Anu Raina | Fashion Designer, Canada


Her heart is still somewhere in Kashmir where she was born and where she grew up. Anu by profession studied science, but both her mind and heart were somewhere else. She opted to chisel art of creativity which was wanting to grow within her. Today, she is a name in the Canadian Fashion world, she has her own label and she has a touch of Kashmir in her work. was able to convince her to give some time for an interview.

Excerpts from an interaction with Gurpreet Bhambra, Canada.

How come you picked up a profession which normally at one point of time was never on the do list of Kashmiri families?
Unfortunately, that is very true. Although I grew up in a family that appreciated art & craft in general, making it a career was not really recognized or encouraged. We as a community feel more secure with the tags of medicine, engineering, or computer sciences that guarantee a good job and a good social status.

I tried to follow the norm too and graduated in Biology. But I felt stifled. I was always a creative kind and playing with colors and fabrics made me happy. So I decided to become a designer. Thankfully I met a guy (my husband Gaurav) who not only understood me but also encouraged me to follow the dictum of my heart.

Is your business focused around the Canadian industry or are you present in other geographies also?
It’s mostly Canada based but I have started selling to a few stores in the USA and an online presence in South Korea.

Are you planning to exhibit your collection in India & in Kashmir?
I would love to visit my hometown someday and do a collection inspired by Kashmiri art & craft.

Coming from a Kashmiri family, how were you able to break the tradition of opting for the engineering or the medical field?
My father Dr. Jawahar Lal Raina was a self-made man, being quite a learned and a widely traveled man. Initially, he wanted me to crack medical exams like himself and become a doctor. Knowing me, my brother Sunil Raina encouraged me to go into a creative field. When my father realized that this was my calling, he told me to try and be the best in what I chose for myself.

Our father taught us to be sincere about our purpose. He often cited the example “when John Adams, second President of United States was asked if he was a cobbler previously, he replied, “Yes, I was and I cobbled well”.

As a Kashmiri how was your experience while participating along with more established designers during your first fashion show?
I felt small, it was definitely overwhelming to be where no Kashmiri had stepped in before…but the fears were my own. Nobody was judging me. People respected my work and found my inspirations unique.

Are you in any way influenced by the Kashmiri craft & if yes how do you adopt them in your designs?
Kashmiri craft is part of my genetic code. My paternal grandmother Shobawati Raina was the biggest influence on my life as a kid. She was the first one to introduce me to the craft of hand dyeing. Little did I know that I would choose Textiles as my career path in my life. My debut collection at Toronto Fashion Week was all hand-dyed and printed by me, inspired by precious memories of my childhood in Kashmir….playing in Haystacks on Manasbal farms, the weaving code of Pashmina shawls my mother collected for our wedding, drawing on the mirror with toothpaste.

My collection “SS-2013” was inspired by my maternal Grandfather’s pomegranate gardens in Kashmir.

What are the names from Kashmir, which still evoke the memories of home?
I am still in awe of great Kashmiri gems like Gulam Hassan Sufi, Naseem Akhtar, Shamima Dev, Vijay Malla, Bashir Badgami, Pandit Bhajan Sopori, late Shanti Kaul. Many of them I’ve had an opportunity of meeting in person.

Are you keeping Kashmiri culture alive at home in Canada?
Very much, my family enjoys Kashmiri food at home all the time. My kids also have Kashmiri names. My son Zuv and my daughter Shirin.

What is the most you miss about Kashmir?
The times that have been frozen in my mind, which have become just sweet memories of good times…. the strong bond we shared as a community – our Kashmiriyat, irrespective of our beliefs.