There are but a handful of brands that fill that void of day-to-night like Anita Ben can.
As much as every label will blast the life out of their day-to-night, beach-to-bar, work-to-work-party attire, there are but a handful that fill that void as promised. The few times that I have allowed myself to be convinced by these exceptional marketing ploys, I've found my pseudo-gown billowing along the train station platform on my way to class, or my cotton shift drawing unwanted attention at nighttime functions. Did she even try? In the case of this Anu twist maxi, no. She didn't try - in that breezily effortless throw-it-on manner that every woman spends hours perfecting, and no man will ever know about. But now they do, which is awkward.
Gentlemen, forget you ever read this.
Effortlessness, for a designer, would not bring to mind dancing on giant swings and stone tabletops in the Phuket jungle, as I clearly interpreted it to be in Sri Panwa's forest park. However, the fact that Anita's pieces have the versatility to dash between forest sprites and lounging tropical ladies, would place her in that rare and aforementioned handful. When I stopped by her bright and elegant Surry Hills showroom some weeks ago, she told me that the story started on her first trip to India. "And I fell in love", she said. She was intrigued by the local artisans and their unique dying techniques, silk printing, and hand-beading. She had been in on the business side of the fashion industry, and thought why not? Anita gestured at her immaculately draped pieces hung along each wall of her space - clearly her appreciation for her background and diversity in Indian culture alone had been visually and materially translated, even several collections down the line.
But of course, there was the Anu woman who, by Anita's description, I very much aspire to be in some years time: a full and fulfilling life (as per the brains and beauty herself), a fine-tuned taste for ethereal elegance and comfort (I am yet to train myself in the latter), a global awareness, a desire to travel through one's attire, and an attention to detail. On the final point, Anita held three of her latest collection pieces some inches from my face and I noticed the tucking, beading, and flattering lines that had gone over my head on first inspections. "That's what I mean - there's always something different".
Any expansions in mind? "We're refining for the moment, but we are working on our accessories" - so for the time being, baby kaftans and men's resort trousers were not on the horizon. But perhaps perhaps - she laughed at my dorky jesting and pointed out that "there's always potential for growth". A good learning philosophy, too, for students starting out, she said. In Anita's case, starting on the sales side worked for her, "but it's a matter of gut feeling and meeting challenges". You'll be fine.
Later that evening, I announced to Anita's publicist that she reminded me of Diane von Furstenberg, in that she embodied her brand, she knew how to express that, and there was that air of collected and effortless elegance that is, indeed, a few levels up from my jungle swinging antics. To that end, I'd like to think that Anu pieces are the kind you grow into...
photos by Zanita Morgan