Nandita Mahtani celebrates two decades in fashion with her latest collection, 'Reflect'

A peek into Mahtani's iconic 20-year fashion legacy.

Harper's Bazaar India

For two decades, renowned celebrity designer Nandita Mahtani has navigated the ever-evolving fashion landscape with grace and vision. Celebrating 20 years in the fashion fraternity, the designer recently launched her new collection, ‘Reflect’, a testament to the luxury and refinement that the label stands for.

From redefining resort wear to venturing into the fast-paced world of motorsports-inspired luxury, Nandita Mahtani has proven herself to be a visionary designer. Over the years she has closely worked with and designed for various notable personalities, from sportspersons like Virat Kohli to Bollywood luminaries like Karan Johar and Farah Khan.

This year, the designer marked her 20th anniversary in the fashion industry with a star-studded fashion show, at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, for her latest collection, 'Reflect'  where Karan Johar graced the ramp as the showstopper, honouring the longstanding association and friendship he shares with the designer

“I have known Nandita for decades now, and walking today is not just about fashion, it’s about friendship, love, and a retrospective reflection of the past. The first time I ever walked on the ramp was for Nandi (Nandita), and this time around it's equally special!” said Karan Johar.

Supporting the designer and gracing the event were many a Bollywood star who work closely with her. This included Raveena Tandon, Sunny Leone, Shibani Dandekar Akhtar, Anaita Shroff Adajania, Deanne Pandey, Bhavna Pandey, Ahaan Panday, Tania Shroff, Anu & Sanjay Hinduja, Renu Chainani, and Tara Sharma, who were all dressed in the Nandita Mahtani Label. Several other notable celebrities, models, and social media personalities including Orry, Dino Morea, Ali Goni, Fardeen Khan, Neelam Kothari Soni, and Geeta Basra also graced the red carpet and the fashion show.

“'Reflect' is more than just a collection; it is a heartfelt journey through two decades of creativity and evolution, and I am grateful for all the support. 'Reflect' is a collection woven together with cherished moments and lessons learned, and it’s a fusion between nostalgia and innovation! While I cherish my journey of 20 years, I am excited to see what lies ahead in the years to come,” said Mahtani.

In an exclusive interview with Harper's Bazaar India, Mahtani shares her journey over the decades and what's in store for the brand. 

Harper’s Bazaar: What has been the most significant evolution you've witnessed in the industry, and how have you and your brand adapted to it?

Nandita Mahtani: Having been a resortwear designer for over two decades, I've witnessed the industry's evolution from being dotted with a few niche labels to a being a diverse space flooded with brands. While the last 20 years brought in many competitors, the exclusive domain of cocktail resortwear remains the terrain of just a few. In recent years, the fashion landscape has embraced inclusivity, diversity, and has moved towards genderless, non-binary, and size-free expressions. This societal shift excites me as a designer, driving my commitment to creations that resonate with a broad and inclusive audience. I'm eager to explore the evolving intersection of resort wear with these transformative themes and create designs that reflect the tapestry of our society.

HB: What are the core elements of your signature style, and how do you ensure they remain relevant across seasons and trends?

NM: In my approach to design, a crucial consideration is crafting pieces that embrace timelessness. Ensuring that our creations remain relevant year-round is fundamental as our clientele jet off for holidays throughout the year. I believe in the concept of all-year wearability, where each garment seamlessly transitions from day to night. For us, it's not just about fashion, it's about creating classics that exude femininity and poise. The emphasis on repeat value and re-wearability underscores our commitment to producing pieces that are beyond seasonal whims and are cherished staples in the wardrobes of those who appreciate enduring style.

HB: Combining embroidery and fusion of Indian textiles with Western silhouettes is truly unique. How did you manage to achieve this?

NM: Over the years, I have been deeply influenced by the rich heritage of Indian craftsmanship and I believe in supporting local craft and celebrating embroidery traditions. Our commitment to these age-old techniques not only connects us with skilled artisans but also carries forward a legacy passed down through generations. It's a journey that transcends borders, as we take an impactful community from India to the global stage and showcase the intricate artistry of our karigars.

The fusion of Indian techniques like mirror work and zardozi into Western ensembles represents a harmonious blend of the Indian and Western aesthetics, making it a true game-changer. This cross-cultural approach allows us to bring the best of India to the rest of the world and present a unique and stylish narrative that resonates globally, while preserving our authenticity and craftsmanship.

HB: Your recent venture, AN-Y1, marks a bold step into motorsports-inspired luxury fashion. What motivated you to explore this uncharted territory, and how do you envision this brand evolving in the future?

NM: When Anu, my sister and co-founder of AN-Y1, presented the concept, I was instantly thrilled to be on board. It was an exciting opportunity for me to step aside from my usual repertoire. As a Formula 1 enthusiast and follower, working on leather jackets and jumpsuits was a great way to venture into athleisure and sportswear. We identified a gap in the market for motorsport ready-to-wear fashion and wanted to create a retro brand with a modern twist which embodies the iconic heritage of motorsport trends that appeals to the F1-loving target audience.

AN-Y1 also collaborated with Gulf, reviving the legacy of the iconic brand. It is a tribute to its racing heritage, aiming to breathe adventure and style with each piece wherever you go. While AN-Y1 is doing wonders in UK, we hope to launch the brand in India soon, considering the growing audience watching and being interested in motorsports.    

HB: You are also an interior designer. What are the similarities and differences you find between designing for celebrities and designing for a space?

NM: In the realm of design, creativity knows no bounds, and for me, whether I'm crafting clothes or conceptualising spaces, it's all about the freedom to express creativity. The synergy between designing clothes and spaces is a fascinating interplay—my ideas for clothing often find inspiration in the design of spaces, and vice versa. It's a dynamic process where each informs and enhances the other, allowing me to create pieces that not only reflect style but also encapsulate the personality of the client. The incorporation of the client's individuality provides ample room for exploration, making the design journey a rich and fulfilling experience.

HB: As you celebrate 20 years, what are some of the most defining moments in your career that you hold close to your heart?

NM: From the exhilaration of my first fashion show and the thrill of participating in international fashion weeks, to collaborating with Virat Kohli and venturing into different categories—there have been numerous pivotal moments, and each experience has served as a guiding light, shaping my path in the dynamic world of fashion. The constant influx of new ideas and opportunities excites me and propels me forward; it's the driving force that keeps me motivated and fuels my passion for creativity.

HB: What advice would you give aspiring designers who are looking to build their legacy in the dynamic world of fashion?

NM: Fashion operates beyond the constraints of a 9-to-5 routine; it demands attention to detail and timely delivery. It's love for style that requires working from the heart, fueled by a genuine passion to dress people. To thrive, one must seize opportunities, leverage the fondness for fashion, and create your own style and niche.

HB: What's next for Nandita Mahtani? Can you give us a sneak-peek into your upcoming projects or any new directions you're excited to explore?

NM: As we approach our 20th anniversary, I'm thrilled to unveil a series of exciting ventures that mark this significant milestone. We are collaborating with Farah Khan to delve into the world of jewellery, creating a collection that seamlessly blends style and craftsmanship. It is set to launch in 2024. Additionally, we will embark on a couple of interior decor projects, bringing our aesthetic sensibilities to spaces. We are also looking at announcing the launch of AN-Y1 in India. These endeavors signify a new chapter in our creative journey, and I can't wait to share these experiences and creations with our audience.

HB: Your collaborations with Bollywood actors have often made the headlines. How is it working with and creating for the number of eyeballs and critiques these stars receive?

NM: Every celebrity project comes with a distinct objective, it's either for an event, an advertisement or any other purpose, and the look and feel have to be tailored accordingly. However, in this industry, criticism is inevitable. Sometimes, critiques may lack an understanding of the underlying ideas and concepts behind a particular look. I embrace feedback, whether positive or negative. Constructive criticism is particularly valuable as it offers insights that contribute to the constant evolution and refinement of my work in the dynamic world of design and celebrity dressing.

HB: Your social media is a wholesome reflection of you and your life. What is the thought that goes behind every post and also your personal looks?

NM: I believe in living in the moment. If I post immediately from an event, it’s to give a glimpse of the experience, and if I share it late on the gram, I am busy enjoying the moment. My personal profile is a genuine reflection of who I am, capturing glimpses from my life and allowing me to connect with others on a more personal level.