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‘London is really enriching — there are just so many people that want to support the community.’
Gems in this
Through Diet Paratha, Founder Anita Chhiba is opening the world to a dynamic new generation of South Asian creatives, eager to challenge stereotypes and redefine perceptions.
New Zealand–born, London–based, Indian Founder of Diet Paratha, Anita Chhiba has dedicated her career to uplifting her South Asian culture and creative community. From featuring emerging fashion designer Supriya Lele to music great Freddie Mercury (aka Farrokh Bulsara), as well as highlighting LBGTQIA+ projects, Anita taps into her experience in advertising and collaborates with brands such as Burberry and Gucci under the Diet Paratha umbrella. The platform fills a large gap in the representation of an otherwise dynamic, vocal community, changing the lens and challenging the stereotypes through which South Asians are perceived. We chat with Anita about forging a space for South Asian communities, being at the crest of emerging cultural trends, and her London Travel Playbook.
On growing up in Pukekohe, New Zealand
It was a very small town and there were a lot of Indians that settled there. It was similar to a village in India, with a lot of old-school ways of thinking. We were always on the outskirts, very rural, not as connected as I needed it to be. You’re consuming TV and magazines but you’re not part of it. It’s very isolating in that fact. My parents were born in New Zealand but they still had a very old-school way of thinking, and the community was really tight-knit but segregated. I was always painting and stuff like that. My parents didn’t have a problem with me doing it, but they didn’t understand what the full magnitude or definition of creativity was.
On the path to Diet Paratha
I did graphic design at uni in Auckland and there were more people there. I didn’t have to hang around people I didn’t share the same interest with, like listening to High School Musical. I did a foundation course so I could go to uni and be away from my parents — I moved out when I was 17. Then I got into graphic design and ended up working for this creative recruitment agency as a project manager. It was great — I got loads of experience, then I started freelancing as a digital designer in advertising. I worked at JWT for five years. You get to wear every hat in an agency in New Zealand. I sat on the media team so I learnt how to do paid social and all that sort of stuff. I came to London to freelance and I got made redundant at M&C Saatchi, and so when the agency folded, I made the Diet Paratha logo that day and put it on my Instagram and thought, ‘Fuck it, there’s something here’. I took everything that I had learnt and applied it to my own brand and it fucking worked, weirdly. It just started rolling.
On your approach to Diet Paratha
There’s one prerequisite to what and who I feature on Diet Paratha, and that is that I have to wish that I did it in some capacity. So if there’s a project that I like and I wish I had created it in some way, that's how I keep everything at a really consistent level.
On finding community in London
It’s been really enriching because there are just so many people that want to support the community, that want to be involved in the community. It’s fun — it's almost like I created my own community. The people were here but all of us coming together was really powerful and continues to be really powerful.
On culture shocks moving to London
I didn’t experience culture shocks per se, but I think the size of the South Indian community actually made me feel really good and really welcomed — especially being from New Zealand, where it’s so much smaller.
‘What I love about people in London is that the level of creativity is so untapped.’
On the city’s untapped creativity
What I love about people in London is that the level of creativity is so untapped, like it's incredible. It’s basically this big group of people that know they’re in one of the biggest cities in the world, just gunning for the best work possible. I think the fact that there’s so much competition can be really jarring, but can also really unearth the best types of projects I’ve seen.
On what you love about London
These big brands are so accessible and they have budgets. Being closer to much larger opportunities is something that I really love in London.
On how London inspires you creatively
The fact that there are so many incredible people working here — the level of creativity is so high because the competition is high. So the output is brilliant and that’s so inspiring. Seeing people come out with these projects that are so incredible, you always get that element that you wish you’d done them yourself, and that really keeps me going. I love the philosophy that you only work with people that you’re like ‘I wish I’d done that myself’. That’s a really good benchmark. If you don’t have one thing guiding you, you’ll stand for nothing.
On your top spots to eat and drink
High Water has the best cocktails I’ve probably had anywhere. It’s such a great bar and the service is incredible. For food, we take everybody that moves here to Westerns Laundry. It’s just a consistently great spot with incredible food. The Dusty Knuckle in Dalston makes the best sandwiches. The lines are crazy but it’s well worth it. Dishoom is such a cultural institution in London, so it’s a must-visit. The Prince Arthur is one of my favorite pubs in London. The food is incredible. They’ve got this team called Hot 4 U that does the food and they’ve very recently just stepped their game up. It’s such a great spot. And for Turkish, Mangal 1 is another institution. And Mangal 2 at that.
‘The Dusty Knuckle in Dalston makes the best sandwiches. The lines are crazy but it’s well worth it.’
On spots outside to socialize
Broadway Market is just a cool vibe, there’s loads of people out and about. It’s really wholesome weekend-type stuff. Same with Columbia Road nearby, it’s unreal. They’re hectic but unreal. Hampstead Heath is a great park that is massive — there’s ponds there. There’s just so many different elements where you feel like you’re in different parts of nature, which I love.
On a day in London spent with friends
If I had friends visiting London for a day, I would probably start in Central at Selfridges, because that’s my favorite place in London! Then cocktails at High Water, it’s a cocktail spot in Dalston. Probably yum cha in Chinatown or Din Tai Fung, which has just opened up at the top of Selfridges. Westerns Laundry is another restaurant we always take people to, I don’t know why. It’s similar to dining in Australia or New Zealand.
On your relationship with London
My relationship with London is: I come here and I work and I make money and I get all these incredible projects done, and then I leave! It’s so nice to head home for the summer, the winter is so morbidly depressing. So it’s great to go back home and reenergize, because being in London, you never get sun for an extended period of time. But equally, in the summertime, it’s so nice to dip off to places like Spain and Italy.
‘Dishoom is such a cultural institution in London, so it’s a must-visit.’
On what you’d take on a long haul flight
I would probably just take my journal, which I wouldn’t even use, because I’ve got all these grand plans when I get on a long-haul flight, and I get on the flight and… don’t do them.
On a window or an aisle seat
Aisle seat for obvious reasons.