Perennially under the media scanner, looking like a million bucks isn't optional for Bollywood stars.
Two days prior to an award function, stylist Tanya Ghavri received a call from Kareena Kapoor. The actress had then delivered Taimur a few months ago and wanted a structured dress to grace the red carpet in, something that would flatter her post-pregnancy body. Once the requirements were discussed in detail, Tanya’s task was to find a gown that would get all ticks from her client. “Luckily, we came across a customised gown at Falguni & Shane Peacock’s,” she says, revealing how 80 ‘karigaars’ worked on it for a day, to get it ready in time for the award ceremony. Kapoor walked the red carpet in a midnight blue flared gown with a stunning plunge and full sleeves - the outfit complimented her frame well. For her stylist Tanya, it was a job well done.
In the last few years, the red carpet look at award functions weighs heavy over scoring a nomination. Perennially under the media scanner, the social media explosion now mandates that they look their best even while running errands or transiting through airports. A jumper and shades won’t do anymore. “Actors and people living public lives often get photographed and featured. While they are experts in their fields, they need a fashion styling expert to put looks together for them as it makes their lives easier. Looking good and fashionable is always good for your brand value,” says Ami Patel, stylist to Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt and Kangana Ranaut.
Now red-carpet outfits, everyday look, airport styles, holiday wardrobes are all factored in by stylists who have to source garments for every occasion. So when Tanya had to curate Jahnvi Kapoor's look for Dhadak promotions, her brief from producer Karan Johar was to keep her look as close to the character she is portraying in the film. “Her promotion schedule was hectic and she was always asked to perform on Zingaat. So I had to factor in costumes that would allow her to move freely,” says the stylist who dressed the debutante in indo-western ensembles from Anamika Khanna and Nikasha Tawdey, among others.
While most actors have their go-to stylists, many prefer consulting freelancers for a specific assignment. For film shoots, the film’s producer usually covers their remuneration or by the organiser of the event the star is to attend. This fee can go up to a lakh, depending on the level of detailing and specifications. Most stylists are often given an actor's schedule well in advance by their teams. But there are also times when a last-minute event may crop up.
“Once, a client of mine called me a night before, for an event next afternoon. In those times, you need to make the best of the situation. Luckily, most designers have teams with very good turnaround time to sort such stressful situations out,” says Sanjana Batra whose clientele includes Parineeti Chopra, Shilpa Shetty and Tamanna Bhatia among others.
Power of perception
Every time Ranveer Singh steps out, the paparazzi have a field day. But behind Singh’s quirky looks is his stylist Nitasha Gaurav. “I curate and propose various looks to him, he then tries on options and finally decides. Sometimes, if he has something in mind, he will discuss with me and I will assemble the look for him,” she says, adding that a stylist should be intuitive to understand what will look the best on the client. “It has to come from the heart and should be exciting.”
So when Parineeti, who has often being targetted by the fashion police in the past, went from flab to fab, her image went for a makeover too. Batra, her stylist collaborated with the actress to push the envelope in order to evolve her distinct sense of style. “When Parineeti signed me up, she was looking to experiment with new looks and silhouettes. She is at her fittest and her sense of dressing is young and chilled out,” says Batra. Fortunately for her, Parineeti’s strong sense of likes and dislikes helped in crafting her look, as “She knows what looks good on her.”
One question Gaurav is often asked is whether Singh’s style statement is in sync with his personality in real life. In Singh's case, it most certainly is. “For him, the clothes he wears are very much an extension of his personality. The image and the personality are interlinked,” she says. While others may not have such a refined taste to know what exactly how they want to look, a bevy of stylists are at their service to carve of a well-crafted look. So when Ghavri was to style Madhuri Dixit for a TV show, she had to keep her personality and age in mind and yet make her style contemporary. “Madhuri likes her look classy and elegant and is very clear about what works on her body. But she is open to experiment,” she says. So, departing from saris and anarkalis, Ghavri had recently styled Dixit Nene in a black, floor-length dress by Samant Chauhan.
Nurturing symbiotic relationships
Given the kind of exposure that comes with dressing the stars, it’s no surprise that fashion brands are also keen to tap into the star power as the most powerful weapon in their arsenal of selling couture. The fact is, when a celebrity dons a certain designer wear, it sells like hot cakes. Sanjana admits that she is often asked if she has to buy the clothes for her clients. “The outfits are sourced from designers on a returnable basis. Once the actor dons it, it is the stylist’s job to click pictures of the star and send it to blogs and social media. It’s a barter of sorts," she says.
The relationship between celebrity stylists and designers is symbiotic. While emerging brands seek exposure, stylists aim to uncover and work with fresh design talent to meet the constant demand for the kind of new looks, which can help their clients to build their personal style. “It is essential to have similar aesthetics so that all of us are on the same page,” she points out.
Brand value and instagram
In a world dominated by social media where the wrong look has more impact than the right one, the pressure to get it right is immense. “The birth of the fashion critics, emerging designers and social media are all responsible for the evolution of styling. Earlier, there used to be maybe two or three looks that the celeb would call for from one designer. Today, they have a range of designers and trends to choose from,” adds Patel. So does all the negative social media reactions affect their choice of outfits and look for their clients? “I do keep a tab on the responses in social media and if most of them dissing a look, I do pay heed. All of them can’t be wrong”saysTanya. Ranveer Singh's out-of-the-box fashion sense has got him trolled umpteenth times in social media but Nitasha is not troubled. “I don’t care about what anyone else says or thinks, as long as Ranveer and I are happy with the look. Those are the only two opinions that matter.” This is perhaps the reason why he's able to be so distinctive in his sense of style. “At the end of the day, I want him to feel good about what he’s wearing,” she says.