Fashion designer Surya Parvathi tells Liza George about her tryst with the stars and what fashion means to her
It was an advertisement in a newspaper that had Surya Pravathi sketching her dreams on paper. The ad, a designing contest by International Academy of Fashion, Ernakulam, helped her realise that her heart lay in designing. She soon joined the institute and later went on to join Apparel Leather Techniques, Bangalore, and PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore to study fashion and its intricacies.
“As a kid I loved designing, I remember sketching bridal dresses on pieces of paper and the back of my books. I hated tailoring though. So I designed my dresses and then had them tailor-made,” says Surya who upon graduating in fashion decided to try her hand in costume designing. With no strings with the film world, she managed to get hold of director Fazil's phone number and pleaded with him to give her a chance. Nayantara's first scene in white in Fazil's Vismaya Thumabathu was Surya's debut as a costume designer.
“When I started designing costumes for the big screen, I was keen on making them as attractive as possible. I chose materials that were rich in colour and further enriched them with embellishments. It was only later that I realised that heavily-worked outfits like those with Kantha work, for instance, look flat on screen. Likewise you don't need to use silk for a stylish look on screen, poly-cotton will do just fine.”
Real vs. reel clothes
Dressed in a simple yet elegant white-gold salwar-kurta, Surya looks chic and stylish. However the photographer insists that she change into another dress for the photo shoot. “See, what I mean? That which looks good in the real world may not look good in the reel world,” she says as she sportingly changes outfits.
According to Surya, dressing Mollywood stars is easy as they are not too fussy and have faith in their designer. “Dressing actors from other States, however, can prove tricky. They are particular about their dress, hair, make-up… even shoes. One such actor wanted her shoes to match the colour of her onscreen dress. They do not know how the Malayalam film industry works: the shots, the angles used…, the cinematographer rarely shoots the shoes; it's mostly a bust shot or a close-up of the face that they go for,” says Surya who has dressed stars like Samvritha Sunil, Navya Nair, Navneet Kaur and Parvathi Melton on screen.
In fact, her outfit for Parvathi in the song Chellatharmarae… for the movie Hello (kurta with Patiala) had textile retailers replicating such outfits for sale. “It felt great when a salesman in Kochi tried to sell me one referring to it as ‘Hello Kurta,'” laughs Surya.
Before she designs for the stars, she takes into account their preferences. “Some may prefer a deep neckline, while others don't like such stuff. Malayali actresses are not so particular about the fit of their clothes except when it comes to sari blouses. Actresses from other States, on the other hand, insist that their dresses fit them like a glove; they also insist that their clothes are the latest in terms of Bollywood fashion,” says the petite costume designer who has also launched her line of clothing called ‘Isra' in the city.
“Most people in the capital city are quite conservative when it comes to fashion. Kochiites are more open to the latest in fashion trends and do not mind paying for designer wear,” says Surya.
“Fashion keeps changing from day to day. What's in today will be out tomorrow. The only outfit I believe will always remain in style are saris.” She foresees mixing and matching of clothes being the next in the fashion scene. “The only problem is that you need to have a sense of colour co-ordination while doing so.”
To Surya, being well-dressed is not just about wearing the right outfit, it is also about the right accessories and foot wear. “Sleek pieces of jewellery are in fashion. It's the same with footwear; keep it simple yet elegant. No bows or fancy embellishments on your shoes,” says Surya who adds that the right hair do is important too to complete the look. “Your hair has to suit your face, not what the latest trend is. It is the same with clothes. You should stick to what suits your complexion and your body type. Only then will you truly be in fashion.”