Neeta Lulla takes us through her 30-year journey in the world of Bollywood and fashion

Right now, Lulla is busy with the costume and styling job for Chandramukhi 2 starring Rajinikanth

Sharmistha Ghosal Published :  17th March 2023 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  17th March 2023 12:00 AM
Right now, Neeta Lulla is busy with the costume and styling job for Chandramukhi 2

Right now, Neeta Lulla is busy with the costume and styling job for Chandramukhi 2

Even after three decades of being in the fashion industry designer Neeta Lulla never ceases to learn new things. She’s always on the move, keeps abreast of the latest developments in the sartorial world and her energy knows no bounds. The couturier, who started her career back in the mid-80s is a well-known name in Bollywood with two National Awards in her kitty for best costume design (Balgandharva and Jodhaa Akbar). Also, Neeta is one of the few fashion experts in the glamour industry, who has witnessed the sea of change that fashion in films has gone through, right from the very amateurish, unsure and over-the-top styling in the 90s and early 2000 to the fast-maturing and more globalised trends pervading the last two decades.

Right now, Lulla is busy with the costume and styling job for Chandramukhi 2 starring Rajinikanth in the lead and just wrapped up Shakuntalam by Guansekhar that’s poised for an April release.

We speak to the very humble, soft-spoken and vivacious designer-entrepreneur who is always bubbling with new ideas and innovations about her journey, current work and future plans.

Even after three decades of work, what keeps you going strong?

I still feel the fire within and I still feel the zest to keep doing something better than what I have done in my past years. The reason is that I think I have been blessed with some amazing kinds of work till now. So the quality of work and the desire to do something that makes me happy and fills me with a sense of fulfillment have been keeping me going so far.

What are the lessons you picked up?

Life is a constant learning procedure everyday of your life if you keep your mind and vision open to what you are doing and how you are doing and observe things around you, it makes you learn a lot. And that experience is reflected in the work you do which makes it even more interesting and fulfilling. That’s what I learned over all these years and thankfully, I am still learning a lot each day.

Neeta Lulla
Neeta Lulla

What does it take to survive for so long?

I don’t think of surviving in the industry but have always put in my best effort. You can only put your best and that alone takes you very far in work.

As a woman, has the journey been difficult or easy for you?

As a woman, I don’t think my journey has been very difficult. They say it is the survival of the fittest but I believe it’s the survival of the most talented. People around you especially in the creative field are very talent-hungry and if you have talent and are able to give your best to the work you are doing I don’t think one has to worry about any kind of difficulty.

How has your label evolved over the years?

As a brand, my endeavour has always been to evolve in terms of the kind of garments and the type of looks and style statements that we execute for the brand. Fashion is cyclical and bringing to the forefront clothes that are in keeping with trends while at the same time being classic and evolving to the needs of the consumer season after season and giving them something new to look forward to has kept our label alive.

Neeta Lulla
Neeta Lulla's creation

What's your design philosophy?

Our philosophy depicts a profound love for drama and magnanimity using a contrast of romantic Edwardian and baroque influences in an Indian-at-heart ethos.

We believe in reusability as an aspect of sustainability in bridal trousseaus.

You have done costumes for more than 400 films. How different is it from creating couture collections?

Period films require reading the script, understanding the era and researching details of design and fabrics that help create the structure of garments and characters. It also requires understanding the magnitude of what the director wants to use to project and tell the story and the comfort level of the actor who is portraying the character.

Designing for clients is different in the sense that you know just the one scene or occasion you're designing for, and that too through the eyes of the client. At times you can go overboard with the costumes but you've to be careful with the clients keeping in mind the social setting and norms they conform to. But both film costumes and client fashion are challenging and exciting in their own ways.

Neeta Lulla's creation
Neeta Lulla's creation

Tell us about your work in upcoming films Chandramukhi2 and Shakuntalam?

Chandramukhi 2 is currently on floors, so, I can’t say much about it. However, Shakuntalam will release on April 14 and the entire look has already been styled. In the first half the clothes are very organic in terms of their look. It is a period-based mythology and we have used organic-based fabric. In the second half, there is a lot of grandiose in the portrayal of characters and therefore it sees a lot of use of pure fabrics with zardosi and hand embroidery work and jewellery styles especially created for each and every character by Vasundhara Jewellers.

What does it take to be a successful fashion entrepreneur?

Success is not final and failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. I believe it is better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation. I was willing to risk the usual so that I didn’t have to settle for the ordinary. I’d say do what you do best and try to find others who can fill in by doing the things you are not good at. I am terrible at accounting, so my husband assists me. This frees me up to focus on the things I excel at and I can run a more efficient operation. Pick an occupation that you absolutely love.

Neeta Lulla's creation
Neeta Lulla's creation

In a market swelling with couture labels, what does it take to stand out in a crowd?

It takes a lot of persistence, commitment and being on the job constantly because you are not only creating something but planning how to put it forth to your consumers and planning how to market it. I don’t think I was ever a fashion entrepreneur but yes, in all honesty, I have picked up entrepreneurial skills to be able to market and sell the products that I create. During the lockdown, I studied fashion marketing and social media marketing, something that I was not very aware of. I feel that being able to strategise and understand how to put it forth in digital format is the need of the hour and the training has helped me a great deal. I picked up the skill late in my journey but they say better late than never.

When it comes to trends, do you feel that Indian fashionistas are still influenced by Bollywood divas and films?

Yes and no. Some of them have become experimental but some work with a classic format. In today’s time, there are a lot of brands available and a lot of stylists who bring on board a lot of looks that you can look at and you can work with it.

But the fashion scene is even now ruled by Bollywood divas and films. If a film appeals to the media or the audiences, it works its way up to the minds and influences the fashion statements of the consumers and the audience. I think Bollywood is a great medium even today and it is going to remain this way for a long time because you get to see a lot of stars you get inspired by wearing the kind of clothes you would like to see yourself wearing.

Tell us about your future plans and collections?

There are a few more movies including one with Pawan Kalyan. I also plan to open a couple of more flagship stores and work on our websites that we have developed for a longest time now.

Your message for other aspiring designers?

You cannot pursue something just for money or fame. Quality and technique of what you do and how you do it also matter. Strive to be the best version of yourself. Internal motivation is key, because if you're not pushing yourself, who will? Also, learn to embrace change. Most fear it, but it's a beautiful thing. With huge risks come bigger rewards and the chance to make a difference.