At the age of 12 when she arm-twisted the family chauffer into fixing a dilapidated sewing machine so that she could make her own clothes, Anjana Mary Eapen knew then that her career was going to be quite different from that of her peers. At 20, armed with a graduate degree in literature from the Government College for Women, city-born-and-bred Anjana transplanted herself to New York to follow her dreams in the garment industry.
Cut to the present. Twenty five years later, 35 year-old Anjana is a hot honcho in the New York fashion world. As the Director of Technical Design for Tracy Reese, a happening New York-based fashion house renowned for its ultra-feminine and vintage-inspired designs that has A-list clients such as First Lady Michelle Obama and singer Carrie Underwood, Anjana is one of the few Indians to crack the top echelons of one the best garment industries in the world.
“Technical design is not fashion designing per se. Rather it deals with the fit and the ultimate construction of the garment, after it has been conceptualised as a design. Utilising sketches, pattern-making, measurements, design features and a variety of other tools of the trade, my job is to translate the design concept and construct the garment in question by ensuring the ‘fit’ standards of the brand and ensure proper styling,” says Anjana. “Fit is a concept that is only now catching up in India. Perhaps it is because we don’t have a history of fit apart from privately tailoring to suit individual requirements and at the most it stops at A-line shapes. Instead here the colour, fabric, drape…are more important. While designing Western clothes we have to ensure that the garment fits as many people as possible without compromising on style, design integrity, proportion and comfort,” adds Anjana who has a design degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Anjana, however, claims that she learnt the “intricacies” of her profession “on the job” by working her way up the fashion ladder beginning with selling fabrics for wholesale company Silk India to working at Doll House (a children’s clothing label) and later while as assistant design director at prestigious fashion houses such as Immauel Ungaro, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein jeans. “I fell into fit quite by accident,” laughs Anjana adding that taking responsibility for the fit of say 70,000 pairs of jeans is no easy task. “It’ll be on your head, that’s what. Of course, a good fit starts from a good pattern.”
Now that most of the time-consuming pattern-making has been outsourced from the United States, Anjana also has to communicate with factories overseas in India, China and the like. “Truth be told most factories in India are a bit laidback when in comes to quality control, have poor communication and they don’t stick to deadlines. On the upside, nobody can do embroidery and embellishment like Indians. Indian embroiders are the masters of imperfection, which lends a fantastic human element to the garment,” points out Anjana who is back in town all set to get married on Saturday. “Being single, working in fashion, living in a foreign country all alone till the age of 35 and being successful to boot, sure raised a whole lot of eyebrows. But I want people, especially youngsters to understand that fashion is a respectable profession. After all the majority of people who work in fashion are women,” adds Anjana as she heads off to get the fit perfect for her wedding dress.