Personalised panache

Archana Walavalkar, co-founder and creative director of, is breaking new ground by democratising the personal styling business. 

Published: 14th March 2018 05:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th March 2018 02:15 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

HYDERABAD : So what if March 8 is done and dusted with? We are still ‘march’ing towards far-reaching empowerment. Is one day enough to celebrate the warriors who have been combating at every step and conquering their chosen battle? Here is another undaunted woman’s enterprising tale.Fashion and style could have been a woman’s hallmark, but making a mark and designing a niche for self in a male-dominated world of fashion, films and business is unabashedly groundbreaking. Archana Walavalkar is right there, writing her own rules and underlining them with her work. 

How does it feel to be styled by Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone’s personal stylist for your date night or interview at new office or that Instagram post? Wait, before you take a boarding pass to your dreamland of imaginations on how rad that would be, hear out the story behind this democracy in fashion.Bringing this style access to aam aurat is Archana along with Dhimaan Shah, former investment banker with their digital venture StyleCracker.Com. 

The 32-year-old fashion game changer’s vision is to make India stylish. “We started it in 2013. The idea behind conceptualising StyleCracker box is to make styling accessible to everyone and not just celebrities and influencers. We want to bring a customer centric, new way of retail using technology, focusing on personalisation and building a scalable business with a strong human connection. Giving someone an all-round experience is our goal. Because at the end it’s not just about the product, it’s about the journey and about reshaping the way people shop. We use intelligent technology to collect various data from our users to give them a completely personalised and curated shopping experience,” Archana informs. Alia Bhatt has recently joined them on board as an investor.

Explaining us about how the StyleCracker box works, she says, “It is an easy way for one to have a personal stylist kind of style. The first step is visiting the site, one can find the option of three SC boxes at different price points. You will also see a list of the kinds of products you will get in each box. If you have another figure in mind, you can put in your own price range and we can work with that. Next you will fill out a form where you’ll be asked about your style preferences, your sizing and what you like and dislike. This helps us understand your style better.

Once we receive this form, we will start curating your box. Your stylist will go through hundreds of brands to find the perfect garments and accessories for you. They will do this keeping in mind your likes, dislikes, body shape and budget. As soon as your box is ready, within ten business days, it will be shipped to your doorstep. You can check out what we have sent you and if you don’t like something or if a garment does not fit, you can return or exchange these products- no questions asked,” she elucidates in detail. 

Archana completed her high school from Arya Vidya Mandir in Santacruz, Mumbai. She went on to study commerce at HR College. “I studied apparel manufacture and design at SNDT in Juhu and once I graduated from there I went on to work at L’Officiel, Vogue- for five years as fashion editor and moved on to styling celebrities post that.  I studied Hindustani classical music for 15 years and fully enjoy outdoorsy activities - it can be anything, from surfing to jet skiing and hiking,” Alia’s stylist shares it all.
Throwing light on her first job as fashion editor for Vogue magazine, she says, “I started off working at L’Official as a stylist. I was a part of the launch team at Vogue India as a fashion editor. My job included attending fashion weeks to understand the current trends. We would have regular meetings to narrow down the relevant trends for our readers and we did come up with shoot ideas to translate them. Editorial shoots are always aspirational, we strive to ensure the readers love it so much, they want to have it,” she smiles. 

What made her incline towards fashion? Says Archana, “I grew up surrounded by costumes and fabrics. My grandfather used to own a circus and there were always people bustling in and out of our house with the most stunning materials and designs. At school, I was always into art and illustrating. I did a course in jewellery design and apparel manufacturing where styling was a part of one semester. And that’s all it took for me to fall in love with it.”

She is living her Bollywood dream and how? Post her stint with Vogue magazine, she styled Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif for their public appearances and campaigns. That was the time Karan Johar was launching three new stars with Student of the Year. He offered her to come on board to style the actors in that movie and there has been no looking back. “After SOTY, I did Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania with Varun and Alia and then Shandaar with Alia and Shahid. I have also styled Tabu in Drishyam, Alia for Kapoor & Sons and even a few movie promotional songs with Varun Dhawan. Apart from the films, I also work closely with celebrities for film promotions, editorials and brand campaigns as well as television commercials and stage shows,” says the proud stylist.

Archana says she draws inspiration from women around her.  “Be it family, friends and even colleagues. They are real women with real issues who keep it real for me every day,” she says making us look around and attract such stimuluses.  Speaking about her struggles, Archana says, “The editorial space that I came from was very different to what we do now here. It’s a completely different target audience, concept, new everything. So it was like starting afresh. We had to start with addressing a gap in the market and use fashion teamed up with technology to create a unique business. But once we settled in and worked on our strengths, it was just about being consistent and building a good eco system.”

To all the girls out there, dreaming of success and empowerment, Archana unveils her success mantra. Hear it out loud. “If you can dream it, you can do it - Walt Disney. It is all about getting your hands dirty and diving into the thick of things. You have to remember to be positive and believe in yourself even through difficult times. The key is to never give up and always be hopeful.” “Also, it is great to have a group of mentors and advisors you can get feedback from. It is a huge part of your learning curve and helps you gain a fresh perspective,” she concludes.

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