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Anita Dongre on launching a line of vegan luxury accessories

In an interview with Lounge, the designer talks about the new collection and what took her so long to be part of the accessories space

The Haathi belt by Anita Dongre
The Haathi belt by Anita Dongre

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The accessories market in the country is getting hot. More luxury and fashion brands are looking beyond just creating garments, offering the consumer an opportunity to wear the brand in different shapes and sizes, from home decor, bags, belts, footwear and other accessories.

Anita Dongre is the latest one to enter the space, with a difference. The designer is offering a line of plant-based vegan luxury handbags and belts, a space not yet crowded.

The label claims the material used in the collection is 100% natural, 0% plastic and cruelty free. It is also 100% recyclable and bio-neutral, it adds. Five per cent of proceeds from the line will be donated to the India Animal Fund.

Also read: World Vegan Month: products made of mushrooms, cacti and coffee

In an interview with Lounge, Dongre talks about the new collection, the inspiration behind it and future plans. Edited excerpts:

Anita Dongre
Anita Dongre

Could you talk about the collection, the design inspiration behind it and how it takes the style vocabulary of your brand forward?

This collection is inspired by nature, my eternal muse. The Swan mini grab bag draws from a swan’s graceful silhouettes; the Birds of a Feather crossbody bag borrows bird motifs that you see across my collections; the Haathi belt is highlighted by my favourite, the elephant. Every piece in this line of accessories is an elegant statement in conscious luxury living.

We have always stood for handcrafted luxury while being mindful of the purpose it serves. These same principles extend into this collection of conscious, plastic-free, vegan accessories. While the shapes these bags take are fun, they are also functionaL–a design approach that extends across all Anita Dongre products. Our brand philosophies go into everything from product to packaging and beyond.

Could you explain the products that you have used to make the vegan collection?

We have been looking for a leather replacement for the longest that is cruelty-free and kind to the environment. With MIRUM® we found a partner who creates this beautiful material that mimics the touch, feel and age of leather without the cruelty. It does this without the use of plastic, a material that has been a constant in vegan leather but is so bad for the planet. Material science is a field of research that is constantly innovating but requires patience. We’ve gone through various rounds of sampling for over 18 months to achieve this product.

There was so much we wanted to create but working with sustainable materials comes with constraints. For instance, the material is currently available in limited colours. This collection has only classic black pieces. Even today, we are in the midst of sampling various other materials and while it’s a tedious and slow process, we wouldn’t do it any other way. Women today need to express their authentic selves and carrying a bag that reflects their core philosophies is important.

What prompted you to start this range?

My personal philosophy is to live a mindful life with kindness. As a company this is rejecting anything that causes animals pain and suffering for the sake of fashion. I have never been able to create a line of accessories that uses leather for this reason and yet dreamed of the possibilities. Now that material sciences are beginning to make breakthroughs in creating a leather replacement that is cruelty-free and kind to the environment, I was finally able to bring this vision to life.

Will you be expanding further in the accessories space going forward?

My vision is only restricted by the ethical material we currently have in the world.

India wasn’t always recognised for its accessories market, but things are changing now. What do you believe has brought the change?

Across international brands, a significant percentage of revenue is made from the accessories business. With the growth of homegrown brands and proof of Indian fashion as a viable investment, the same principles that have worked in the West (in terms of financial modelling) are finding their way to India.

Conversely, this boom in purchase has led to Indian brands gaining global recognition and Indian designers setting up successful stores internationally. India is now a focus market in the fashion industry extending to accessories.

Also read: Can vegan leather be a responsible alternative to cruelty?

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