Printed long-sleeved white Zara shirt tucked into flared Bhane denim pants, canvas shoes, hair worn loose and no make-up. Tanya Ghavri’s chic and comfortable work-day look was proof why she’s one of Bollywood’s busiest stylists. In town to style actress Diana Penty for a Rishi & Soujit shoot, the 31-year-old wrapped up four looks in less than a couple of hours, chatted with t2 at The Westin Kolkata Rajarhat and caught a flight back to Mumbai for an assignment. No wonder, she takes only three minutes to get ready!
Styling is a full-fledged profession now. Back when you started, it was quite niche. How did you land your first assignment?
When I went to New York and did my fundamentals in design, I realised that I wanted to study fashion. I started super young. Back then it was very niche. Now, it’s really grown… so many talented people. When we started, there were a handful. Of course Anaita Shroff (Adajania) was super big at that time. We looked up to her and we still do. She was somebody who opened the path up for all of us. I interned with Vogue for four-five months. Then I worked with Pernia Qureshi on Aisha.
That’s where you met Sonam K Ahuja?
That’s where I met Sonam and I started styling Sonam. Then I met Kareena (Kapoor Khan) and then I met Lolo (Karisma Kapoor) and ended up meeting a lot of other people.
So, designing was never on your mind?
You never know… I might get into designing at some point. I know I have the aesthetics to put things together, but I also have an eye about what works and doesn’t. I am still so full with my styling that it’s not happened till now, but I want to… let’s see. I have been saying it for two-three years. It’s not happened. Now let’s hope it happens.
What are the challenges?
There is so much option out there now. There are many more designers than there used to be. So, the challenge is to dress an actor for their body, for who they are and what they stand for, what their personality is and also choosing the right garments for them… what suits their personality. Timings are challenging, always. In Bombay, you are always racing against time. There’s traffic, too many people, too many meetings; it’s madness. But we find sanity in the madness.
Do actresses often call you up cribbing about what has been written about them?
Not really. After working with all of them for so many years, we have all come to a point now where we trust each other, we trust things that we do with each other. There will be ups and downs. Some things will work and some things won’t, but I think even actors are not taking trolls seriously. Only trolls are taking themselves seriously. It doesn’t matter, ya. There are lots of websites and blogs and Instagram pages that are trolling actors, stylists, designers, but you have to take it with a pinch of salt. Even they have to fill their pages. And you have to take criticism really well. Read it and be like: ‘I may have screwed up here’ and move on. You learn every day.
And, you cannot be biased, right, even though you might have your favourites?
Everybody has favourites. I have my favourites in my designers, actors, but when you are a professional, you give it your best. You have to try to not be biased.
Who are your favourites?
Bebo (Kareena Kapoor Khan). Dude, she is someone who is so trusting, drop-dead gorgeous… look at her! She is just a happy person. That’s what makes her attractive and beautiful. Also, Shraddha (Kapoor). She is my age, I work with her a lot. I think both Shraddha and Jacqueline (Fernandez); they are both young girls. They are literally my age and I think we have a lot of fun together, we have taken trips. It’s literally like, I am styling two beautiful girls and they are my friends. It’s like playing dress up.
I like the fact that Freida (Pinto) always brings something Indian to her looks. She’ll add that oxidised Indian jewellery or she’ll add an element somewhere. She was going for some film festival and said she must wear Anamika (Khanna). She wants to keep something Indian still alive in her wardrobe. Sanchita (Ajjampur) is a close friend of hers and she always wears Sanchita. It’s been 13 years that she has been away but she keeps that alive and that is what is interesting and I want to keep doing that with her more. Freida is also very versatile. There is nothing that she hasn’t tried till today — whether it’s hair, make-up, wardrobe.
Sri ma’am (Sridevi) was one of my favourites. I used to love to style her. She was so chic and elegant. I used to send her 10 pictures and she knew what exactly she wanted to try, what would work. I really miss that… somebody who has been around for so many years and when they say experience talks, they really mean it. Right from wearing her Sabya (Sabyasachi Mukherjee) saris to Manish (Malhotra) to Elie Saab and Armani…she was somebody I would have liked to style for the next 10 years.
Now you are working with her daughter Janhvi…
Yeah! (Smiles) She is like a mirror image. She is still discovering her style, figuring things out and trying new things. She is too young, ya. I like that she experiments and wants to try new things. She is loving the idea of cute crop tops and skirts, dhoti pants with cute tops. She is enjoying the bohemian-Indian space.
And, of course Sonam K Ahuja…
Sonam has been my friend for donkey’s years. She was the first celebrity I styled. We worked together for about two-three years and we still work together now and then, but now of course her sister (Rhea Kapoor) styles her. We are in the same gang of girls and very good friends. We are always taking opinions from each other. We don’t have any ego. Also, it is a creative process. I still look up to Sonam. She has such an amazing, innate, versatile style. She really knows stuff, very strong aesthetics. Even the way she dresses casually… she could be at a lunch or the airport; it’s things she has put together.
As a stylist, what are things you are looking for in a star?
To trust a creative person, whether it is the stylist or the hair and make-up artist. And patience. Like I feel I am doing my best work with Kareena now in the last two years maybe. It takes time to get to know each other.
Who are the most coveted designers on a star’s list now?
Anamika, 100 per cent. I feel Anamika doesn’t conform to any rule. I like that about her. Nothing has to be a certain way. It is the way she imagines it and that’s a true artist. She is constantly challenging her mind and frankly, she is never ever satisfied.
Of course, Sabya is a classic, man! Who doesn’t love him? You look at it and you are like ‘for my wedding, one outfit toh I have to wear of Sabya’. It is kind of poetry. He is an amazing stylist, which is why his campaigns look unbelievable. His aesthetic in jewellery also…. He has brought Indian heritage back into clothes. It was there, but somewhere it got commercialised.
Dhruv Kapoor does cool, interesting modern wear and has got an edge over a lot of designers. Rahul Mishra is amazing. He couture is unbelievable. His work is distinct.
Your top tips for aspiring stylists would be?
Study, because it really opens up your mind. Do a lot of internships. Do your own research. Even when you start working with someone, you should continue doing it. Now there is so much material available… Business of Fashion tells you about what’s going in the world of fashion.
A LOOK I WANT THEM TO TRY
Kareena Kapoor Khan: For her, less is more, always, like Coco Chanel said. She will pull out one accessory every time she leaves. She is so beautiful that she doesn’t need to. I don’t think I have ever done anything Gothic with her. It’s not her vibe. Her vibe is classic and elegant, but it will be interesting to try that with her.
Jacqueline Fernandez: Jackie is quite versatile. She can try anything, but I would always like to explore more Indian with Jackie. When people think of Jackie, they think of her as very western, contemporary, sexy. I feel like I want to Indianise her. She loves wearing Indian clothes.
Shraddha Kapoor: I love doing androgynous with Shraddha. I feel she is so pretty... so, I try to break that and do something that is a bit boyish yet sexy.
A day in the life of a top Bollywood stylist
It’s hectic! I wake up at 7-7.30 in the morning… I am on my laptop the first thing. These days I try to do yoga for an hour. I need it now after so many years… to de-stress. And then I get into checking my emails, referencing… any research-related work happens in the morning because I know once it is 11 o’clock, my assistants will start coming in, I have my meetings, there’s fittings… and then it’s an insane day. I try and finish by 8-8.30pm. That’s my day when I am not shooting. Morning time is also my time to spend with my mum. She wakes up early. When I am shooting, the shoot starts at 9 or 10 in the morning and it goes on till about 8 in the evening.
FIVE WARDROBE MUST-HAVES
- A cool blazer always works. You can put it on a pair of pants, shorts, dress, sari. It can edge up any look.
- A pair of really cool boyfriend jeans. It is very versatile; it can go from day to night.
- Your mom’s vintage jewellery always comes handy.
- For the boys, first, make an effort. White shirt, white T-shirt, white blazer… have white in your wardrobe. It is so classic. You can never go wrong. Men should always be classic, whether it is navy blues, greys, whites. Stay in that zone.
- Please have a three-piece suit. A tux is a tux.