Ritu Beri, a graduate of India’s National Institute of Fashion Technology, an affiliate of New York’s F.I. T., is one of the foremost fashion designers of India. A protégé of master embroiderer Francois Lesage, Ritu launched her own fashion label in India 16 years ago to rave reviews that haven’t stopped since. Since then, she has dressed Hindi movie superstars such as Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, and also includes former President Bill Clinton and Hollywood actresses Nicole Kidman and Andie McDowell on her client roster. After successful international showings in Beijing, Morocco, New York and Washington, Ritu was India’s first designer to show her luxe collection in Paris in 1998. Considered one of the 50 most important people in India, Ritu Beri is down-to-earth, very approachable and a pleasure to chat with. Ritu took some time to chat with Nirvana Woman this summer. Here are some her thoughts.
How do you think your style differs from other designers in India and abroad?
My designs represent my journey as a human being, of all the influences I have had in my life—and most importantly, India and its cultural heritage. I then interpret this in my clothes.
How has designing changed for you since when you started?
The Indian fashion industry has undergone a tremendous metamorphosis. Fashion was only a diversion for a small elite. Initially, fashion was more to do with ritual dressing, like a wedding (or) festival. But now it’s more about being well dressed all the time.
Where do you go for your inspiration?
I believe that every new day comes with new ideas, aspirations and dreams. I take inspiration from life and things/people around me, and like any other form of art, it requires (a large) amount of research…and it’s a constant conquest to achieve something beyond the ordinary.
Which of your designs are you immensely proud of?
I am proud of all my designs. But my first line, which I showcased at my graduation, called „The Maharanis of India,“ has been my favorite collection so far, for sentimental reasons. Another collection which is very close to my heart is the one I showcased at the Buddha Bar in Paris. But my favorite is my last collection I presented at the Lido in Paris.
How did you get into designing?
I come from a defense background [Ritu’s father was in the Indian army]. Army parties are very formal, structured and British in their approach to dressing. The environment encourages you to be fastidious about your appearance. My mother is beautiful and stunningly dressed. I remember as a child, she lit up the army evenings with not just her looks, but also (with) her intrinsic style. I always loved to watch her dressing up. Her pastel chiffons floated around her, and her (elegant) pearls and diamonds were her trademarks. My father, too, is an immaculate dresser and has a great sense of color. With such fine examples, I had to be influenced, and I ended up wanting to dress up everyone like that.
How have Indian designers moved up in international fashion?
Indian designers are at a nascent stage as far as the international market is concerned. The fashion design industry in India is only about two decades old, (and) we have achieved quite a lot in such a short time. Our designers are constantly showcasing in various fashion capitals of the world, but for a designer to be taken seriously in the international market, he/she should be consistent in showcasing the collection and be around each season.
Who are your favorite celebrity clients?
Rekha (the Bollywood actress) is my favorite celebrity client—she is a true style icon.
What advice would you give upcoming designers?
My only advice would be: Make the best use of all the opportunities that come your way and learn as much as much as you can. But always be original.
What role do accessories carry in fashion creation?
Ritu Beri Design carries a lot of accessories. I believe fashion is not just restricted to clothes. It goes deeper into beauty, hair, footwear and accessories. Accessories add that extra dash of confidence that reflects on the personality and which I think is more important than just a beautiful outfit.
Your work has moved from couture to interiors and lifestyle designs. What are your future plans?
After being in the fashion industry for over 16 years now and having showcased my collection in almost all the major fashion capitals of the world, I want to take fashion beyond clothes and accessories into everyday life. „FireFly“ was my first step in that direction, and I am working on some more things, (which) I shall be sharing with you soon.
What advice would you give to the Nirvana Woman, someone living outside of India, but with tastes in the eclectic and chic, as high-end couture?
I believe that one should always dress to feel yourself. The outfit should make you feel comfortable and reflect your personality. One’s own style is very important. The dress for this season is intimate, personal and real.