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Fashion Talk

Manish Malhotra

Label Manish Malhotra

Don’t take yourself too seriously

A multitalented designer and founder of an eponymous label, Manish Malhotra, has been deeply entrenched in the twin worlds of fashion and film for the past three decades. In a conversation with Fibre2Fashion, the designer shares his personal journey in the world of fashion, what keeps him motivated to design for new collections and the difference he finds in styles of 90’s and current times.

Fibre2Fashion: How was your childhood?

Manish Malhotra:

I grew up in a typical Punjabi household, where my mom always encouraged me in all that I wanted to do. Growing up, being fascinated by Bollywood films, I decided to watch every single film that was released. But being an average student, academics was boring to me. In the 6th grade, I remember joining a painting class and enjoyed it so much! From watching films, to painting, and being surrounded by my mother’s clothes, my love for fashion grew. I used to even give fashion advice to my mom on her sarees! When I got into college, I started modelling, and began working at a boutique. It was for a year and a half as I could not afford to go abroad and study fashion, so that was my school in a way. I am completely self-taught and used to sit and sketch for hours! Finally at the age of 25, I got my big break.


F2F: From a model to a designer and an entrepreneur, how would you illustrate your journey?


It has been a glorious 31 years now in the industry and I could not be more grateful to everything I have experienced. From working with some of the most amazing people to being able to push my boundaries with my work, every experience of mine has been heart-warming and special for which I have so much gratitude.

F2F: How do you manage to keep yourself grounded after earning immense fame globally?


I think the most important thing over here is to not take yourself too seriously and my philosophy has always been that. I need to constantly be learning and observing, From the fact that I came from a background of no formal education in my craft, I am passion driven. One makes mistakes and should wake up the next day and work on it again. Till date, it is my need to constantly hone myself through learning and understanding the new ways. It is so set in my mind. Also, I have seen a lot of actors, directors, film producers and other designers who take themselves very seriously. In my mind, I am not above anything. For me, every day, I am a learner.

F2F: Tell me something about yourself that people do not know.


I love my early mornings. I wake up as early as 4.30 am and that time is for me where I get to spend time with my thoughts. Enjoying my cup of tea with watching the sun rise, hearing the birds chirp, I get to plan my day, exercise, create, think of new things to do. Most Definitely, my favourite time of the day.

F2F: Describe a day in your life and what inspires you to design season by season?


Every day is different. No two days are same, so it can be a day at the shoot or in the office filled with meetings or spending an entire day with my team creating the next collection. I take every day as it comes. Travelling, nature and people inspire me. Being an observer, I take in what I see and use those experiences and fit that into my creation in some way or the other. Like my latest campaign of Nooraniyat’s bridal edit which was inspired by my real bride clients with whom I have spent time on their process in planning their outfits and have tried to showcase the emotions they experience on their big day.

F2F: What made you decide to design costumes for films and what things must be kept in mind while styling a celebrity for an event or a movie?


I always knew I wanted to do something in the film industry. It happened all by chance as I was good at sketching and started working in a boutique where I taught myself how to design clothes. With all the challenging work, I achieved my first break at 25 when I had to design an outfit for Juhi Chawla. 

When styling a celebrity, one must always keep in mind the character and role their muse is playing for a movie. When it’s an event, always design for the personality they are in real life.

F2F: What made you initiate the concept of showstoppers?


For my first fashion show, it was really an innocent decision. Urmila Matondkar was a friend and I just asked her if she will walk as a model for me and that turned into the trend of showstoppers. The essence of every showstopper is different. I like the individuality of every muse as it adds to the personality of the collection.

F2F: What is the difference between styling in 90’s and in current times? Which period was more tough, why?


Whether it was a Ram Gopal Varma’s, Karan Johar’s or Aditya Chopra’s film, I treated them like my own. So many films that I have done has had enormous impact and still remains so as I work today with Sara, Kiara or Janhvi. But it was always sticking to the character and yet trying to do something new. I think today the characters have become very real and simplistic but up until 5 years ago, the characters were very dreamy and aspirational. That really helped me show my passion and styling skills.

F2F: What’s with virtual store? How did the idea pop up?


With the world facing a pandemic, travel was at halt. But parts of the world were still operating on its own time. Intimate weddings started taking place and brides, grooms and their families could not travel for their wedding shopping. That is when we decided to give them the experience of shopping at the store but from the comfort of their own homes, no matter what part of the world they reside in.

We launched India’s first online virtual store where a client can experience being in an actual Manish Malhotra store. They can roam the store and even pick an outfit from a rack and can get all the details, just like how it would be if they were here for real.   

F2F: Do current trends affect your designs, or do you prefer to stick to your own signature style?


I prefer sticking to my own style.

F2F: How long does it take to make a single outfit and how does the design process work?


It completely depends on the outfit. If it is an elaborate wedding lehenga or gown it can take up to 3 months tentatively.

F2F: What is your take on Luxury Fashion landscape of India?


The luxury fashion of India is built on the foundation of our age-old culture and craft that elevates its value. Whether your personal taste is that of a minimalist or a maximalist, the luxury market of India recognises and respects the craft and the work that has gone into the creation, understanding its worth and preserving it.

F2F: How has digitalisation influenced your label and what are the pros and cons of it?


Digitalization has helped everyone to make life easier I feel. Today when the world came to a sudden halt, all of us were connected by technology. I directed my first fashion film in 2012 with Vidyut Jamwal but unfortunately fashion films weren’t recognized as much back then, but during the lockdown, as we couldn’t do live shows, I decided to bring back the fashion films. Personally, I loved the process so much that I have just directed my 5th fashion film and surely will continue to do so.

I launched my first online virtual store for all those who couldn’t travel and can get the experience of being in an actual store from any part of the world. With the help of social media, we are reaching out to millions on a daily basis, it helps us connect with our audience immediately and we get reactions instantly, helping us plan our forthcoming collections. So far, I only see pros, But then that is me, I like to see the positive side of things in life always.

F2F: Which Hollywood celebrities have you styled so far and how was the experience?


Michael Jackson, Naomi Campbell, Will Smith and even Nick Jonas recently, whether its Hollywood or Bollywood, it’s always a great experience to work with creative and talented people of the industry. But not just entertainment celebrities, I also had the honor to style Hillary Clinton and that too was a wonderful experience.

F2F: If not a designer, then what would you have been?


It must be director if not a designer.

Interviewer: Kiran Sahija
Published on: 19/10/2021
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