Covid conversations with Rina Dhaka

She is the queen of chutzpah, the mistress of one-liners. And a maverick with her words. The Daily Guardian catches up with fashion designer Rina Dhaka to find out how she is dealing with the pandemic.


Rina Dhaka not only creates very unpredictable fashion, even her thoughts and words are good spinners. She spends the lockdown rejigging her fashion act in her head while driving down 20 miles away from her home to get organic food on her vegan table. Or chanting three hours non-stop, a devout Buddhist, to heal the world and spread happiness to humanity. The following are the excerpts of the interview with the ace fashion designer:

Q. So what kept Rina Dhaka, the workaholic, busy at home?

A. Basically, reading books and some interesting industry insides like excerpts from business of fashion. Imagine my surprise when one day Imran Amed (founder and CEO of The Business of Fashion) caught me off guard for a live on BOF! I was at my worst best that day, hair up, reading glasses on. I felt really bad when people from all over the world, even Africa, saw it and got back. I have now mastered the art of getting dressed for a live, waist up, frontal hair done, ready for the next few lives! I am also learning tech, the monster millennial have mastered so well. And mind you now I know how to change the background of a picture on photo shop! I cooked, of course, initially but that is not one of my talents. I put all the recipe books gifted to me by friends to use. I particularly found Shagun Khanna and Maria Goretti’s recipes easy for beginners. What I looked forward to most was driving all the way to Defence Colony to shop for organic produce from Nature’s Soul. There was this one time I made my childhood friend Pia Fleming sit on the back seat as I drove there. Totally felt like a driver that day.

Q. How come we never saw any charity image on your insta? No charity photo ops?

A. I did my bit for charity. Listen, initially shit loads of money got made in the name of charity. Hence I decided to buy the rations myself, distribute masks, give rations to my entire staff, pay each one of my people their salary. And yes I did gloat a bit on my insta page.

Q. Were you tense about the economy?

A. Initially I admit the designer fraternity went into a frenzy discussing the “dismal” future. My take was that “there is no future, so why dismay”. This year the trick will be in staying alive and having food on the table. That to me is good enough to send up a silent prayer.

Q. As a cancer survivor, your fight against coronavirus becomes even more fragile. How did you deal with that?

A. I did all my tests and thank God, they went well. Initially my sons were hysterical. They made it sound like it was apocalypse. But I built my immune system and ate good food, gargled if my throat was soar and allowed the opioid of What’sApp jokes take over my life. I swear I was hooked on to it. It’s incredible how so many people kept the air light with their humour.

Q. As a spiritual Buddhist, did you feel chanting helped?

A. Our group Soka Gakai chanted and meditated for three hours each day. With places of worship shut and the mass hysteria that was engulfing each one of us, we felt we must chant for the world even more. Today we are back to one hour of chanting, but those three hours were a real saviour. That and avoiding the news and the stats! Boy, they can scare the shit out of you.

Q. Do you think slow fashion will make a comeback?

A. I have always been an advocate of slow fashion. What else is Indian fashion if not slow and made by hand? But it also has to be value for money. Zara costs plus 10%. To me, my future is in the hands of my driver. He is my real customer now.

Q. So what now?

A. It’s a long haul, no more like the two-month break it felt initially. A sabbatical sounds good but the cost of returning will be even more. So, I am back in my seat, dusting open the factory, a Barista in hand, and ready to face this new world.