Dress Me Up, Dress Me Down

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Move over airhostesses, cricketers and models. Young people now lie awake dreaming of becoming stylists, says Aastha Atray Banan

Sitting pretty Shyamli Arora is climbing the Bollywood ladder of success
Sitting pretty Shyamli Arora is climbing the Bollywood ladder of success
Photos: Deepak Salvi

SHYAMLI ARORA REMEMBERS waiting restlessly every month for the fashion bibles to grace the magazine rack at her father’s modest departmental store in Lucknow ever since she was a little girl. As the Chartered Accountancy student poured over models dressed in high fashion, she had no inkling that her fascination with the glossies would steer her as far away from balance sheets as possible. “When I came to Mumbai, I didn’t know there was a world outside. I chanced upon a job at a fashion magazine, but that I would become a stylist by profession was something unthought-of,” says the young woman who recently dressed Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif in 2009’s superhit Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani.
Strike a pose Stylist Roli Gupta loves dressing up herself as well
Strike a pose Stylist Roli Gupta loves dressing up herself as well

Unlike earlier decades when the ticket out of anonymity for young Indians was the Miss India crown, an air hostess uniform, or Sachin Tendulkar’s job, every fashion-conscious youngster today dreams of becoming a stylist. It is being recognised as the career of the Noughties. “It’s because everyone is conscious of how they look,” says the 30 year-old Shyamli as she sprawls across her couch at her Bandra loft, busily typing on her electric pink Macbook. The small town girl is now responsible for choosing the wardrobes of hunk John Abraham and diva Sushmita Sen. “I got chosen for the magazine for a simple reason — I used to dress well. Having personal style is very important,” she says, “You need to keep your client’s personality in mind. When the celeb steps out, their look should make a statement. Directors and producers now know that a stylist is worth their money. But it’s still a growing industry — there are still no set rate cards for us,” says the petite stylist who sets aside one day every week to scout new stores in the city. “But people need to get over the misconception that it’s an easy profession. We are still treated as ‘lesser beings’ compared to the designers.”
Internationally, stylists entered the realm of fashion celebrity-hood a long time ago.Sex and the City stylist Patricia Field reinvented style when she dressed Sarah Jessica Parker and her gal pals in off-the-wall outfits, including the pink tutu Carrie Bradshaw sports in the show’s opening sequence. Celeb stylist Rachel Zoe, who has worked with Lindsay Lohan and Keira Knightley, is supposed to be so influential it was rumoured that she was manipulating her clients to be size zeros. Even Lady Gaga, who has been making headlines for her jaw-dropping outfits (she wore a red leather gown to meet the Queen!), has stylist Nicola Formichetti behind her.
Camera ready Rick Roy feels stylists should get more credit
Camera ready Rick Roy feels stylists should get more credit

BACK HOME, stylists swear that some stars won’t even step out of their homes in simple jeans and tee, without getting the look approved from a stylist. But actor John Abraham, who is known for his personal style, says, “A good stylist is one who keeps in mind the personality of the actor, and then value adds to give the look an extra edge.”
Stylist Rick Roy agrees, pouting stylishly in his tastefully done-up Bandra apartment – “People don’t regard styling as an art. You don’t get credit when an actress looks good, but do get blamed if her outfit bombed.” The 26- year old Kolkata boy, who garnered headlines in 2008 when B-town starlets Kangana Ranaut and Jiah Khan fought over whom the stylist would work for, moved to Mumbai in 2004. “When I was five, my uncle used to ask me if everything he was wearing matched before he stepped out. I used to say ‘Matching.’ I was destined to become a stylist,” smiles Rick, whose first movie had him styling Kangana Ranaut for Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion. The stylist, who often designs clothes for his jobs, is full of disdain for all those “wannabes” who think they can make it in the industry. “If I don’t agree to do a movie because I think I am not getting my worth, the producer can easily get a cheaper stylist whose quality won’t match up. A stylist can make anything from Rs 5,000 a day to Rs 15 lakhs a film.”
It’s no wonder then that the fashion brat has signed up with ex-model Lubna Adam’s Mumbai-based firm, Celebutante. “Till a decade ago, styling of movies was a cliché. But now movies are concept driven, and styling forms a big part of that. Can you imagine what would have happened if Dostana was made a few years ago?” Adam laughs, adding, “The aim of my firm is to make sure that the profession of styling gets professional.”
Sapna Bhavnani, the owner of trendsetting Mumbai salon, Mad O Wat, feels that wannabe stylists need to get a complete knowledge of the business and will soon open an academy that will teach aspirants how to style clothes, hair and even apply make-up. “Youngsters from small towns also want to style, even if they don’t know what the word means. But they need to understand that they need complete knowledge of the craft.”

Some stars won’t even step out of their homes in simple jeans without getting the look approved from a stylist

Roli Gupta, who has been styling for over six years, came to Mumbai to become a potter but found that clothes meant more to her than mud. The 32 year-old from Lucknow, who loves dressing up herself as well, says, “It’s about selling yourself as well,” and admits that being a part of the growing tribe has changed her life. “I can’t obviously go back to Lucknow, get married and have a family there,” she laughs, “there is still a long way to go in this career.”
But Roli needn’t worry, because as the rage of being a stylist spreads like wild fire, her career choice seems to be the perfect one. As British diplomat Lord Chesterfield once said, “If you’re not in fashion, you’re nobody.”

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