A fashion fairytale
Did you know that Firefly: A Fairytale, Ritu Beri’s autobiography, is one of the most expensive books to be sold? Priced at a lakh, it was launched in 2006. “Penguin had commissioned the autobiography. But I found what I wrote boring. So I reworked it, added cut-outs and pop-up elements to it. Penguin said it was too expensive for them to publish, so I went ahead and published 100 copies myself. I sold 85 copies and I kept the rest for the future,” says Beri.
Hosted by city-based designer Vivek Karunakaran, the session at The Hindu Lit for Life 2017, featuring Ritu Beri, titled ‘The Fire of a Restless Mind’, which is also the name of one of her books, had numerous interesting anecdotes. Karunakaran also conducted a short rapid fire round, where he asked her questions ranging from which celebrities need help with styling to what she does when she sees a friend badly dressed. Beri answered them in a gracefully diplomatic manner.
The articulate designer also took the audience through her first show in 1987 to her shows in Paris, 25 years in the industry, and her love for khadi, among other things. As someone preparing for medical entrance exams, a young Beri overheard a conversation about NIFT opening its campus in Delhi. She appeared for the exam and was one of 25 students chosen to attend the course. “I did my debut show at Lodhi Gardens. I didn’t want recorded music and approached Zakir Hussain, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Hariprasad Chaurasia to do the music. I became a household name with my first show,” she says.
Back in the day, not many were sure about what fashion designing really was. There wasn’t a reference point and she found it fun to experiment and pave her own path. She would spend hours in libraries going through numerous books on fashion — but it wasn’t the designers she was looking at but the embroidery on the clothes pictured in the books. And the books gave credit to one name — Francois Lesage.
“When I went to Paris, I made many calls to his office and his secretary would say he was busy. Finally, on the day I was leaving, I called again and Lesage answered. I told him I was dying to meet him and he said ‘Don’t die, come now.’ We spent an hour-and-a-half talking about fashion,” she says. And soon enough, he became her mentor. She determinedly pushed Indian fashion into the très chic Paris market.
Ahead of her first show in Paris in 1998, she told Lesage that she wasn’t sure what to do and his brief was ‘do what you wear.’ The clothes were Indian, the commentary was in Hindi, the models wore alta and walked barefeet.
Going by her love for all things Indian, Beri is now trying to promote khadi in a big way. It is the fabric of the moment. “I carry only khadi clothes as gifts when I’m travelling. I have French friends who’ve stepped into Khadi Gram Udyog, and stepped out with khadi clothes. Let’s support this national fabric,” she signs off.Read more at:formal dresses | cocktail dresses