'Pick weavers over designers for bridal wear': Manish Malhotra's fashion advice for Deepika and Alia
Bollywood loves to sashay down the ramp wearing his creations. His designs have always set the screen on fire and have been dictating the fashion trends for 30 years, now. It’s a pleasure to meet Bollywood’s favourite costume designer, Manish Malhotra. Come rain, hail, or sunshine, his sunny predisposition makes him an archetypal 'Mr Congeniality'.
Countless selfies with crowds of besotted girls, an inspiring speech and an interactive session with excited students couldn’t ruin his mood one bit. On a day’s trip to Kolkata to meet a packed hall of fashion students at INIFD, Salt Lake, for a Master Class in things sartorial, Malhotra sat patiently through an interview with Indulge, despite a sore throat and a room full of bewitched, aspiring couturiers. Excerpts.
What made you decide to give classes in fashion, that too, online?
As you progress, as you age and experience the journey of life and work, you feel an urge -- as in my case -- to reach out to a lot more people and share your experience and expertise for the benefit of others. So, when this offer came from London School of Design and INIFD, too became a collaborating partner, I thought it was the best way to connect with a larger number of students. It’s not physically possible for me to meet so many of them, but online you can connect to so many people. My classes will not be so much about the technicalities and nuances of fashion, but it will be holistic in approach, where I will speak of my experiences and share my take on things fashion and luxury.
A lot of people now pursue fashion as a career, but what does it take to make a mark as a designer?
Not only if fashion, but in any profession, be it acting, entrepreneurship or filmmaking, you have to rise above the rest and add a lot more things that others probably don’t, to make you stand apart. Thinking beyond what people are expected to think is the X-factor that will takes one far.
You were extremely close to the late actor and superstar Sridevi and shared a special bond. How did her demise affect you?
I have lost somebody very close, and it did affect me deeply, more so, since I spoke to her twice on that fateful day. She was there, enjoying a wedding just five days back and then she was no more. It jolted me badly and I realised that life is so unpredictable. I don’t understand why there is so much hatred, jealousy and craving for money and squabbles in our lives, when life itself is so unpredictable. Sridevi’s untimely demise has taught me to understand that if something doesn’t work my way, it shouldn’t bother me. I feel that what has to work out for me will work out anyways and what doesn’t, will never.
How much fashion sense did Sridevi have?
She understood films and we had a common love for films and both were both trained by movies. She was honest and focussed and we both used to concentrate on our jobs, which is very important.
How different is Jahnvi Kapoor and the rest of the new generation of youngsters in Bollywood?
I am really privileged to work with the third generation of actors, very few people can boast of that. They are very new, very fresh, aware of the latest fashion and style and rely on my experiences. It’s really enriching and exciting to work with them.
We were learners but this generation is so aware. They belong to a time when there is so much information, courtesy the Internet. Also, in the past two years, the girls, in general, have become very fashion conscious and updated and are comfortable in their skin and that needs to be applauded.
How is Manish Malhotra, the brand, incorporating sustainable fashion?
As a growing brand you cannot ignore sustainable fashion and technology. Right now, we are not very much into sustainable fashion, but definitely there’s a plan to incorporate it more by 2019, since that’s the only way to grow. You have to consider environmental factors, the changing times and changing technologies for sure.
What are the plans for Manish Malhotra, the brand?
The brand is going to be more systematic, with more branches and clothes are going to be more dramatic. Actually what happens with me is that I am running between a film and a fashion show and a private client to weddings to a collection, my journey is so different from any other designer in the country. It’s choc-a-bloc, and frantically hectic, too. So, you will see a lot more new things happenning.
You were the first one to make actors walk the ramp? How does it feel now?
Yes, and I was severely criticised by other designers at that time and now it’s a trend. Actors are not models, they are personalities in their own right and we are inviting their personalities in the ramp. In my life I have always valued relationships more than anything else.
What do you feel Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt should wear for their weddings?
I won’t comment on this (laughs). There are wishes and blessings and congratulations and all of that for them. Actually, these girls are so beautiful, they will look gorgeous in whatever they wear, be it handloom, or weaves. It would be fabulous for them to promote weaves and handlooms, they are celebrities and have followers across the globe. It would be just great if they pick up handloom and our weavers for bridal wear, it would set a trend. Rather than choosing designers they should choose weavers, I feel that would be fabulous.
What are your tips for fashion during the Pujas?
I think it’s so pure and traditional during the Pujas, and one should not tamper with that. One should keep it simple, pure and traditional, that’s the best way to dress up during the festivals.
Did you ever get a chance to see the Durga Puja in Kolkata?
Yes, bahut saal pehle (many years back). I was here for a day during the Pujas and I just loved it, it was so pure and everything looked so beautiful.
How fashion conscious are Bengalis?
They are very artistic, very intellectual, a lot into reading and holding on to their culture. They definitely have a very interesting style. But then, I find every style interesting, whether sequins, handloom, cotton, silk or embroidered, they are all equally interesting styles, not one better than the other.
What is the worst fashion faux pas one can make?
Not being oneself, one should always be oneself and feel comfortable in their skin.
A few must-haves in the wardrobe?
A white shirt and a black shirt, a jeans that fits you really well, a perfume that speaks of your fragrance, a beautiful mind and a great heart, which is more important and a soul, a good soul.