'Everything is AK-OK'

Anamika Khanna is bringing boss-girl energy into her ready-to-wear label

kapoor khanna Designer Anamika Khanna with Shanaya Kapoor and Mira Rajput Kapoor

It's 1pm on Saturday afternoon and Anamika Khanna has just landed in Jaipur for a private commitment. The night before she showcased yet another widely awaited collection for AK-OK, her two-year-old luxe ready-to-wear label, at the Lakme X FDCI Fashion Week in Mumbai. Post show, she took her family and some friends to Yauatcha, the famous Chinese restaurant in the area and went to bed for an hour or two only around 3am.

"I am sleepless, but let's talk," she says, while waiting by the conveyor belt at Jaipur airport, exemplifying the working girl ethic that has made her one of the more successful female fashion designers today. 

Her collection was an extension of the queen energy Khanna, in her early 50s, exudes. Easy separates that marry craft and contemporary wear, and can breeze from day to after hours with great ease. With white as a base, in signature AK-OK mold, fluid shapes in shirts, soft trousers, skirts, kaftans and dresses are digitally printed, and teamed with extensive handcrafted motifs, appliques, beads and embroideries that hark back to India's tribal roots. Rich with detail, even denim jeans are reimagined as DIY couture. Everything goes with everything.

"Like every collection of AK-OK, the process comes straight from my heart. One goes through various moods, and this started with a conversation with a biker friend. My clothes speak of freedom, and this was the freedom of a tribal to go into a city. Or what a woman from India would take with her when she steps out into the world. So, yeah, there are a lot of filters, but fluidity and versatility remain my constants. Effortless and ease are always the key words, these are women who are not restricted by any boundaries, not age, nor geography," she says. 

The metal studs are made of coins or tikkis. Zardozi shows up instead of spikes. "We have amalgamated many elements and let them all get along," There are boots withe everything.

LFW 2024

AK-OK was born a little over two years ago, a result of a 60:40 partnership with Reliance Brands. When fashion weeks were founded in India 24 years ago, bridal designers such as Anamika Khanna and her contemporaries Tarun Tahiliani, JJ Valaya, Suneet Varma and others dreamed of corporate partnerships to give their businesses size and scale and dress up more of India, and not just brides. That dream is now becoming a reality.

"When we launched AK-OK, we wanted to create a brand out of India that had no boundaries and no definitions. We can't reference it, it's a plethora of many things for many people," Khanna avers. The name was born when Khanna was hospitalised a few years ago, and was being cheered on by her sons Viraj and Vishesh. They told her everything would be "OK...AK OK".

Untitled design - 1

From being a leading couture label that has its own cult following -- that includes tastemakers like Sonam Kapoor, Masaba Gupta and Tina Tahiliani Parikh -- to ruling the ready-to-wear shelves now, Anamika Khanna is straddling both stools with great ease. "I don't resonate with words like leading and cult, I am just happy that my brand has a language that a lot of people love. We stand for new ideas and new thoughts, and we believe in courage," she says.

The boss-girl vibe comes with a lot of balancing between work and family for the average Indian woman. "I start my day very early, I need my time alone to gather myself and my thoughts. Then the domestic pottering around takes over. Then I do 10 days' work in one day. I am a little more organised now, I follow a calendar, but I can't escape the chaos. So yes, it's a non stop day. But I am older and my twins are older, so I am trying to find some calm in the chaos too."

The twins are 28 and work with their mother. Vishesh heads the menswear of the brands, while Viraj handles the accounts, negotiations and logistics, and is also an independent artist whose work shows up in the couture garments too. "We have so much respect for each other, so despite our different working styles we can only learn from each other," the proud mother says.

Khanna says India's RTW market is in a great place right now. "Five years from one can see where one stands. Brands that stand for quality, depth, risk capacity, and even a propensity to kill oneself working, these are the brands that will survive. The wheat will be separated from the chaff, either you stand out or you will be lost," she prophephises.

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp

*Articles appearing as INFOCUS/THE WEEK FOCUS are marketing initiatives