An ode to our biggest fans

This Mother’s Day, we bring together six fashion designers to style their mums in their signature pieces, as photographer Dolly Devi captures a series of endearing portraits.

They are our closest confidantes and the ever-present guardians, quietly soldiering along with us through every hurdle life throws at us. Our mothers are where we begin and the bedrock that we build the rest of our world on. 

To mark this Mother’s Day, we reached out to some of our favourite fashion designers to style their mothers in an ensemble of their own. For each of these six stunning women, the collaboration was their first photoshoot, as they let down their guards, embraced the camera and stood tall and proud in a garment imagined by their kids. Later, in a candid conversation, they give us a glimpse of their take on fashion and meander through fond memories of their children who are now, in themselves, forces to reckon with.

Neelam Khosla, Medha Khosla’s mother

We are a family of doctors, IT professionals and economics scholars, so Medha was always a league apart from the rest of us. Initially, we struggled to understand the relevance of design, since none of us had a creative streak. My elder daughter would often take a playful dig at Medha, calling her a to-be glorified darjee (tailor). But we never hesitated in supporting her to pursue her dreams because we all knew she is special.

In terms of contribution, her father played a pivotal role in Anomaly’s journey. I’m a doctor; creativity wasn’t my strong suit, and I didn’t have a strong business acumen. Her father helped her out with the business aspect of it and has been her adviser through it all, encouraging her to reach out to people and share her work with the world. I am the quiet bystander who now enjoys the benefits of their efforts! I wear Anomaly on a daily basis, and it feels like second skin. I define the label as ‘understated elegance’. Simplicity and minimalism is Medha’s forte and the practicality of her clothes is what I admire the most. Donning an Anomaly dress always puts a smile on my face and adds a spring in my step because I feel extremely proud wearing something made by my daughter. 

Jyoti Tula, Kriti Tula’s mother

When I look back at Kriti’s childhood, what stands out is her unwavering determination about what she wanted to do with her life. Since 8th grade, she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. In 2012, she conceptualized her debut collection, following which she bagged a scholarship for a Masters programme in London College of Fashion. When she came back to India in 2014, she kickstarted Doodlage. The biggest hurdle we overcame together was to make people understand the value of upcycled fashion. India wasn’t quite ready to recognise the value of turning mounds of discarded textile by large manufacturers and export houses into thoughtful, wearable garments that your skin can breathe in. I pitch in my two cents by helping out the artisans with embroidery and patchwork in every collection. I love working at the studio, sharing ideas with Kriti and the karigars and watching every little lost scrap of fabric come together to form something new.

She started the label with four artisans, which has now grown leaps and bounds into a 21-member-team. What never fails to touch my heart is the sensitivity with which she manages her team and her resolve to leave the world a better place than she found it. The experience of my first photo shoot in a Doodlage dress is priceless! Every birthday, I get a customised piece and I feel like a kid every time, giddy with excitement. It is probably then that I realise that our roles have now truly reversed. Years of taking care of her and nurturing her ideas has led to her taking care of me now.

Dhruv Kapoor
Jyoti Kapoor, Dhruv Kapoor’s mother

Dhruv has always been a creative individual. Initially, I was a little skeptical about him taking up fashion design as his vocation, but his commitment to the idea banished all my doubts. As parents, we had faith in Dhruv seeing his focus in his aspiration of becoming a designer. So we dreamt along with him. As a designer, Dhruv is very courageous. What appeals to me most is the wearability of his garments and their intrinsic clarity. Anyone dressed in a Dhruv Kapoor ensemble looks sharp and powerful.

Four years ago, he offered me the position of the Manager of his label when he set up Dhruv Kapoor. This was one of the biggest gifts he could have given me, by showing some faith in me to join him in achieving his dream. For me, the biggest challenge was balancing my professional and personal life. The most rewarding aspect of working together is that I discovered my own potential to manage the entire brand. I will always be grateful to Dhruv for making me feel proud of myself. It’s a major boost for a woman to feel she is worthwhile even after she turns 50. The most challenging part of it is to always remember he is the Boss. It’s been a truly humbling experience so far.

Rekha Misra, Sohaya Misra’s mother

Sohaya has always been very opinionated about clothes and what she wanted to wear even when she was a kid. We live a close-knit community of friends who are artists, poets, writers and singers, and these interactions and exposure chiseled Sohaya’s creative side from an age when she was very impressionable. However, design was not always on the cards for her. While she was pursuing psychology in college, Manisha Koirala, who is a close friend of ours, asked her to design the wardrobe for Mann. That defined a moment when she realised she was interested in fashion and the process of putting something together. Her dream of creating something on her own led her to Chola.

The thing about her clothes that resonates with me is its transitionality - it is comfort wear with an edge, and meant for women of all ages. While building Chola, I helped her with the legalities and the operations aspect of setting up the business. When I traveled around India for work, I would pick up fabrics from different corners of the country for her. Amidst all of the time we spent together nurturing this label, we have become best friends and partners-in-crime. That is what I cherish the most about our relationship today.

Rimzim Dadu
Madhu Dadu, Rimzim Dadu’s mother

I can trace Rimzim’s creative journey right back to the balmy afternoons she spent filling up her sketchbooks with drawings. My husband owns a garment export business, so Rimzim spent much of her childhood around fabrics, yarns and clothes. Our factory is in the basement of our house, and she would spend hours after school watching people cut, sew and embroider. Her grandmother also had a very nifty skill. She would turn discarded scraps of cloth into beautiful quilts and carpets. All of this piqued her interest in textiles.

My role in her journey was that of a sounding board. She would come to me with her ideas, we’d mull them over and I’d share my thoughts. She is not a cut-and-sew designer, her craft is all about creating experimental textiles and surfaces. The way her mind functions is almost always unfathomable to me - be it creating saris out of plastic wires treated to look like metal or charring sequins and then stitching them together to form a bodice. What makes Rimzim stand apart in the fashion industry is her originality. The Rimzim Dadu saris I own are the most prized possession in my wardrobe. Having said that, what makes me really proud is not just her creativity but her humility as well. It is a delight to have a daughter who is so kind and whose mind is so unlike my own.

Kanika Goyal
Lata Goyal, Kanika Goyal’s mother

I come from a very small town called Jagraon in Punjab. So growing up, I had almost no exposure to the world of design and fashion. My understanding of the disciplines was really sketchy, although I always nurtured a keen interest in clothes. My parents were very liberal, and they never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do. So I wanted to pass on that freedom to my daughter as well. While in Parsons School of Design, Kanika began working with Bibhu Mohapatra. I always go back to the moment when Bibhu invited me to a show of his to illustrate Kanika’s contribution to the collection. I don’t think I’d ever been so proud of her and little did I know, a few years down the line, I would be in a front row seat of her own show.

A key memory of her creative journey was when I chanced upon a moleskine diary of hers where she had sketched the identity ideas for her own line. At that moment, I knew nothing about her plans of launching a label. But I did know that once she puts her mind to something, she never backs down. Twice a year, I arrange an exhibition of her garments at home, and it’s always a full-house affair! When I look back, I realise I have learnt many things from her. Kanika has made me an opinionated and educated woman, and gives me an opportunity to further my horizons and to appreciate how far I’ve come along with her.

Concept: Ritupriya Basu
Photographer: Dolly Devi
Contributing Designers: Medha Khosla + Kriti Tula + Dhruv Kapoor + Sohaya Misra + Rimzim Dadu + Kanika Goyal

This story was originally curated and produced by Design Fabric.

Ritupriya Basu