March 28, 2015 Asmita Aggarwal

Jahan At her Feet

Anupama raises the flag for subtle feminism, as roses and tulips create floral splendour in a line that pays homage to Mehrunnisa’s fortitude

By Asmita Aggarwal


She was reading Feast of Roses by Indu Sundaresan, when moved by a Persian beauty’s story of strength and femininity, decided to pay homage to the cerebral rather than maternal in her aut-winter line ‘Jamali-Kamali’. Jahangir had married Mehrunnisa in the 17 century, rechristened her Nur Jahan. “What fascinated me was woman power, she uses her charms to fully reign in the king, although she is part of his harem and mostly in a veil. Her lust for administrative prowess shows that women can achieve almost anything— with Nur ending up with coins in her name despite a tumultuous journey she faces in a patriarchal system,” says Anupama.


The need for independence, is mostly considered unwomanly, but Anupama terms this as a shining example of how a Persian refugee’s daughter had Jahangir under her spell. “This for me is real feminism, as it is inclusive, it is not narrowed down to an aggressive movement, but it declares subtle control,” she explains.

It is this fortitude that she attempts to address in her dressing, whether it is employing local women around her factory in tassel making (as printing is dominated by men) or Phulia weaves back in Bengal, from where she sources the fabric. Though there is an ongoing fascination with Delhi’s monuments and Jamali-Kamali seems to be in the series of her 2013 line Ishq-e-Dilli, with the former taking the lead with its heady interpretation of Mughal motifs and monuments.


The line is a mix of two worlds, with Jamali, nuanced Indian, and Kamali, a modern rendition, both infused with Sufi undertones. “I have my signature colourways, which are intense and saturated, however I stuck to pastels with a ‘70s bohemia influence,” she smiles.

‘70s or the era that marked freedom of thought and spirit was characterised by fluid silhouettes, flowers and a certain down-to-earthiness, which has ingeniously found a way into women’s wardrobes, this season. Though there has been a rekindling of designer interest in the country with broader categorisation now available—from resort/cruise, to weddings, corporate and casual. “So 11 years back when I started, it was limiting, and there was this awestruck mesmerisation with Western brands, that has mellowed now. I run my company like a business house, so I must meet deadlines. I try to control the printing in house and keep the sourcing of weaves to Bengal, with a lower dependence on them, to make deliveries on schedule. That doesn’t dissuade me from incorporating them—Tant and cotton have been a constant, and all have been layered and textured to add a novelty, so textiles, I would say have been omnipresent,” she confesses.


Aut-Winter 2015 will also have wool, raw silk and dupion, to keep it light-footed; she has revved it up with a riot of printed and embroidered carnations and tulips along with agile roses on saris, capes, to harem pants and scarves. Anupama being self-taught has never felt she is not technically equipped to handle proportion; rather it has made her ‘hungry for knowledge’. “I think the best way to learn is on the job, you make mistakes and get armed to handle the next crisis deftly,” she concludes.

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