Get in the water with Anjali Patel-Mehta’s Swim

A fan of the little bikini, Anjali Patel-Mehta’s ‘swimmable’ numbers and kimonos can give you a holiday state of mind anywhere


A mother of two, with no formal training in design, Anjali Patel-Mehta will make you want to take a running leap off the dock this season. That is because Swim, her homegrown line of bikinis, halter neck malliots and surf suits, are made for stylish coastal living. Like most smart swimwear designers today, she has fashioned them from the game-changing Econyl yarn, derived from fishing nets and carpet waste. Showcased at Miami Swim Week a couple of years ago, they are a constant at luxury fashion e-tailers, Moda Operandi and Neiman Marcus. To sweeten the deal, the former Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank employee pairs them with her label Verandah’s hand-beaded togas and tasseled kimonos, much in demand among destination wedding brides and global nomads.
Mughal eye

   •  “I started drawing motifs that meant something from (Shah Jahan’s eldest daughter) Jahanara Begum’s life. Like the chogan, a horse-riding game traditionally played in royal courts and urban fields. Or the cross-section of the minarets of the Taj. Jahanara got the Taj built. I used whatever I had internalised from Shadow Princess and Indu Sundaresan’s Taj Mahal trilogy.”

But designing swimsuits wasn’t part of the plan for Patel-Mehta. Not as a young girl, and certainly not during her decade as an investment banker. In fact, not even when she returned from the US, became a mother or took a break to address a back problem. When we meet at her pop-up at Amethyst Room in Chennai, the South Mumbai girl recalls how she began by designing for herself. She says she loved the Anne Fontaine shirts and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes from her banking days, but craved breezy separates. As she rapidly describes her journey, I get snapshots. How she began experimenting with mul and body shapes, with just one tailor. The 40 outfits she made for South Bombay mums. The closely-guarded cheesecake recipe that came as a bonus from an elderly client, an artist friend in Zurich. And her big break, when Ratna Krishna Kumar, wife of the former Tata Sons director, commissioned 1,200 garments in one sitting, to be retailed at the Taj Khazanas across the country.
House full

   •  Asian Court, her family home on Napean Sea Road, was another influence. From the frangipani tree to the Krishna Kamal or passion flower, the pomegranates and kumquats that grew in her grandmother’s garden. The dancing peacocks that visit often. Or the owl rescued by her mother. Or her parents’ 50-year-old red vintage car. As seen in shirt dresses, pareo skirts and cross-back maxis and hand-beaded resort jackets.

From Cholamandal

One name features predominantly in her narration. Patel-Mehta admits that her artist mother, Indira, a former tennis player who grew up between Bombay, Delhi and Madras, has been a strong influence. Indira went to Cholamandal Artists’ Village and was mentored by KCS Paniker. “My father was Gujarati, my mother Iyengar. She was free-spirited. When my sister and I came along, we had a boho childhood that included many road trips,” she laughs. She then describes her maternal grandmother. “She would ensure we travelled third class ‘like the rest of India’ and saw every part of the country. We visited temples, bird sanctuaries and forests. And we often came back to Cholamandal, making pottery on the beach or listening to stories around the campfire. I loved the hippie vibe and treasured it when growing up.” Patel-Mehta, 41, credits her childhood for her passion for sustainability, and the causes she supports, be it Reef Watch in the Andaman Islands or Tiger Watch in Ranthambore. “A lot of people want to be sustainable and think of it as a marketing tool. But at the heart of it is the process, the design, from the initial stages of the yarn to where you retail and the wearer of the garment,” she explains.

Today at LFW

During her fifth year at Lakme Fashion Week this weekend, Patel-Mehta will be showcasing her Pre-Fall collection, Jaisalmer. Designed from her memories of the Golden City from the 1980s, it will include more of her luxe resortwear, fashioned from ethically sourced fabrics. But no swimwear. The designer hopes to launch Swim here soon, as she makes time between shows in Miami, New York and Paris. If all goes well, we will have our own bikinis in tropical and marine motifs. And perhaps some of that legendary cheesecake too.

Swim priced up to ₹20,000. Verandah is stocked at Neiman Marcus, Moda Operandi, Olivela and luxury hotel properties such as Soneva Jani.