Meet Anita Rani's gown designer
LESS than two years ago, fashion designer Yashana Malhotra donned a black gown and mortarboard to accept her degree certificate.
It might have been a little less flamboyant than her usual outfits, but the 27-year-old - who has 63,000 followers on TikTok and has appeared in style bible, Vogue - appreciated the significance of wearing such regalia.
Now Yashana is set to play a major part in another academic ceremony - only this time, it will be her own creation that takes centre stage.
The Selby-based designer has been hand-picked by BBC broadcaster Anita Rani to design a bespoke gown for her installation as Chancellor of the University of Bradford on March 6th.
Yashana said: “This is a really exciting project and a great opportunity to do something different. It’s going to be a celebration of Anita.
"I’ve never designed an academic gown before so this is a new one for me. I haven’t long graduated myself and I have fond memories of seeing everyone in their gowns. A graduation gown is such an significant item of clothing.”
Anita said: "I’m a huge fan of Yashana’s work and her creativity. She’s a walking work of art. It’s really important that I’m able to give this opportunity to a recent graduate, to highlight her brilliant talent and celebrate another Yorkshire lass. I’ll be honoured to wear her creation as my Chancellor's gown. It’s going to be very special."
Pictured above: Anita Rani
Yashana, who is known for her extravagant, oversized dresses, earned a BA in Womenswear at the world-famous Central St Martins, London, where top fashion names including Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney honed their art.
Yashana said: “Anita reached out to me on Instagram and proposed the idea of working together. She told me she wanted to work with someone from Yorkshire, of Indian descent.
“She is passionate about supporting other Indian women and, for her, this is an opportunity to give back and support members of our community. She has learned from her experience, now she’s paving the way for others.”
Yashana grew up in Delhi, India, with her parents and brother Eeshan, 28, an artist. The family moved to the UK when Yashana was seven, but it wasn’t until she was in her teens that she started thinking of a career in fashion.
She said: “I always had an interest in clothes and my mum used to make clothes for herself, so we have that in common.
“For me, it started off because I didn’t see much I liked on the high street. I would add a few bits and pieces to customise my clothes. It blossomed into making my own outfits and that spiralled into making a whole wardrobe full of clothes.
“I bought a sewing machine and it was a case of trial and error. Even now, I’ll cut something out and put it together hoping the holes are in the right place. Practice makes perfect.”
Yashana has big plans for Anita’s gown, which the TV and radio personality will also wear for graduation ceremonies, where she will confer degrees upon students.
Yashana, who also studied fashion at Selby College, said: “Empowerment is very important to us both, it was the first thing Anita mentioned to me in our initial phone call. She wants to feel powerful and great, which is how you should feel wearing any clothing.
“She wants to wear it and think, ‘I’ve got this.’ It’s really flattering that she can see that in my work.
“We want it to be really fun, with a new perspective on the traditional gown, while also paying homage and respect to it.
“It’s going to be fantastic to see my work on the university stage, with such an inspiring person wearing it. University played such a great part in shaping my future. I would love to think my gown might inspire future generations to feel empowered too.”
As to any challenges that come with such a project, Yashana admits there are a couple.
She said: “I love making big dresses. I like to look at a dress that takes up a lot of space. There’s so much you can do when you’re not restricted by the shape of the body. Anita prefers clothes with a certain level of hold, so it will be interesting for me to go from massive silhouettes to something closer to the body.”
And while many of her clients come to her a year in advance, Yashana’s latest commission came with a far shorter time frame.
“Anita and I got to know each other’s vibe and then she said, ‘Oh by the way, the ceremony is in a month!” she said. "That was a bit of a surprise, but by that point, we were both so excited about the project, we would do anything to make it work.”
Yashana will attend the ceremony at the university next month, along with students, staff and invited guests.
The day will include the formal installation ceremony in the Great Hall followed by entertainment.