Anita Dongre has made a mask inspired by the Pichhwai craft.
“I’ve been on a journey of introspection for a while now,” says Anita Dongre about her life in quarantine in her ‘Behind The Mask’ episode. “To simplify my life as much as possible, to spend more time at home, and to travel less frequently.”
Along with four other iconic designers, Dongre is part of Condé Nast India’s ‘Behind The Mask’, a first-of-its-kind campaign by Vogue, GQ, and Myntra, that is led by a five-part video series highlighting the work of Indian artisans and encouraging the wearing of masks. In the episodes, we go behind the ‘mask’ of each designer as they share their own personal journeys, life in quarantine, ways of supporting the artisans, and their hopes for a restored future. They also make a prototype face mask inspired by Indian art, crafts or culture, using whatever material they have lying around at home.
Dongre’s segment celebrates the ancient craft of Pichhwai, and a mask collection inspired by the prototype is available to buy on Myntra. All profits will be donated to GiveIndia, and reach NGOs across the country helping the Indian craftspeople.
In this story, we ‘unmask’ Anita Dongre, a name synonymous with handcrafted fashion.
#BehindTheMask: Anita Dongre
For over two decades, Anita Dongre has championed the skills and work of Indian craftspeople, and through her many labels, Dongre has highlighted the artistic diversity of the country. As COVID-19 continues to sweep through India, Dongre is acutely aware of how the pandemic is adversely affecting millions of craftspeople, their dreams, hopes and livelihoods.
The pandemic has led Dongre to reassess the rhythms of her own life too. For Dongre, a life lived harmoniously with nature is quite simple and beautiful. While her work schedule has been the same as before, she has been spending more time with her family at her Navi Mumbai home, which she shares with her son, daughter-in-law, younger sister Meena and her family, and the “cute little puppy”, Bella.
Dongre’s home is a paean to Indian art and culture. While building it with her sister, she was keen to include elements from Jaipur, a city that has been very dear to her. “The beauty of Jaipur has left a huge impression on everything that I do,” she says. “My entire childhood, my summer vacations were spent in that amazing city with my grandparents. My aunts there were always dressed beautifully and had a love of textiles and jewellery. I used to visit all the by-lanes of Jaipur bazaars with them.”
From the Tree of Life painting in the atrium by a Warli artist and the traditional Rajasthani Thikri boxes in the bathroom to the blue pottery of Jaipur and the block-printed bedsheet, linens and table mats, the house is mini museum of Indian craftsmanship. However, the centerpiece, and in her words the work of art she enjoys seeing every morning, is the Pichhwai wall panel, painted over months by the small Pichhwai artist community she collaborated with for her Pichhwai Collection 2019. It is from the timeless tradition of Pichhwai that she drew her inspiration to create a face mask that pays tribute to the Indian craftspeople.
A Pichhwai-inspired mask
Using a sketchbook, fabric, basic tools like needle, a salwar naada and pens, Dongre has made a mask inspired by the Pichhwai craft, which originated as a backdrop to the idol of Lord Krishna in the Nathdwara temple in Rajasthan. The mask depicts a leaf and a bird, hand-painted in green ink, and is made with organic kora cotton.
From its holy abode in Rajasthan to adorning a critical object that symbolizes human resilience today, the Pichhwai has come a long way. The craft will find a new expression in every age, but the need of the hour is to support those who are the bearers of the craft in this age. “I hope the consumer realises that she is very powerful,” she says. “And they can start supporting locally handmade crafts that are produced sustainably.”
Dongre hopes that post this crisis, fashion becomes more sustainable and more mindful of its impact. “We need to bring about a change in how we live personally and with the environment,” she says. “We must use this crisis to understand that we need to respect and live harmoniously with Mother Nature.”
Shop the masks inspired by Anita Dongre’s prototype on Myntra. All profits will be donated to GiveIndia, and will reach seven NGOs helping the pandemic-afflicted craftspeople.
The complete episode is on the Myntra app, and will be aired on TLC and TLC HD, and streamed on the Discovery+ platform.
‘Vogue + GQ x Myntra Behind the Mask’ is a social awareness and fundraising initiative helmed by a five-part remotely shot video series. Aired on TLC and TLC HD and available for streaming on Discovery+ and the Myntra app, the videos spotlight designers Tarun Tahiliani, Rahul Mishra, Gaurav Gupta, Anita Dongre and Manish Malhotra. The mask prototypes created by these designers in the videos have inspired a collection of masks that is available on Myntra. All profits will be donated to GiveIndia to help the kaarigars (craftspeople) affected by the pandemic.