Manish Malhotra gives us an all-access pass into his life as a designer, entrepreneur and movie buff

As the lines between designing apparel, jewellery, and home décor continue to blur for the Indian couturier, Manish Malhotra is redefining the boundaries of his eponymous brand, 29 years on

Rebecca Vargese Published :  16th August 2019 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  16th August 2019 06:00 AM
Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra has gained the reputation of being the Mr Congeniality of the fashion industry. And that’s exactly the person we get to chat with, as he juggles between the reopening of his largest ever store in Delhi, the launch of a flagship space in Hyderabad and last-minute fittings for the opening day of fashion week. “Just because you’re famous, doesn’t mean you don’t lead a supremely hectic lifestyle like everyone else. There’s always a lot of work to be done — clothes to be designed and orders to be delivered. Fame is a good feeling, but not the ultimate feeling. That place I will only reserve for my work.”

This statement falls in line with how the 52-year-old has refused to be pigeonholed into the label of a costume designer and has, as recently as this week, added new verticals of jewellery and home décor to his luxury brand. “In my 29 years of experience as a designer and costume stylist, I have had the opportunity to work with actors like Urmila (Matondkar) and Karishma (Kapoor), who were not known for their style but are now fashion icons. Over the years, I have understood the nuances of the industry and the market,” he says, adding that early on in his career if anybody asked for a wedding outfit, he would turn down the request since he only made costumes for movies.

Tracing a connection through the various ventures that Manish has embarked upon, we follow the couturier’s renowned design story, get a sneak peek at his upcoming Lakmé Fashion Week collection and catch up for a rapid-fire session. 

Your contemporaries in the industry have had a head start when it comes to launching into jewellery and home décor lines. 

You can’t always pioneer everything (laughs). Creating new verticals has been part of the plan for the last five years. But I have always ended up wanting to add more sections to the brand. Given the person I am, I don’t usually start something until I’m completely sure and can dedicate exclusive time to it. But I’ve been so caught up with fashion shows, movies and weddings that I haven’t been able to put it all together. 

Now, with a renewed 15,000 sq ft store in Delhi, which will launch in the coming week and the flagship Hyderabad property, the strategy is to host everything Manish Malhotra under one roof. 

Doesn’t the launch of two sprawling storefronts when brick-and-mortar retail is in question, a big risk? 

There is uncertainty, but I don’t want customers to come to my store, and then have to go to another place for lighter occasion wear, make-up, or shoes...I had the choice between opening multiple stores in a city or having one large space. I have always been inspired by the big international fashion houses like Saks Fifth Avenue and Dolce & Gabbana. They have everything from lingerie to perfume. Having a complete store allows you to experience the whole mood of the label. 

I am also working towards a younger prêt brand and Manish Malhotra shoes will also be taking up rack space shortly. Essentially, all verticals that come together to create an entire look. This could even mean designing lingerie in the future.

How challenging is it to move into a different spectrum of design?

The basic premise always will be aesthetic. What has defined the Manish Malhotra style up until now? It has always been the glamour, the sparkle, the shimmer. My silhouettes are Indo-western, where the fabrics and embroidery are Indian but have a global appeal. I have, also, always loved geometry and clean lines. All the verticals will embody the same flavour.

Tell us about your collaboration with Raniwala for the jewellery line which you have curated. When can we expect to see Manish Malhotra designed bijoux?

As a costume designer, I’ve always created jewellery along with the garments for the movies. During my early days, I used to design trinkets for actors, by putting together matching beads and little crystals and making something that complemented the clothes. 

Raniwala 1881 has a profound technical understanding of jadau jewellery and is a credible name in the industry. For starters, I have curated a collection that can be paired with my clothes. The very first chapter of this association pays tribute to heritage jewellery making and captures the beauty of handcrafted jadau with an expansive range of chandbalis, danglers, studs, jhumkis, kadas, chokers, and layered necklaces. Going forward, when I design there will be a lot of uncut stones and polki, mixed with diamonds and coloured gemstones. It will be glamorous.

What is the concept and mood board of the home décor line?

The entire collection is integrated into the stores, where each room will present a new element through colours, textures, silhouettes and dimensions. The retail space mirrors my drawing-room, at large. The base colours are beige, white and ivory with accents of wine, olive, ochre and my signature shade, gold. 
I hate clutter and so there is a lot of breathing space with fresh flowers where the furniture and furnishing — carpets and large art pieces made from embroidery — are being showcased. 

One of my favourite art pieces from the décor line is a mirror with an aged grey velvet border and ivory threadwork. Another piece that I am working on makes use of antique mirror work. These are besides the throws and cushion covers that come with our signature embroidered motifs. 

You’re opening the Lakmé Fashion Week Winter/Festive ’19. Give us a peek into the collection.

The Millennial Exuberance is a very special collection for me as it is an expansive compilation with diverse fabrics—wool, cotton and silk. I’ve refreshed the wedding palette by stepping away from the warmer hues of red and used shades of white, ivory, beige, ochre, grey, salmon and gold. One can also expect the usual star appeal at the showcase. 

For the collection, we have a lot of Kashmiri hand-embroidery and intricate threadwork. Keeping with my signature style, The Millennial Exuberance will focus on sequin sheathing, ivory threadwork, sheer play, web floral motifs and layering. Flowy skirts, gowns, crop tops, and long tapered tops for women and sharp-tailored jackets and bandhgalas for men will be part of 75 ensemble collection that will be presented at the landmark, Famous Studio.

Among all the other roles you have taken on, you are set to turn producer. 
I have always been obsessed with films. When I was in college I knew I always wanted to work on movies. The choice was between being a film director or designer. Now that I’m completing 30 years as a costume designer next year, I think it is time to revisit the drawing board. All I can say, for now, is that it is exciting. 


Quick takes

•  What’s the one thing no one should wear?
Anything that makes them uncomfortable.

•  Style icon for all time...
There are so many. But the one among us is Rekha. Just the fact that she dresses up and continues to enjoy it is fabulous.

•  Favourite keepsake?
The blessings filled letters from my mother. 

•  One item you cannot live without?
My phone.