produced Indian clothing available in Dubai.
“They want to find something different, and not to travel to India, to find bridal wear,” she says.
Khushlani is not the only designer with Indian heritage making a name for herself here.
Meher Mirchandani opened her fashion house 15 years ago.
She says Dubai lacks the traditional artisan skills of embroidery and hand weaving commonly found in Indian clothing, so her business has taken a different direction.
“That talent did not exist in Dubai. So we were always more Western than Indian but we had ethnic influences,” she says.
In the Anjali K workshop, the men are focused on delicately hand stitching large swathes of cloth.
Details like this are no doubt what appeal to Khushlani’s clients – she says most of them are Indian.
Mirchandani caters for a similar market – half her orders either come from India or from ex-pats now living in the UAE, but that still leaves a sizeable chunk of customers from the rest of the world.
Full of painstaking and intricate work, Anjali K pieces do not come cheap.
They start at around 1,600 US dollars and the price goes up according to the complexity of the design.
But that’s no barrier for India’s biggest celebrities.
Khushlani has dressed Bollywood star Sunny Leone, a massive coup for her label.
“I think people in India and all over the world if they would see a celebrity wearing something they want the same piece,” she says.
“So I think that’s such a big advantage for us that in fact when we dressed Sunny Leone, I remember the next day I had 100 emails.”
Mirchandani’s range sells Western style clothing for between 150 and 250 US dollars.
She too has a host of famous fans including American burlesque performer Dita Von Teese and the singer Jordin Sparks.
The designer believes the high calibre of Dubai’s fashion industry is what attracts well-known names.
“Stylists for these celebrities have sourced from the Indian designers (in Dubai) because of the work, because of the quality of the work,” she says.
“The same has happened with us. When the stylist was looking for Shilpa Shetty, she really liked our piece because it was so simple, the finishing was good, and it was on trend.”
These female fashion entrepreneurs are turning Dubai into a powerhouse of couture Indian design.

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