"I’ve been told that public memory is short, that I need to be more out there" — Designer Anushka Khanna

The designer pens a heartfelt note on her graph as a designer and that of a mother.

Harper's Bazaar India

Sometime in the past year, I started following @motheruntitled on social media, a page dedicated to rebranding career pauses and creating a space for ambitious women to lean into family life.

With a mission statement like that, it’s no wonder that the page came up on my feed, amongst all my searches for baby recipes, stroller recommendations and parenting hacks. This page spoke to me, for the fact that it's empowering women to proudly wear their career pauses and to use a new lexicon to define this phase of their lives.

My astrological sign may be a Gemini, but my family will tell you that I’m type A when it comes to living. I don’t do things by halves. And so when my son was born, I decided that the time was right for me to adjust my focus for a little while.

For years prior to my son, I was dedicated to building my label Anushka Khanna. When I returned home from the London College of Fashion, I realised that there was a gap in the market for young, affordable, chic festive wear options. I wanted to add a dynamic twist to traditional silhouettes, I wanted to make clothes for women to feel free in and dance in.

And dance they did! In our collection, Starry, Starry Night, which we showed at Lakme Fashion Week, we got Alia Bhatt to do the robot dance in our campaign video that went viral. We collaborated with artist Rewati Shahani for Through the Looking Glass, for unique prints inspired by birds, Art Deco buildings and the skyline.  For Boom Boom Room, we took off from Studio 54 and an archival image of my mother for kimono-style jackets, and embellished column dresses that were as perfect for a sangeet as for a New Year’s Eve bash. Each of our collections have had a strong point of view and a focus on changing up the status quo.

While I prefer to stay in the background, my clothes are not for those who want to blend in; the opposite in fact. With a focus on separates and smart pairings, the use of a wide colour palette and intricate embellishments, my line of clothing is about ease, versatility and also just fun, they are clothes to dance the night in! I’ve been fortunate to have been worn on the red carpet by Deepika Padukone, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Kiara Advani, and Ananya Panday to name a few.

And then the pandemic hit and I got pregnant. On the advice of my doctor, I took a hiatus from work, focusing on taking care of myself and my baby. When Karam was born, I knew I wanted to extend my time with him for a little longer. And so I chose to sit out a few seasons, I chose to take a pause.

I haven’t regretted that decision even once. Of course, I’ve gotten numerous questions on this choice; I’ve been on the receiving end of concern and advice; I’ve been told that public memory is short, that there are a plethora of brands for audiences to choose from; that I need to be more "out there", that I shouldn’t be loud and proud about taking this break, because people won’t take me or my work seriously.

I’m not going to pretend that there were moments when I didn't question myself. But when it comes down to it, this was a personal decision and I stand by it. Because you know what, I enjoyed every moment of being a mum, and giving my son my undivided attention.

I also knew when the time was right for me to get back into work. And the last few months have been full throttle. I say this with confidence, I’m in the studio with a new sense of vigour and purpose. The pandemic and my career pause led me to evaluate the kind of clothes I wanted to make, the stories I wanted to tell, and the pieces that I wanted to design, to add value to my client’s lives and wardrobes. I’ve come back with a fresh new eye and I’m proud of the collection we’ve built and the one we are working on next. For this festive season, we’ve gone all out, we’ve spanned the spectrum when it comes to colour, we’ve played with geometric and tribal embellishments, we’ve added in new silhouettes and tailoring—the waistcoat, long, lean jackets; we’ve also created the coolest kurta set.

For the spring collection, I’m continuing our focus on colour and ease. Expect print, bright hues, traditional Indian textiles, and fresh silhouettes and fabrics that you can wear in the summer months, on your holiday or during your daily life. We have so many exciting things on the anvil—new collaborations, projects that will see us expand into new directions, and a new studio space that allows me to meet, interact and spend time getting to know my client. 

In many ways, it’s been like starting anew, which has its rewards and challenges. The fashion industry has changed, the media has changed, and the way to market and sell has changed.

But I’ve changed too. And like they say that’s the only constant.

During the pandemic, we released an animated film titled Zany, The Zebra, which was voiced by Karan Johar. Using the leitmotif from our print pret collection—a multi-hued zebra—we celebrated hope, optimism, and looking at the bright side. Our little film went viral, and while writing this, I realised how much I want to adapt that spirit and mantra to my work ahead.

So, looking on the bright side here’s to hitting refresh on my work life.

For all those mums out there who are embarking on this pause, I say embrace it. You’ll look at your work with a whole new lens. How awesome is that?