The most endearing dream of a lass of yore is to dress like Cinderella and go to the royal ball. The most enduring desire of a modern woman is to don pantsuits and break the glass ceiling. What if I said there is someone who can bridge the fantasy fare and the new-age lore with her impeccable designs crafted with fine Italian fabric, flawless French seams and some glitter for good measure?
Meet Alina Anwar, the lady who shapes chic evening gowns and cuts power outfits for Bollywood divas and Hollywood A-listers from her studio in Dubai that she set up in 2018 to launch her eponymous brand. In as little as five years, which also includes the two years of pandemic void in between, Anwar has built a portfolio that can be the envy of even the most established dressmakers in town.
Anwar’s rise from a starry-eyed designer to someone who now lands in tinseltown closets with stunning regularity is the stuff fairytales are made of. What began as a pursuit of passion for her is now a big-time obsession. From Mariah Carey to Malaika Arora — her portfolio is brimming with celebrity names and collections that travel across the world giving women of substance their ultimate sartorial realisation.
It is not often that one comes across people like Anwar who epitomise success as if they were born to find a place in the sun from the very outset. Her meteoric rise is not to be misunderstood as something that came easy, but it certainly was aided by Lady Luck and a ‘stubbornness’ that battled out the Corona years and prevailed to become a name to reckon with in the Dubai fashion landscape.
Anwar had an acute sense of style and eye for detail as a little girl. She was also very curious about what went into the process of making a dress, and often went to the tailors and witnessed them working with fabrics, beads and other embellishments that in the end materialised as beautiful garments.
Later, when she came of age, she Googled up designs that would make her stand out in a crowd and instructed her tailor to fashion her clothes based on them. “I always wanted to wear something that no one else wore and I was often complimented for my clothes when I was in college,” she says.
She studied business at the university, but soon realised that her heart lay in the fabrics and did a fashion designing course as a preparation for the dream launch of her brand. But nothing prepared her for what was to follow.
One and a half years into her business, the scourge of Covid struck. Her brand was young, but it was still making waves with some incredible celebrity placements, and the pandemic came as a blow to her emerging enterprise.
“There was a long period of inaction. I feared it might end my dream, but I was stubborn. I knew if I gave up at that point, I would never bounce back,” she says. Her resolve to strive through the lean period without putting her sketching tools down saw her come out of it with renewed enthusiasm and some incredible orders from abroad.
If her passion and perseverance helped her weather the storm that was the pandemic, it was clearly Lady Luck that gave her the much-vaunted space in the celebrity spectrum. One must give credit to the power of social media too in this enchanting breakthrough story.
It was with a surprise enquiry from Aishwarya Rai’s stylist, who saw Anwar’s dresses on Instagram that it all began. As unbelievable as it was for her, she dispatched three pieces that the stylist had requested for, only to learn later that Rai had not got an opportunity to use them. By dint of luck, the dresses went to Kareena Kapoor Khan, who took a fancy to them. Like in all success stories, where the first instance of kismet has a domino effect, Anwar found celebrities lining up to have a dekko at her collections.
“I started with designing evening gowns and knee-length dresses, but I soon began to get requests for pantsuits from celebrities. Especially, from the western world. I decided to give it a shot, but I wanted to do something different. That’s how I started playing with colours. My first piece was in red, and it was worn by actress, Yami Gautam,” Anwar reminisces.
The coloured pantsuit range that soon caught the sartorial imagination of the stars and the elite working women is her forte now. They are a class apart from the regular power dresses that come in standard shades, and they stand out with their simplicity and sophistication. They have given Anwar a distinct edge in the international market, and among the sterling names who have flaunted their flair in her unique suits are Kareena Kapoor Khan, Kajol, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Taapsee Pannu and Radhika Apte in this part of the globe and Annaleigh Ashford, Camille Vasquez, Lyndon Smith, and Victoria Monet on the other side. Adding glitz to the growing list of stars in her fold is the region’s favourite singer, Najwa Karam.
Is there any goosebump moment in her career, we ask her, to which she excitedly responds, “Yes, when Mariah Carey wore my dress for All I want for Christmas is you. It was a turning point in my career,” she says.
While it has been the highest point in Anwar’s career so far, her biggest dream is still elusive — that of dressing Beyonce. For her, it is the Holy Grail for any designer. She got very close to it when she had a chance to send some sketches and even a suit but did not land a placement. “I pray every day for my dream to come true,” says Anwar. While her piece de resistance might still be some distance away, she has touched milestones that are unimaginable for younger designers.
When Anwar set out on this journey, her only aim was to create ensembles that would be known for their class and quality. From that modest point to glamming up the who’s who across the world, she has come a long way.
Although Anwar now excels in dressing celebs, she breaks the myth that fashion is a highbrow thing. “Style is your silent story,” she says. “Fashion is all about a woman carrying off a costume with confidence. It depends on her personality and not on her looks, age or the trends.” It is a sublime statement that adds finesse to her winning couture.
The stupendous growth and glory Anwar has achieved in a short span seems to sparkle further when she says, “I don’t take success to the head or failure to the heart.” For someone who did not imagine that the path she treads would be gilded, it is a journey that will transcend boundaries and bring praise from all corners.
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