Manish Malhotra on individuality and sustainability

Manish Malhotra is a minimalist. A self-professed one, not in terms of fashion, but in terms of his home. “My home has a lot of greys and whites,” says the man behind some of the most opulent outfits in Bollywood and on global ramps, “After coming home from all the sequins and colour, I like it that way. It’s fresher.” And personal preferences, for the designer, have always been priority.

“All of us like a certain fit, have a certain comfort outfit,” he points out to the sea of fashionable women gathered to hear him speak at ITC Grand Chola recently. It was this personal choice that Malhotra first started figuring out for his “film ladies”, a combination of the characters’ attitudes in scripts and preferences of the actresses portraying them. That, according to him, is what first made his work stand out in Bollywood.

“I love listening to scripts; it’s from there that I get my ideas,” the costume stylist and fashion designer tells former model Shvetha Jaishankar, who was in conversation with him on the dais for the inaugural session of FICCI FLO Chennai’s Stories That Speak series. The series’ focus is on creative minds and how they go about building businesses and giving back to society. So the conversation veers between future plans and upcoming labels, his work with artisans and students, and his early experiences as an up-and-coming name in the industry.

Manish Malhotra on individuality and sustainability

There is something heartening about listening to one of fashion’s biggest names, candidly describe his early years in cinema as “confusing and intimidating”. The brief given to him, he recounts, would invariably be the same: “Every girl was ‘modern and glamorous’. I was once told, ‘just go and make your small-small clothes’. But I asked questions, took a lot of notes, introduced the concept of styling with hair, makeup and shoes...” He recalls the time a certain director got angry at him for daring to ask for a script. “Only later did I realise that there was no script,” he says.

Cut to more recent times, when Malhotra designed the T-shirt and salwar look for Kareena Kapoor’s small-town role in Jab We Met, he was instantly emulated around the country. “In the past six or seven years, the films have become more homely, so the looks are more small-town,” he observes.

Films are his first love, and he admits as much — “next year, I will complete 15 years with my label, and 30 as a costume designer” — but he does enjoy designing on his own just as much. “There is more scope for breadth and diversification today, because young women are more open to experimentation,” he says. So in addition to his recently-launched Manish Malhotra Beauty is his upcoming Manish Malhotra Home, his foray into interiors.

The key word

Manish Malhotra on individuality and sustainability

And these are just some of his plans. “Just yesterday, we were having a discussion about our new bags — we’re getting a completely new look for our stores this August — and I was very keen that we use sustainable paper,” he says in an interview after the event, adding emphasis on the weight of green practices today by pointing out, “I don’t know whether I would have had this conversation three years ago. But today, I am also tying up with an NGO: with every bag that we sell, there is a bit of funding that goes to an NGO.”

“I think sustainability is one of the most important factors, coming in. As a label, and as a senior designer today, I think it is very important for me to consider factors like technology, sustainability and empowerment. For a person of certain standing, or for any company, it is important to move with these values. We are working on imbibing all of them in our journey.” And it isn’t just his future plans that are taking a responsible bent, he clarifies: “We work with the NGO for empowerment, we are very particular about electricity and water.”

Despite having multiple such intitiatives to look after, and enjoying the creative freedom of designing for the ramp, it is in custom fits that Malhotra finds his challenge. “It is always more difficult when it is person-oriented, because you are working on that person as well. And not everything suits everyone, so it gets more complicated. But I have dealt with all the actors for so long that I don’t get initimidated or worried. I have the patience to work with anybody, and it is also more satisfying when I make that person happy,” he smiles.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 11:00:56 AM |

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