In style

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By If you have a good understanding of trends and an eye for detail, a career in fashion styling could be your calling, says Tessy Koshy
  • Published 20.12.07

You may have seen Dhoom 2, but not connected the film with Anahita Shroff Adajania. Behind Aishwarya Ray’s slick outfits and Hrithik Roshan’s rugged appearance was the fashion stylist, who travelled across the globe to source the outfits to give each character an international appeal.

Bipasha Basu’s striped bikini was bought from London. Aishwarya Rai’s beaded top was from Rio de Janeiro and her micro mini came all the way from New York. “Dhoom 2 will always be a special film for me. It gave me the opportunity to put together a range of looks,” says Mumbai-based Adajania, who is busy creating a new look for Abhishek Bachchan in his new film Drona.

Though a well-known concept in the West, fashion styling is only now making its presence felt here. Unlike designers who create clothes, a fashion stylist sources costumes from various designers and stores. Stylists are much in demand and are today working in various areas ranging from magazines to films. “The opportunities for a stylist are endless today. They can work for TV shows, magazine shoots, ramp shows and even do personalised styling for companies and celebrities,” says Adajania, who is also the fashion director for Vogue magazine.

A fashion stylist co-ordinates clothes, accessories and hairstyle or an overall theme for a show or an individual. For instance, for a magazine shoot, the stylist discusses a brief with the editors and co-ordinates a photo shoot, dealing with clothes, accessories, models, the location and the backdrop as well. “A major part of a stylist’s job involves planning what would look good on each model, deciding from where to buy or hire the clothes and accessories and dressing up the models for the actual shoot,” says Aaditya Walia, a freelance stylist and student of a fashion designing course at the Pearl Academy of Fashion (PAF), Delhi.

For the December issue of Men’s Health magazine, Walia assisted Delhi stylist Yatin Ahluwalia for a special issue on wedding and party wear. It took him 10 days to co-ordinate the shoot. Walia had to connect the clothes, shoes, bags and sunglasses with a theme - silver - for the wedding season.

Styling for the ramp or a magazine shoot is very different from styling for a TV soap or a film. “For films you have to create the entire look of a character - and that includes everything from the clothes to hairstyles to body language. In a magazine or on the ramp you are communicating a creative idea to the reader or the audience,” adds Adajania.

With people increasingly becoming conscious of their looks and public image, personalised styling is gaining ground.

Stylists work with individuals who need a makeover or business magnates who want to build a public image.

Corporate styling too is an emerging option. Organisations hire stylists to design and create the uniform and look for their employees. Fashion stylist Ahluwalia has styled the look for a host of companies, including Spice Jet, Indigo, ITC, Taj Hotels, Zee TV, Bausch & Lomb and Doordarshan. “Personally too, corporate styling is close to my heart as it is about real people. You are able to touch so many lives and create a long-term impact,” says Ahluwalia.

If you have a good understanding of fashion trends and an eye for detail, a career in fashion styling could be your calling. But be ready to work long hours, says Ritu Jain, assistant professor, PAF. “You need a lot of stamina as sourcing clothes and accessories require a lot of legwork,” says Jain.

A stylist also needs to be good at networking and should be resourceful enough to get outfits from various places. “You also need oodles of patience along with the readiness to do any job -- ranging from polishing shoes to cleaning floors,” adds Ahluwalia. Stylists also need to be good communicators as they have to interact with models, fabric makers and clients.

Most stylists start their career by assisting a senior stylist, during which time they might not even be paid. But once they have work experience, they can earn from Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 per project. One can also work on a daily or per assignment basis. For a 10-day shoot for a magazine, a stylist can be paid between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000 a day.

Though there are no dedicated courses in fashion styling in India, most fashion design programmes have incorporated styling into their course. At the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Delhi, fashion styling is taught as a three-week elective course in the final year of the fashion design programme. Styling is also taught as part of the two-year fashion communication course at NIFT. “Students are taught about costumes, photography, hairstyle, make-up, backdrops and sourcing,” says Banhi Jha, a member of the faculty, fashion design course, NIFT, Delhi.

From Elle magazine’s Mohan Neelakantan to Vogue’s fashion editor Edward Lalrempuia, many of the successful stylists in India have been fashion design students. It was while doing the fashion design course at NIFT that Lalrempuia discovered that his real passion was styling and not designing. “I realised that I was not fond of stitching and designing clothes. I was more interested in putting clothes together and being in the forefront of shoots interacting with people,” says Lalrempuia.

Like him, if you have the passion - go for it.