The beauty of India, as elucidated in lush detail by modernist painter Amrita Sher-Gil in the 1930s, was not in the country’s landscape, butthe people, specifically those who were traditionally overlooked, both in life and on the canvas. Sher-Gil, who was born to a Hungarian mother and Sikh father and who trained at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts, was always a gifted artist, but it was only when she left Paris to return to India, that her work evolved dramatically, her underlying technical proficiency buoyed by a new sense of passion. Her 1935 portrait “Three Girls” was a stylistic tipping point—the rendering of young women, their expressions serene, their posture submissive, is intimate and empathic—and her paintings in the few years to follow (she would die tragically at the age of only 28) were permeated by a singular rhythm and vibrant color palette of earthy reds and sunny yellows and warm ochres. Color that, Sher-Gil herself would write in letters, she was born with a certain thirst for.
Sher-Gil’s visual vocabulary was nourished by plumbing the depths of Indian art history from the Ajanta cave paintings to Mughal miniatures. In approaching Anaak’s summer 2021 collection, founder Marissa would also look back to move forward. The line’s first foray into prints emerged from her travels and studies in Bagru, a village near Jaipur with astoried, centuries-old tradition of block printing. Anaak’s pattern is inspired, as Sher-Gil once was, by Mughal and specifically the Northern Indian town’s classic floral motifs. The Mughal flower is a representation of the union of earth, water, and sky, and emblematic of the power of life. Something that seems particularly relevant this year when it has felt so fragile.
The common thread running through Anaak’s summer 2021 collection is about the power of clothing that endures: pieces so rooted in versatility (easily able to be woven into anyone’s current style rotation) and wearability (inspired by the concept of the housedress, everything is designed to be wildly comfortable) that their appeal doesn’t diminish with the passage of time. Much like Sher-Gil’s transition to more saturated colors was a distinct shift, so too is Anaak’s latest palette, which relies on stronger and moodier hues than seasons past. Printed paperbag-waisted Bermuda shorts and swingy cropped tops have an innate ease that dips into loungewear; a smocked off-the shoulder mini dress in blazing scarlet and a freeform tiered maxi dress in acid yellow silk habutai, employ both color and volume to dramatic effect; and ruffled bloomers, strappy camisoles and an array of puff-sleeved or block-printed or outsized ‘60s-style babydoll minis bear a sense of innocence. It’s intentional; an offering of sartorial comfort and hope in a time of great uncertainty. That the entire collection was designed while in isolation at home translated into styles that journey easily between your inside world and the outside one. Defying any formal categorization, this season’s collection is at home wherever you are.