Sankeerthi Aipanjiguly is the quiet lady behind many dramatic costumes on stage. However, she tells NEETI SARKAR, it's going to be some time before stylists are taken seriously

Who would possibly think history, shopping and creativity could be even remotely correlated? Apparently they are, at least in the case of city-based fashion/costume designer and stylist, Sankeerthi Aipanjiguly. Having made her foray into the world of fashion a decade ago, this young Bangalorean has been in the business of making her every passion a part of her profession.

Growing up around fabrics, needles and threads (her mother used to tailor at home), Sankeerthi pretty much figured what she wanted to do when she turned 13. After completing high school she headed off to pursue a diploma in costume designing at the JSS University, Mysore. Around this time, she had the opportunity of honing her skills under renowned fashion guru Vidyasagar. And though her journey hasn't always been a bed of roses, Sankeerthi is thankful for the thorns. “There's always something to learn from every experience,” she says, as she smiles radiantly.

Seated in her living room that is aesthetically done up with exquisite wooden curios reminiscent of a bygone era in world history (she's the kind of globe trotter who collects knick knacks wherever she goes), Sankeerthi recounts her beginnings. “I was a guest faculty at NIFT, Bangalore for four years and whenever I got to design for shows or plays, I would do that alongside. 2001 saw me get involved in talent hunting, model coordination and styling for ‘Faces'. In 2002 I went down a different path and started designing plus-size and maternity clothes for a store,” she informs.

“However, I hit a rough patch in 2003 and for the next four years I worked as a trainer in a call centre. Although there were plays to design for, my assignments had reduced considerably so I was left with no choice but to take up another job.”

But for someone as optimistic as Sankeerthi, getting back to her first love with full blown vigour and vitality was just a matter of time. “If I'm back and with a bang, I owe it all to my husband, Avinash, who encourages me to keep my creativity alive,” she smiles.

High on history

A voracious reader, Sankeerthi is fascinated by history and that's how she began designing for period plays. Having worked with renowned theatre directors, Sankeerthi's expertise is usually counted on for plays that have a historical backdrop.

“While ‘Translation' by Brian Friel, which was directed by Mallika Prasad was set in the early 19th century in an Irish village, ‘Partition', directed by Prakash Belawadi had a 1912 background, Arundhati Raja's ‘Dirty Hands' was set in the later stages of World War II and Gowri Dattu's Kannada play ‘Yahudi ki Ladki' was set during the Roman rule,” the designer says.

“This job obviously requires me to be well read and to understand a particular era in order to make period costumes, which is my design USP.” She admits that designing a wardrobe for a stage production isn't all that simple.

“There isn't too much money in theatre so I'm expected to make period costumes within a limited budget and at the same time do a decent job of it. I sit through rehearsals, study the script, discuss with the director, interact with the artistes, research on that period and visualise how the character must be portrayed before I get down to shopping for the materials required or actually creating a costume.”

Styling for ads has its own plusses and minuses. “I love shopping whether I'm shopping for myself or someone else. That is the fun part of styling for ads. But we're given so little time to do up the wardrobe, that it's a mad rush until the shoot is over,” Sankeerthi explains. She has served as stylist for a large number of ads varying from Volkswagen, Big Bazaar (featuring Naseer) and Voltas Air Conditioners to Paragon, TVS Scooty and Asian Paints.

“The greatest satisfaction I derive from styling for ads is when the shoot is done and the ad is on TV. There's nothing more exhilarating than that.”

With regard to how seriously a stylist is taken, she states: “Many of the upcoming actresses want to be their own stylists and think they can do without us. That kind of attitude is something I hope will change soon.”

She finds that the new breed of fashion designers doesn't like shopping unless it's for themselves. “They want to create from scratch and are interested in designing and not styling, which are two different tasks altogether,” Sankeerthi says. She's also into creating props and designing wedding gowns.

Has she never felt a city like Mumbai, with its innumerable drama schools would've given her more opportunities to design? “I've never been there to know. Moreover, the fashion scene in Bangalore in relation to theatre and advertising is surely looking up.”

“I'm too used to the city and the warmth of its people. Bangalore will always be home and I'd rather pursue my passion here than any place else.”

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