Meet Anitha Sagar Tenali, determined to sustain and strengthen her husband’s dream label
Anitha Sagar Tenali is unsure when we approach her for an interview. “I’ve never been visible in the media,” she says. For the last five years, she’s been looking after the business aspects of the design studio. She’s played that quiet supportive role, until she had to come to the forefront and take over the reigns of the label after Sagar’s sudden demise in November 2016. He was just 37.
The fashion fraternity was shocked and so were his clients, some of whom doubted if their orders would be delivered. Barely 10 days after the incident, Anitha felt the need to speak up, assure those who had faith in the label. She took to Sagar Tenali’s Facebook page and announced that his work will go on.
Four months have passed by and Anitha has been busy keeping the store and the label up and running, slowly stepping into Sagar’s creative shoes. She doesn’t want sympathy and she doesn’t want to draw undue attention to herself. At the same time, she feels the necessity to let people know that the Sagar Tenali label is thriving. She mulls over and agrees to talk, measuring her words with care.
Sagar and Anitha got married in 2010. Incidentally, she mentions showing a clipping of his interview which appeared in The Hindu MetroPlus in October 2009 to her parents, stating that this is the person she wants to spend the rest of her life with. Now a mother of four-year-old and two-year-old sons, she says, “I had finished my M Tech and was teaching at Malla Reddy Engineering College. Sagar felt I could oversee the business aspects. Initially I’d come in twice or thrice a week for a couple of hours to help out. Three years ago, I quit my job and started helping Sagar full time.”
This is when she started learning the basics of design, and remembers Sagar telling her about silhouettes, body types, choice of colours and fabrics. “I’d ask him why he’s telling me all this. I wasn’t a design person. But he said he felt the need to discuss. I didn’t know back then what fate would have in store. He had no health problems,” she says, pausing, fighting tears.
Anitha is yet to come to terms with the loss and has immersed herself in managing home and work, with help from parents and in-laws. At the store, an elegant khadi men’s collection in colours ranging from subtle blues to pinks and browns speak of Sagar’s forte. “He had designed this collection for an event in Mysore,” she says, adding that she will continue to focus on menswear, which Sagar specialised in.
She has been overwhelmed with the support from a loyal clientele. “Many people came to place orders, have a talk and share memories of Sagar. I realised why he was loved so much. I had two options before me — either go back to teaching or prevent this label from closing down. I thought about it and realised that this gives me a sense of fulfilment,” she says.
Anitha’s journey isn’t going to be easy. She has to learn the nuances of fashion and strengthen the brand in a competitive field. “It’s a learning process. In the last few years, I have interacted with fashion design students who would come to intern with Sagar. Unknowingly, I think I had been pulled into this line of work,” she signs off.