Anushka Niara Mitter, a 17-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, recently lit up the catwalk with her show-stopper floral designs for Zink London. As the talented young designer walked the ramp with her parents for the fashion retail brand in Kolkata, the resounding standing ovation that followed said it all.
Here, iGlobal catches up with Anushka's father, Ananjan Mitter, to relive some of those proud moments on the catwalk with his gifted daughter and the highs of the family effort.
Ananjan Mitter shares: "As a designer, this is Anushka's first foray into the world of fashion. The fashion show was for the buyers of the Spring/Summer 2023 collections of Zink London. The response to the show, particularly the showstopper section where Anushka was featured, was very encouraging, and the experience was enjoyable.
“However, I would hesitate to call it worldwide fame. This is her maiden hand at design.”
And, on his own foray into the world of fashion, the lawyer noted: "I have had the experience of producing and acting in a film, so I could carry out the briefing of choreographer Jessica Gomes, and it was a fun experience.
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“I am no stranger to fashion as my wife Nilima studied at the London College of Fashion when I studied law in London. Nilima has been a teacher at NIFT Kolkata. Amongst her notable students at NIFT Kolkata, we have Sabyasachi of proper worldwide fame."
Behind Anushka's genius lies the caring guidance from some great teachers who have helped her hone her creative side, particularly with the technicalities of painting.
"Rumeli Chakrabarty in Mumbai and Atreyee Roy Chowdhury in Kolkata have played a loving part in her professional training," informed Mitter.
Anushka loves to paint and while the recent fashion show marked her debut in that arena, she has a successful painting exhibition in Mumbai behind her seven years ago.
Zink London's Malini Singhal is a family friend of the Mitters and as the parents were discussing Anushka's painting with Singhal, she suggested launching Anushka's own collection under the banner of 'Niara Collection'.
Singhal said: "I just happened to meet Anushka's mum (Nilima Mitter) for a coffee, and we were discussing Anushka's art and if we can do something together. And it was my vision that I thought she (Anushka) is such a good artist, and she specialises in florals.
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“And we have a woman's fast fashion brand, and we do a lot of flowery collections. So, I asked if she could design something for us, and we could collaborate with her for our Summer 2023 collections. And everything is history after that."
London-based Singhal co-founded Zink London in 2012 with the vision of building a global fashion retail business. In less than a decade, Zink London has expanded across stores in 120 Indian cities, 500 points of sale and also online channels to be counted among one of India's leading fashion retailers playing a critical role in developing the fast fashion market.
"Behind the pomp of the fashion show, what we see is a very meaningful engagement on the part of Anushka Niara Mitter and Zink London," said Ananjan Mitter.
"It carries the possibilities of continued professional engagement and perhaps a career for Anushka. Anushka's biggest support is her mother, who can identify her talents and bring concrete opportunities to complement them. Most importantly, Nilima can motivate Niara to deliver," he said.
Talking about Anushka's success in the context of Down's Syndrome, Mitter pointed out how her neurodiversity makes her immune to the added baggage that comes with success and failures in our regular complex life.
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He reflects: "She wears her life lightly on her sleeve. Maybe because of the neurodiversity, things big or small are the same for her. This enables her to traverse through life with little baggage. This is a great learning for us from her. For her, an achievement is a game which is as good as binge-watching a series on YouTube.
"If she can set an example or make a difference to a larger community of people, she would probably not realise the significance of it. But does it matter? So long as she can make a difference or set an example, it's good enough."
Besides painting and fashion, Anushka is a great fan of Dandiya and Garba. And, as Kolkata is in the midst of Durga Puja and Navratri festivities, the family now has some festive plans in store, including attending a Garba Night organised by the Gujarat Club in Kolkata to dance the night away with their friends.