Founders | Women Series | Anavila Misra
Women series is a monthly edit to explore creative entrepreneurship amongst women globally. Through this series, we wish to understand creative journeys, challenges, inspirations and develop a community. This month we interviewed Anavila Misra, A fashion designer from India.
Tell me about how your creative journey started. Did you have creative influences growing up? What education/ training did you receive?
Design and textiles have always been something I had been interested in from early childhood. My sister and I used to play dress-up, for which my mother generously lent us her saris. I always had a keen interest in design which manifested in many ways through my childhood. I used to design clothes for myself and my dolls. Under the guidance of my mother I learnt embroidery, knitting, sewing and painting at home. My father’s love for everything natural and our well-kept garden and kitchen gardens have a strong role to play in my love for nature and all things raw and organic. So choosing my path was quite easy, thanks to the support and encouragement I got at home. After finishing my undergraduate diploma in business management I did my post-graduation in knitwear design from NIFT Delhi and graduated in 2000. I worked for corporate's like Madura garments and ITC as an assistant designer, and then began working on a craft cluster development project, in 2004, for NIFT in association with the Ministry of Rural Development. During this time, I traveled the length and breadth of these rural craft clusters and that’s when I saw the immense possibility they held. I feel the BBA hons gave me a base to organize my work in a certain way and a firm grounding on how to look at the business side of things. It helped me structure and plan my time and work. We even created a brand and store under the project.
What has been the source of inspiration for you (people, travel, places, cultures etc)?
The SGSY, craft cluster development project with NIFT and ministry of rural development was something that paved the way to my creating my brand "Anavila". Travel of course has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. During the three year tenure I traveled across the rural clusters of the country, meeting artisans, spending time with them and going through their product cycles and processes. It gave a different perspective to my understanding of the made in India, handmade and handcrafted culture and opened up my mind to the immense possibilities of working with Indian textiles. It slowly started defining my work, the personality of my brand and the broad framework in which I wanted to work. Overall, it was a slow process.
Can you also talk about your experience of working in The Textile and fashion industry in India? Do you think your cultural identity brought influences at work? How does a sari fit into this intersection of culture and fashion?
I had a mixed cultural value system at home which lead to recognition and acceptance. It also made the house hold very open minded and forward looking.
Comfort and ease were the major influencers and I feel my endevour to simplify the sari and make it an easy option must have stemmed out of there. Sari as an attire has stood the test of time. It has evolved with the changing times and found its place in Indian fashion and tradition. Its the only textile which has independently evolved and found expression in different parts of India keeping the heritage but evolving yet the same.
What is the step forward for your brand? Would you like to share any? Could you comment about 'being a creative soul' and how does travel facilitate your ideas?
Anavila is a journey that will evolve by staying true to its core and its ethos and women will join this journey. Urban fashion or the lack of it is cyclical and as a brand we will continue to be relevant to our consumers. Our extension into other women categories is a reflection of it, not only from a sari garment evolution but also our home line. Our homes are ultimately the extension of our own selves. So I think it’s the journey that I enjoy and will continue to evolve. We recently introduced a handmade dolls and toy collection called "Busa and friends", which is doing really well. On the brand front we want to start working closely with our environment to ask questions and find solutions, as such creating sustainable livelihoods. These are abstract dreams. I love design and I love to create. The entire process gives me a high and keeps me going. Travel is the best teacher, looking at nature and what it has created makes you appreciate life. Moving around places with different religion, cultures and sub-cultures with different ethnicities open up my mind to various possibilities.
Could you comment on the current landscape of independent artists/designers and how brands are more open to experimentation? Could you share any experience/ story with us of working with artisans? Any challenges of a woman entrepreneur?
India currently is going through a very exciting time. We have found our own voice and are confidently finding artistic expressions. The design landscape is full of young designers eager to work with Indian craft and textile heritage and create beautiful products which are true representation of the unique skill set of our artisans and weavers. This is resulting in unique products with inherent USP. I create for women, the ethos of what you create is what you wear comes naturally to women. Also from an expression point of view I have always found the kind of work I do is far more dexterously done when it comes to women artisans. I think the challenge lies in balancing your home, children and work and as creators you want to fully participate in all aspects of your life.