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HomeFashionEmbroidery of Dreams: Designer Deepika Khatri's Journey to Cannes

Embroidery of Dreams: Designer Deepika Khatri’s Journey to Cannes

A designer always writes a story through their creations, drawing from a lifetime of experiences,” says Deepika Khatri, a freelance fashion designer whose designs were showcased on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival. “It’s not a one-day dream but a lifelong journey. Each design reflects the life they’ve lived. Through my designs, I live my life.

Deepika has designed for international brands such as Matalan, Tally Weijl, UCB, and Dorothy Perkins and was also selected for the Women Entrepreneurship Programme by Cornell University. From dropping out of her BA program in Lucknow and getting into NIFT, Bengaluru, to establishing a sustainable fashion label, her path has been anything but conventional.

Fashion Passion

Deepika’s passion for fashion ignited in class 8 when her school introduced a fashion studies subject. “I realised this was my forte,” she says, over video call from Frankfurt in Germany, where she is based. However, her fashion dream faced resistance from her family.

Deepika Khatri

Deepika Khatri | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The turning point came during her third year of college when she saw her brother pursuing marine engineering with the family’s support. “That hit me hard. How could he decide what he wanted to do, when told me what I could not do?” She decided to take a bold step towards her dream by applying for the NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) entrance exam. Clearing it, marked the beginning of her formal education in fashion design.

atypical student

NIFT Bengaluru played a pivotal role in transforming Deepika from a dreamer into a professional. Transitioning from Lucknow to NIFT Bengaluru in 2011, she found herself amidst “fashionable” peers while she was clad in traditional salwar kameez with her hair neatly plaited.

Despite feeling like an outsider, Deepika’s talent earned the admiration of her teachers. While her classmates revelled in the city’s social scene, Deepika devoted herself to her craft, which earned her the Most Creative Knitwear Designer award. Though an introvert, Deepika’s designs exuded a boldness inspired by her imagination. “I realised this is what I wanted to do.”

build a brand

Deepika’s first job involved dealing with a challenging senior designer. Despite the initial hardships, her father’s advice to persevere proved invaluable. “If you can work with this person, you will be able to work with every single person in your life,” he told her. Over time, she not only earned that designer’s respect but also climbed the ranks to become head designer.

Deepika Khatri (centre) and models wearing her creations

Deepika Khatri (centre) and models wearing her creations | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In 2019, Deepika got married and moved to Germany. After the birth of her child, Deepika returned to work at the Frankfurt Fashion Lounge. She participated in a sustainable design competition, submitting a project featuring Khadi fabric and traditional Lucknowi work such as chikankari and mukaishWinning the competition provided her with the support needed to launch her fashion label, Deepika Khatri.

Deepika’s label focuses on eco-friendly fabrics and supports artisans. “We use handmade fabrics and embroidery to create our garments,” she explains. By sourcing fabrics from Varanasi and involving artisans directly, she ensures that her designs are both sustainable and authentic. “Every piece is done by hand and is unique.”

red carpet

Gradually, her designs gained international recognition, culminating in her participation at the Cannes Film Festival. Deepika’s journey to Cannes was facilitated by her connections made during various fashion weeks, notably the ones in Paris. “When you are in a good network, you connect with people,” she notes, highlighting the collaborative nature of the fashion industry.

The dress she had designed for actor Rebecca Kunikowski for the Cannes red carpet, had detailed zardosi and kamdani work. “When you look at that design and the dress, your eyes are moving everywhere,” she says, describing its intricate work.

Actor Rebecca Kunikowski at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2024, wearing a Deepika Khatri creation

Actor Rebecca Kunikowski at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2024, wearing a Deepika Khatri creation | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Representing her country at Cannes was a surreal experience for Deepika. “I never imagined these things would happen,” she says. Being in Germany provided her with opportunities that might have been harder to come by in India. “Here, the celebrities and the network that you build, truly want to support you,” she explains, contrasting it with the challenges of gaining recognition in India.

Despite her success abroad, Deepika remains deeply connected to her roots. Her inspiration stems from her childhood in Lucknow where she was surrounded by traditional embroideries and artisans. “The love for chikankari, mukaish and zardosi began for me from there,” she says. This cultural heritage is a cornerstone of her designs, and she feels that the demand for such traditional craftsmanship will never fade. “However, it is a designer’s job to make it new every single time,” she says, talking about keeping traditional crafts alive and relevant.

Future forward

Deepika looks forward to opening a store in Germany and participating in the Frankfurt Fashion Week.

For aspiring fashion designers, Deepika’s advice is clear: “Look into yourself and always feel free that if something is there in you, you can take it out and put it on paper.” She emphasises on perseverance, especially in the face of financial challenges. “Keep yourself motivated. People should keep seeing you every single year and that is how you will reach some place someday.”

David Dass
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