Designer Anavila Misra and filmmaker Gauri Shinde are two busy friends, who meet once a year but pick up from where they left. “You have tied up your hair! I love curly hair,” exclaims Misra when she sees Shinde, who has rushed from a Sunday morning meeting. “Let me apply lipstick so I look presentable,” says Shinde, breaking into a smile.

Misra has just wrapped up fittings for a show that will close a day dedicated to sustainable fashion at an upcoming fashion week.

Shinde, who gained critical acclaim for English Vinglish and Dear Zindagi, does not have a stylist and prefers that her work does the talking. And yet, they find it possible to bond over fashion, among other loves.

Shinde excitedly orders Millet Upma and Waffle & Pop. Misra picks Lord Cubbon's Vice, an English breakfast where she skips the bacon. Sipping on coconut water, the duo roll into a conversation that's filled with laughter, mutual respect and high fives.

Sabhnani: You share a love of handlooms.
Shinde: Yes. I like anything that is in its natural form and uplifts local arts. To break stereotypes, I would love to wear a simple saree like Anavila's for a wedding.
Misra: Making a handloom piece is a 15-day process even before the yarn sits on the loom. Once you witness it, you can't return [to artificial fibres]. Unlike what's usually perceived, it's not difficult to work just with handlooms. Some will like my work; others will wonder what's got into her.

Ad and feature film director Gauri Shinde and fashion designer Anavila Misra at Monkey Bar, Bandra. Pics/Sameer Markande
Ad and feature film director Gauri Shinde and fashion designer Anavila Misra at Monkey Bar, Bandra. Pics/Sameer Markande

Sabhnani: What makes up your wardrobe?
Shinde: I drift from luxury to high street to street. Celebs are under a lot of pressure to look good. People have thrown those things at me too, 'How come you don't have a stylist?' Picking your clothes is the most basic thing. If I open my wardrobe and can't figure what to wear, I would consider myself handicapped. But there are special occasions when I realise that I don't have anything to wear. But here, Anavila can open her store to pick an outfit! We have wardrobes; she has a store [both laugh].
Misra: You should never push yourself. If someone enjoys what he or she wears, they will look good in it. I might have the right clothes, but on busy days, it gets difficult to choose. I'm more organised now, I plan my outfits ahead according to my schedule.

Lunch arrives
Shinde: I have never had a savoury waffle. [Bites into the chicken] This is very good!
Misra: Left to myself, I would survive on fruit and salad. Eating a chapati is so tiring.
Shinde: Please tell me more about this strange side of you. This is laziness at a different level.
Misra: [Laughs] As a kid in Karnal, we had a huge kitchen garden, which was full of fruits and vegetables and we would pluck and eat everything fresh.

Sabhnani: Both of you avoid the formulaic route.
Shinde: Who will have the b***s to make this film was the question with English Vinglish. The protagonist was a mature housewife, in a saree. Everything was against me. Someone suggested that since Sridevi is in the film, I need to have her dance! It's why I also produced it. Either I make the film my way or I don't make it all. The same people who doubted me, chased me to produce Dear Zindagi, but I said no.
Misra: Wedding wear generates the most revenue. But whether I would enjoy doing it was the question. I asked myself, what will I wear if I love a saree and thought, 'Let's try linen.' When the first saree reached me, the weaver told me, 'Ma'am, humne bhej dia hai, par kaun pehenega yeh?' When I opened the courier, it felt like the birth of a child. This is what I wanted. It remains one of the happiest moments of my life.



Sabhnani: What would you like to change about your industries?
Shinde: The name! I think we will start making more original content if we stop mimicking. And yes, clean toilets for women in the industry. We don't want shared toilets; men don't know how to use toilets. And, we need to stop giving importance to who says what on Twitter.
Misra: Let's focus more on design. I feel designers are treating themselves as a mere resource centre for garments and textiles.

Also see: Then and Now: Smriti Irani's journey from a model to Union Minister
Then and Now: Smriti Irani's journey from a model to Union Minister