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6 Contemporary Indian Women Designers Who Changed The Industry

Fashion, at its core, serves as both a reflection and a shaper of cultural narratives. Recognising iconic women designers demands examining the styles, trends and garments that can capture the essence of a particular moment in history

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Prof Usha Patel
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Prof. Usha Patel

Professor Usha Patel

Fashion, at its core, serves as both a reflection and a shaper of cultural narratives. Recognising iconic women designers in fashion, demands examining the styles, trends and garments that have the ability to capture the essence of a particular moment in history. Often moving beyond fleeting trends, these design creations become symbolic touchstones for eras and future designers, redefining cultural movements and influencing both collective and individual identities. 

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Noteworthy international examples include Coco Chanel's timeless little black dress, Levi's 501 jeans, the Burberry trench coat and the red-soled Christian Louboutin heels. Each of these iconic pieces has etched itself into the annals of fashion, not as a transient trend but as a marker of style and cultural significance.

Iconic Women Designers Who Changed Fashion Industry

When talking about iconic Indian fashion designers, several notable names emerge, each making a mark on the industry. The first name is Ritu Kumar, a veteran Indian fashion designer who pioneered a distinctly Indian aesthetic in the 1960s, ushering in Delhi's fashion scene. Apart from reviving dying crafts like chikankari and bandhani, she is the first designer to introduce the 'boutique' culture in India under the brand name 'Ritu.' 

A second name would be Anamika Khanna, known for her globally relevant fashion language—she was the first Indian designer to showcase at Paris Fashion Week. In her designs, she demonstrates an innovative reinterpretation of garments such as sarees with new draping styles, bridalwear with avant-garde elements like black and white collections and deconstructed dresses. 

In recent years, renowned as the “Queen of Prints,” Masaba Gupta has carved her niche by blending playfulness with heritage, featuring unconventional prints on feminine silhouettes. Gupta's bold contemporary approach, seen in collaborations with Netflix and Disney, crosses cultural boundaries, creating a unique pop-cultural style reference that has been widely celebrated.

Payal Singhal stands out as another iconic figure. Unlike many of her peers who specialise in bridalwear, Singhal's hallmark lies in versatile and comfortable occasion wear. Renowned for her prints and relaxed bohemian silhouettes, she brings dynamism to her designs by incorporating sheer overlays, fringe hems and distinctive tassels, which have extended their influence to menswear.

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Anita Dongre's fashion ethos centres on modern interpretations of Indian aesthetics across her diverse brands, prioritising comfort above all. What truly distinguishes her practice is her dedication to sustainability and community. Initiatives like Grassroots and collaboration with SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association) empower rural artisans, preserving dying crafts and promoting eco-friendly materials and water conservation in production.

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L to R) Anita Dongre, Masaba Gupta, Ritu Kumar 

While all of these women are prominent iconic fashion designers, I would like to put a special spotlight on the often-overlooked contributions and practices of designer Aneeth Arora. As the creative force behind the homegrown brand Pero, her standing is not solely based on her designs but prominently on her sustainable and ethical practices.

In an industry under scrutiny for its environmental impact, Arora pioneers the path of fashion design by prioritising sustainable and natural materials in Pero's collections, including organic cotton, handwoven khadi and eco-friendly dyes. These conscious choices reflect her clear intention to minimise environmental harm and her advocacy for responsible consumption practices.



While Arora's name might not resonate as loudly as other luxury brands, her designs possess a unique charm. With playful elements and unexpected details, they transcend transient trends, earning her international iconic status in Indian fashion. The bohemian staples crafted by Arora, balancing simplicity with complexity, subtly challenge the conventional boundaries between masculinity and femininity. Through her decisions in silhouettes, materials and staging, Pero has become a symbol of a freewheeling, romantic sartorial blend.

As we celebrate International Women's Day and reflect on the contributions of these iconic figures, the legacies created by these and many other iconic women beckon the industry to evolve. The lessons imparted—of rooting innovation with contextual traditions, prioritising sustainability and consciousness in practices and designs, and challenging established norms—serve as guideposts for a fashion future that is not only aesthetically rich but also socially, environmentally and culturally responsible.

In the wake of their influence, the lessons learned from these iconic women can pave the way for a more conscious future that reflects our collective values.

Prof. Usha Patel is Director of Academics, Indian Institute of Art & Design (IIAD) and views expressed by them are their own

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