Ten days before the promotions of Kareena Kapoor’s next Gori Teri Pyaar Mein starts full throttle, stylist Tanya Ghavri’s office is overflowing with parcels from every Indian and international designer possible. Shoes, dresses, accessories and sarees are being paired and looks put together. “Before promotions start, I will have about 10-15 looks decided and then we’ll have fittings. Things are kept fluid, so if a top I paired with a pair of jeans seems like it’ll work better with a skirt, it’s changed,” says Tanya.
Until a few years ago, actress swore loyalty to one designer. AishwaryaRai wore Neeta Lulla, Manish Malhotra moved dressing from Karisma to Kareena and Vidya Balan would only be seen in Sabyasachi. Big-ticket events meant actresses brought out their Kanjeevarams or frothy Manish Malhotra creations. Those feeling more adventurous would opt for the done-to-death Herve Leger bandage dresses or an LBD.
These were the days before fashion blogs and paparazzi who kept track of every appearance made by a star. Enter the fashion stylist who researches, curates and designs every look. A stylist’s job begins where a designer’s end. While a designer only proves the outfit, the stylist puts together the look—hair, make-up and accessories. “Stylists changed the game. Until a few years ago, the designer was the stylist. So, all folks did was request an outfit and wear whatever was sent. You’d see stars not matched to clothes or multiple sightings of the same outfit,” explain Payal and Priyanka of highheelconfidential.com, a blog that tracks Indian celebrity fashion.
At the height of her popularity, Kajol turned up at a Filmfare Award in a black shirt, open hair and her glasses perched on her nose. In September, while attending the Social Good Summit in New York, she was seen in Sabyasachi sarees paired with Prabal Gurung dresses. And, the credit for this transformation goes to stylist Triparna Majumder. It was Triparna who convinced Kajol to give a green jumpsuit a chance. “Times have changed,” is how Kajol explains her style transformation, adding, “There is so much focus on what you are wearing today. It’s scary! I am still not the kind of person who puts in as much effort as the other’s but I do a little. And I have Triparna for help.”
Before Karisma introduced Tanya to Kareena, the younger Kapoor was stuck in a style rut. Poker straight hair, heavy eye make-up and Manish Malhotra net sarees were her trademark. Today, Kareena steps out in belted dresses from Rachel Roy or Nupur Kanoi suits finished off with a side braid. “It’s not that Kareena wasn’t fashionable, but I think she wasn’t that open to experimenting. Also, she has the most enviable personal wardrobe but she didn’t want to use her clothes for public appearance. She would much rather wear them on a holiday or dinner with Saif,” says Tanya.
Kareena insists that their partnership works because Tanya understands what she likes. “We are on the same page as far as international designers are concerned. I am glad that she introduced me to so many exciting new Indian designers who I didn’t know about,” says the actress.
Once a model, Deepika Padukone has always been stylish but having Anaita Shroff Adajania of Vogue India as personal stylist means that she doesn’t have to “run around looking for clothes”. While Deepika enjoys dressing up, Anaita stays true to her mantra of dressing stars according to personality. “You’ll never see Deepika wearing trashy or quirky chic. There is always an element of classic to her look because that’s who she is as a person,” says Anaita.
Working with stars comes with a big slice of drama, tantrums and stress. Tanya recounts dressing an actress who wore an outfit that didn’t work for her body. “She insisted on wearing it despite my advice. As expected, she was panned and then blamed me,” she recalls. Stylists brave enough to style multiple actresses are constantly walking on eggshells. There are surreptious inquires as to what others are wearing or hissy fits if one actress walks away with a bigger designer name or praise from the fashion police. Then there is the issue of payment. Quite a few A-list actresses don’t pay stylists for personal appearances. “They expect the stylist to work for free because they are giving her/him a break,” explains a senior stylist.
While most believe that men in Bollywood don’t have the same kind of pressure to look impeccable on the red carpet, Shah Rukh Khan’s stylist for the last two years Daena Sethna disagrees. “Men are equally under the microscope. The only thing is that it’s tough to really differentiate between black suits or a pair of jeans and black T-shirt,” she says.
On their list of the most well-dressed in Bollywood, Payal and Priyanka pick “Sonam for mixing it up, Kangna for taking chances, Twinkle for her ability to class almost everything, Mini Mathur for her sarees and Deepika for her ability to do glam”. High on their list of actresses in need of a fashion intervention are those “who can’t ditch their body-con dresses”. “Also Aishwarya needs a bit of an intervention. On home turf, while she likes to do a heavy embellished Indian wear, we would love to see her take a different approach.”