Anushe Pirani

The idea and its representation existed on two different planes.

What keeps the designer Anushé Pirani up and thinking all night is not so much ideas, but the form that they will take, the elements that need to be gathered to express them, and the ways in which she can convey those ideas to those whom she clothes. For instance, would graffiti be more suited to expressing the myriad moods of a person, or would checks and stripes? And when that’s done, what efforts would it take to reproduce the design on multiple canvases? For Anushé, the idea itself is whimsical and comes from her sense of quiet and reticent observation. As a child Anushé heard stories from her mother about her grandmother, who, like her daughter later, also used to work on a sewing machine. 

Anushé’s grandmother was born in erstwhile Madras but shifted to Karachi, and found herself–like fourteen million other people–making a journey to new India. Perhaps, being a child of The Partition, sewing became her way to deal with the individual trauma of a collective past– Anushé’s grandmother still makes alterations on a vintage black machine, she also knits. Anushé remembers a sweater that her mother made for her sister and was passed down to Anushé–“it was a grey coloured sweater, completely hand knitted” she said, remembering it fondly. She would hover around her mother in her knitting and sewing and sometimes make alterations herself. Just as it was for the mother, so it was true for her daughter; pedalling and stitching became therapeutic.

In 2017, having had only a little training in design, Pirani started designing her first collections, learning as she went along. Mistakes were made but not repeated. She learnt that one has to be careful to test something before putting it out. “I don’t share my ideas till I’m absolutely sure,” she admitted. Though, this hasn’t stopped her from  having spontaneous ideas. They come to her in her reveries–like geometrical shapes popping into her head like the many stars in the sky. These ideas are immortalised in her diaries, which she has continued to maintain over the years. Geometry, in fact, gave birth to “Recurring Dream”–a plentiful collection that displays her obsession with block prints. 

On other occasions, she chooses a different mode of creation. Documenting her process through and through, she ventures into the streets and lanes of Bombay, looking for inspiration in the city where she lives. In this mode, she’s an observer par excellence. She recounts going to Fort and observing the Art Deco there – where the tiles and the arches stood out, and the designs of the borders and windows left a lasting impression. 

A strong detractor of fads, she kicks the trend to find something worth gathering from her city. So, in Recurring, we see the regular Jaipur block prints rejected for block prints sourced from the city itself. The experience of being a keen observer and the quietness of her childhood led her to find pathways that run against the grain, but at the same time balanced.  She enjoys working within the constraints of the material, making sure her ideas agree with it, even if things don't turn out to be the way they were visualised in her diaries. In “Of Myriad Minds” the idea of emotions was close to her, but the drawing board became a place where Anushé wrestled with something beyond just a pure idea. The idea and its representation existed on two different planes. While she could dream endlessly about the perfect representation of ideas  she knew that representation is always in a tussle with symbols, motifs and materials that already exist. This is how the contemporary meets the traditional in an Anushé Pirani collection. 

As of today, her small team consists of ten members, each with specific roles. They produce two full-fledged collections and one capsule collection every year, with a production cycle that spans six months, from ideation to execution. In the hullabaloo of trends, sustainability is never lost on her. Besides working with local artisans when possible, she tries to source natural dyes for fabrics, which have colour and upkeep limitations when compared to chemical dyes. 

While most of Anushé Pirani’s collection is available online, one can also find her creations in stores. Pirani is also known to occasionally participate in pop-ups which, she says, allows her to engage with customers and understand them better.


Minimalism Par Excellence

Explore these minimalist khaki and cream co-ord sets from Anushé Pirani.

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