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Anjana Sharma has been one of the driving forces behind Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai since joining IMG Reliance as director, fashion, in January 2011.

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Obsessed with fashion, Sharma has converted the balcony of her second bedroom into a walk-in closet which is just bursting at its seams with little treasures. A specially designed full-length mirror in her bedroom is weighed down with jewellery and the higher shelves of her closet are chock-a-block with neatly labelled shoe boxes. Lounge catches up with her as she prepares for an exciting season with Lakmé Fashion Week—Summer/ Resort 2012 (2-6 March). Edited excerpts:

What did you wear when you first started your career?

It was 1988, I worked in advertising. I was crazy. I’m so embarrassed when I look back at it. I was loud, in your face and brash, and about 20kg heavier. I had a Cyndi Lauper period, I had a Madonna period, I was loud and, just in case nobody noticed me, I was even louder.

What do you think of women’s work wear today?

It’s such fun! You can do whatever you want to. When I first started working, meeting day meant salwar-kameez. Now everyone gets to wear what they think reflects their personality.

Do you have a budget for your wardrobe shopping?

I wish! I used to spend crazy till about a couple of years ago, but luckily I pick up classics. I like to wear my clothes, I don’t let my clothes wear me any more. I have things in my wardrobe which are 15 years old and still wearable today. I don’t go over the top; I don’t buy many designer labels.

What’s the oldest thing in your wardrobe?

I have vintage Wendell (Rodricks). I’ve been buying his clothes since he started out. So I’ll definitely have something that’s 15 years old from him. He says that when he does a retrospective, he’ll take all the clothes from me!

Who do you look forward to seeing at fashion week?

I wish Lady Gaga would come—I’d go crazy! Aki Narula—I look forward to seeing what he is wearing every single day. He’s very interesting in the way he dresses.

Who are the young designers you like?

Oooh, I’m waiting to get into Nimish’s (Shah, of Shift) clothes, and he knows that! Payal Khandwala is another person whose clothes I love. Vaishali (Shadangule) who works with a lot of Indian fabrics. Drashta (Sarvaiya) does some interesting stuff; Rehané from Chennai does great work. Masaba (Gupta), Shivan & Narresh—there are a lot of great young designers.

How about the people who haven’t shown at Lakmé Fashion Week?

Rajesh Pratap Singh hasn’t shown at fashion week in a while and I admire his work, love his clothes. I like a lot of the work that Rahul Mishra is doing with Indian weaves. Rimzim Dadu, Rahul Reddy, Pankaj & Nidhi— there’s a whole fleet of them out there.

Pick three Indian weaves that you think everybody should have in their closet?

Kunbi cotton from Goa for its amazing fall and feel; a Patola silk for being so classic and rich; and a Tussar silk from Madhya Pradesh, for its texture and distinctiveness.

How many saris do you have? Any heirloom pieces?

At least 50! I only wear pure fabrics, so cottons, chiffons and silk. They are treasured and timeless pieces that I’ve picked up during my travels. My favourite heirloom piece is my mother’s wedding sari—it’s with my sister because she wore it for her wedding. It’s a beautiful pink and dull gold sari which is old and priceless today. I have some Patolas which are not easily available today and there’s one temple sari, that’s what I’ve managed to get out of my mother so far.

Who’s your favourite sari designer?

I prefer traditional saris. I like Raw Mango, but there’s only so much of contrast of border and pallu that you can wear. Vimor is a store in Bangalore that’s run by these women who source saris from all over and they have an amazing collection, starting at 500. I go to the handloom houses because you get the real stuff then.

Where do you shop?

I do my shopping with Wendell on remote control because I don’t have to think about it. Otherwise I do my shopping abroad—H&M, River Island and Topshop are stores that I love. I haven’t shopped at Zara so much since they’ve opened in India because everyone wears them. I like to stand out from the pack. I was once at a bar night when Mango had just launched in India, where six women were wearing the same off-shoulder Mango top in different colours! I love On My Own (OMO) in Bandra and I love Cottons—I think you can find some real treasures there.

Who are your style icons?

While growing up, it was my mother—I love the way she used to pleat her saris. I like (actor) Emma Watson a lot, the way she experiments. My friend Ila Chatterjee Mucadam has a dress sense I just adore. She’s a complete style icon according to me, and I just wish she would start designing.

What was your first big fashion moment?

I have this memory of Gudda (designer Rohit Bal) where a model was stuck in one of his churidars, and even 15 years ago it was a 27,000 ensemble, and he just leaned over and ripped it open! It was amazing!

Where do you buy jewellery?

Topshop and H&M have some amazing stuff. I love Curio Cottage and the street vendors in Khan Market in Delhi, I even wore a piece from there for the LFW press conference (earlier this month). I also buy from the flea market in Goa and when I’m travelling.

What’s the most comfortable thing in your closet?

I have a pair of pyjamas which I treasure. They are old, bright red and have “drama queen" printed all over them. They were given to me by a friend and I’ve had them for five-six years. I only dry-clean them.

What are your absolute must-haves?

Wendell Rodricks slip dresses, white shirts by Anne Fontaine, and kaftans from Cottons.

Who are the Indian designers to watch out for?

I feel Masaba and Shivan & Narresh have great careers ahead of them. I think Raw Mango is moving away from saris and trying new stuff which is interesting. Rahul Reddy is still underrated and he can go places.

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