Anita Dongre: Queen of Prêt

“My strength is in the fact that we work as one person.”
~ Anita Dongre

Anita Dongre is not called the queen of prêt for nothing. In just two decades she has graduated from a tiny B2B (business-to-business) clothing supplier to having her own brands’ presence in 1,100 stores across India. From a standing start, her business today generates sales of Rs. 680 crore ($100 million). She has two stores in Mauritius and is the only Indian designer to have a store in New York. Right from the onset, she has been pushing the envelope and setting trends. At home she was the first woman in her family to work, and then in the fashion industry, she went against the tide by starting a ready-to-wear label before her signature label.

From prices to sizes and experimental collections, she has been disrupting the apparel scene since her entry in the 1990s. ‘Wearability’, she says, is the name of her game and she dared to showcase not so over-the-top, but wearable clothes even on the ramp.

Two decades on, her first apparel baby – AND and her second fusion wear label - Global Desi, together beat most domestic brands and boasted an estimated market share of 14% in India (FY16). Dongre’s brands are only bested by global brands like Zara (26%) and Vero Moda (20%).

House of Anita Dongre (HOAD), co-founded by Anita Dongre and her siblings, Mukesh Sawlani and Meena Sehra, is among the first fashion houses to go for private equity funding. The company received 573 lakhs (~$800,000) in 2008 for a 22.8% equity stake from Future Ventures. HOAD raised a further 100 crores (~$15 million) in 2013 from American private equity firm General Atlantic. That meant the company’s post-money valuation grew at a 109% CAGR from 2008 to 2013.

Anita wears only her own creations, which she purchases from her stores, and a tenacious woman, she dons several hats – that of a Chief Creative Director at House of Anita Dongre, who oversees all brands; designer of her signature brand having women, men, prêt, wedding couture and jewellery labels; and member of Lakme Fashion Week’s advisory board.

Lauded as much for her business acumen as her fashion sensibility, Mrs. Dongre has won several awards. She was listed among 50 Most Powerful Business Women in India by Fortune India magazine (2013) and Most Powerful Women in Indian Business by Business Today (2015). The trio turned vegetarian in college and in 2016 she bagged the PeTA award for being The Most Compassionate Designer in 2016. One of her labels ‘Grassroot’ is cruelty-free and uses natural fabrics.

A rare breed among designers, she boasts a following among royals, first women, movie stars and the masses alike. Kate Middleton wore her signature label in 2016, Queen Mathilde of Belgium in 2017, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and Hillary Clinton in 2018.

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In this case study we interviewed:

Anita Dongre, Founder, Chief Creative Director and Director, HOAD

Mukesh Sawlani, Founder, Managing Director and Director, HOAD

Namrata Shirodkar, Manager, Apparel, Anita Dongre Prêt, HOAD

Saumhil Parikh, Senior Manager, Customer Care, HOAD

Fashion columnist, Namrata Zakaria

Shivkumar Divakar, Group Manager External Brands, Pantaloons

Monika Gala, Assistant Manager, Ladies and Kids (External brands), Pantaloons

Shriya Aggarwal, customer and garment industry insider

Staff at several stores, insiders and customers