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An Indian in Paris

Apr 25, 2013

Ritu Beri’s rise from a famed French fashion house to her own stylish empire.

“My work is greatly influenced by my personal state of mind. I design to satisfy myself. I love taking risks and like to follow my own chosen path. I try to be a perfectionist and aim at achieving the impossible, always,” says Ritu Beri, a fashion veteran with over 20 years in the industry who has designed for a top fashion house in France and dressed everyone from Nicole Kidman to Rani Mukherji.

Designing everything from bridal wear and ready-to-wear to women’s hats, children’s clothes and a lifestyle line, Beri has built an empire. A quick look around her website (www.rituberi.com) reveals a charming mix of high fashion and quirky personality. Crisp tailoring, fl attering cuts, an imaginative mixture of fabric and mediums, and over-the-top opulence, Beri’s designs are breathtakingly beautiful. “[They] represent my journey as a human being,” she says. “My style is about enhancing a woman’s individuality and persona. I love to see my women looking glamorous.”

Beri began her journey with the lauded, late French embroidery designer François Lesage of atelier Maison Lesage and there learned the business of French fashion. “[Lesage] has been my real inspiration,” Beri says. “We have had an 18-year association. He was my history lesson on the French brands and their designers.” Appointed to the helm of Scherrer — started by Jean-Louis Scherrer — Beri blazed the way for Indian designers as she became the fi rst Asian to head a French fashion house. Known for their classic cuts and tailored shoulders, Scherrer’s clients have included Queen Noor of Jordan and Raquel Welch. “Back then, not many Indian designers had ever done shows in Paris and for an Indian designer to be heading a French fashion house was a dream come true,” she says. “There was a lot of pressure to succeed. Back then, the industry was not so open to India, as it is today.”

Having successfully carved out her own niche in the industry, it comes as a surprise that Beri didn’t always have her sights set on design. “I always wanted to be a doctor,” she says before admitting that her medical ambitions were “thwarted by the fact that I spent more time musing over how the wardrobe of the medical team should look rather than more noble and gory aspects of the trade.” From mentally designing the doctor’s coat with pocket details for medical instruments like stethoscopes and adding mental frills to the nurses uniforms, “It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was my calling,” Beri says.

With a predominantly Indian aesthetic, Beri has found inspiration in her homeland. “Of all the influences I have had, the most important is India and its cultural heritage and this I interpret in my clothes,” says the designer. Aside from her culture, it’s evident from Beri’s creations that growing up in a military family left a lasting impact on the entrepreneur. Squared shoulders, buttons, structured silhouettes and tailoring lend her clothes a militaristic impression. “I grew up watching my parents who are very well dressed,” Beri says. “My mother is cunningly dressed all the time. I remember as a child, she lit up the army evenings with her intrinsically impeccable style. She has always had a lovely collection of chiffon saris which she wore with her trademark pearls.” Not to be outdone, she describes her father as “fastidious” when it came to his appearance, dressing in unusual colours, pulling it off with flash and panache. “With such fine examples, around me,” she says “I had to be inspired.”

Currently serving on the board of governors for the National Institute of Fashion Technology in India, Beri has come full circle. “Joining the first batch of NIFT proved to be a turning point in my life,” she says. “Today I know what I should do and more importantly what not to do. The past 22 years I have chased my dreams and worked on ambitious projects. I have been lucky to experience the world of fashion in India and abroad.” In addition to serving on the board of NIFT and designing bridal wear, ready-to-wear, children’s clothes, women’s hats and a lifestyle line, Beri has also successfully published two books — 101 Ways to Look Good and Firefly: A Fairytale. “I try my best to find a balance between achieving all at work and spending time with my family,” Beri says of her pursuits. “The key is to give your best to whatever you are doing at a certain point in time. It’s about quality rather than quantity.” The designer’s main focus today is children’s charities; specifically The Blessed Hearts Foundation that works to improve and uplift the condition of less fortunate children, and raising money for Auction for Autism.

With more than two hugely successful decades in the industry, Beri is looking towards the future with zest. “After 22 years I still love my work and enjoy fashion immensely. However, [what] I enjoy most [is] doing challenging projects that are out of the box. I like to explore impossibilities and work in an inspired mode only to satisfy myself and my passion.”

PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF RITU BERI

BY JACQUELINE PARRISH / PUBLISHED IN THE BEAUTY ISSUE, APRIL 2013

Jacqueline Parrish

Jacqueline Parrish

Author

A devout fashion-whore and writer extraordinaire, Jacqueline considered fashion as both a distraction and a career path from the very time she became enthralled by the glossy pages of her first Vogue. Heading up ANOKHI's fashion section with an inimitable panache, Jacqueline is immersed in ev...

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