Anju Modi is an oft-heard name in the Indian fashion landscape. A self-made woman showing no signs of slowing down. She has long been praised by the film fraternity for her exquisitely detailed costumes and film collaborations. With her intricate embroidery, opulent wedding couture and trailblazing concept collections. She flourished in a time when the Indian fashion landscape was barren. However, her contributions go beyond film and couture to the enrichment of the historical legacy of Indian fashion.
With her namesake label, she is one of the few designers who has significantly revived the traditional crafts of India. Since its establishment in 1990, each season Anju Modi has built collections around handicraft practices that need protection from extinction. While simultaneously working towards empowering local rural communities. Over several years, the designer researched and developed techniques of various crafts that were on the path to the disappearance.
She is also a fellow member of the Fashion Design Council of India, the country’s apex body of fashion design.
Her design philosophy can be summed up by the quote – “Design has no language.”
Since the inception of the label, Anju Modi has worked to develop new interpretations of traditional fabrics. With her advent into the world of fashion in the early 1990s, the designer engineered a novel blended fabric. It was crafted from an amalgamation of textiles in Varanasi, through a revival of the famous Zari textile. Made with real silver thread, the fabric in itself is a work of art.
After the stunning success of the blended fabric in Varanasi, Anju moved on to her next project. From 1993 to 1995 Anju shifted focus to the special tie and dye technique from Rajasthan called Bandhani. Introducing geometrical patterns and neutral colorways to the traditional textile. This unique interpretation paved the way for the Bandhani technique. The technique is used and accepted by other designers in their couture and ready-to-wear collections.
Recognizing the potential of crafts and textiles in the state. From 1995 to 1999 Anju nurtured even more crafts and textiles from the state of Rajasthan. She collaborated with local artisans, empowering and coaching them on the application of their craft in inventive ways. The designer fostered contemporary revivals of the Kota Doria fabrics, Sanganeri block printing techniques, and Bagru textile crafts.
The early 2000s saw her modernize the weaving technique of Chanderi by developing the lurex yarn weaving technique that improved patterns. Following this, the designer cultivated a new range of rich khadi for a line of modern luxury silhouettes through the development of a new slub-yarn technique
Anju Modi has prominently worked with various organizations and artisans to develop and revive a number of craft forms. One of these was the Kota Doria craft, under a cluster development program by UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation).
Modi’s collaborations haven’t only been limited to the development of crafts and textiles. Branching out, she aided a development center project. That takes a trans-disciplinary approach towards the improvement of the lives of craftsmen. In association with craftsvillage.org and FDCI, she provided them with design and product development education. Indeed, this isn’t just the end of it!
Behind the Collections: When Inspiration Strikes
One of the special fabrics woven by the designer, developed in Banaras for the ‘Neelambar’ 2016 collection. It signifies a blend of traditional knowledge with the touch of modernity. A simple yet beautifully constructed collection. Neelambar features organic elements set upon structural silhouettes with design details of spires and steeples. It is a tribute to India’s rich textile and architectural legacy, expressed through deep hues of blues, maroons, and creams.
‘Sunehri Kothi’ a collection inspired by Rajasthan and the miniature art adorning its royal palaces breathes life into forgotten stories of splendor. The intricate and detailed rush work, the colors handmade from minerals, indigo and conch shells. The precious stone embellishments along with pure gold and silver work in harmony. To take you back to a more traditional and simple conception of luxury.
A Maiden’s Prayer
In 2018, Anju Modi created a couture collection entitled ‘A Maiden’s Prayer’ that mixed Victorian aesthetics with Modi’s signature opulent traditional wear. The aesthetically pleasing art and architecture, classic literature, music, and ostentatious fashion is the inspirational force behind their Couture ’18 Collection. Modi covered lehengas with Victorian-Esque floral and filigree motifs and added sheer Victorian-style shawls to empire-waisted gowns in the one-of-a-kind collection.
‘Masakali’ is inspired by the architecture of the pink city. It was debuted as a Spring Summer collection for 2019. A collection that imbibes the aesthetic of raw, handcrafted, natural and homespun clothing, it is a celebration of women. It features summery fabrics, pastel tones and floral motifs, in-keeping with Modi’s love of nature.
In contrast to Masakali, ‘Japanese Boro’ stems from an admiration of the inventive sartorial technique. Inspired by the tradition of an inner, intuitive experience of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism, it is summer luxury pret at it’s finest.
Her most recent collection ‘Parnika’ is an all-white collection — serene, somber and stylish — metamorphosed by ethereal prints. Light and airy fabrics like cotton and silk mulmul act like a second skin making the collection everything your summer wardrobe needs!
Triumphs and Achievements
Anju Modi’s undeniable talent combined with the immense effort she puts into her label, along with a revolutionary philosophy of reviving traditional crafts and empowering craftsmen has led to her triumph. It comes as no shock that she has received prestigious awards and international recognition.
Internationally, the inventive range of woolen angrakha coats she created using the boiled wool technique was selected for presentation at Hyeres Fashion Festival in Paris and Miami Fashion Week.
Anju Modi has also been venerated in the film industry, with her work as an immaculate costume designer bagging several awards such as IIFA, TOIFA, Filmfare and many more for the movies ‘Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela’ and ‘Bajirao Mastani’.
She was nominated by Marie Claire for awards in ‘Best Craft Revival’ and ‘Best Indian Designer’ in 2008 and 2010 respectively. Acknowledged for her tremendous contribution to the Indian fashion industry she was also Honoured with PCJ Excellence Award and ELLE Style Award. In 2014 the Indian Council for UN Relations bestowed upon her the ‘Excellence in Fashion’ award.
It’s not just a name anymore! Anju Modi has become a shining beacon of inspiration and hope as a mentor for the future fashionistas and designers the world has yet to see!