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October - November 2004


Indian Fashion Profile: Manish Malhotra

by Sandeep Sharma

Thirty-Two year old Bombay based Manish Malhotra is one of India’s most successful Fashion Designers. He is the son of a middle class Punjabi.

Whilst studying at Elphinstone college in Mumbai, he started on a few modelling assignments and then joined Equinox, a boutique in Bandra, Mumbai. At Equinox Munish learnt, amongst other things, customer services, display, design and all aspects of the fashion industry.

Almost ten years ago Film Director, David Dhawan, gave Manish his first break to design for Film Stars when he designed three outfits for Movie actress, Juhi Chawla, for the movie Swarg in one day and after designing for the legendary actress Sridevi, orders for his designs began pouring in. This was the beginning of Manish’s long and successful career designing for big Bollywood stars and big Bollywood movies.

Mass hysteria erupted when Manish transformed the then “plain” actress Urmila Matondkar into the “sex kitten” in the hit movie Rangeela, winning the first Filmfare Costume Award Awards also came for Raja Hindustani and Dil to Pagal Hai and even an award from New York for Kuch Kuch. He has continued to make actresses look super glamorous and polished, examples include Karisma Kapoor (Raja Hindustani) Kajol (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) Rani Mukherjee.

A few years later Manish set up Reverie, one of the first couture stores in Mumbai, the store was set up in association with industrialists Yash and Avati Birla, the cream of Mumbai high society and rich non-resident Indians become his clients. However, problems with his partner ended with Manish walking out and Reverie closing down.

In May 2002 London’s high end Department store, Selfridges on Oxford Street did a Bollywood festival for the summer period and in addition to other events held at the store included showcases of Indian cuisine, dance shows, ornate candles designed by movie actress Dimple Kapadia and clothing from famous Indian designers including Manish himself, Rocky S, Rina Dhaka, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla. Manish was the only designer to also hold daily live fashion shows of his designs at the store which were very well received. The whole festival was highly successful and both gave Bollywood and Indian fashion a new prominence on the British cultural landscape. In fact the top glossy magazine Vanity Fair devoted a whole issue entitled a tribute to Bollywood. Again orders for Manish’s clothes from Londoners poured in to his design studio Sheetal where Manish currently works. Sheetal is responsible for clothing Miss India World and Miss India Universe.
Manish’s definition of style is “style is a timeless classic. As a result of certain cultural or aesthetic factors, some are born with it, others acquire it. Style is how you are as a person, how you carry yourself, how you deal with people. Poise and style. Good colour sense is style.” Manish also says “I am very observant, a movie buff and interested in fashion since childhood. I get ideas from travelling, from movies, foreign magazines, anything can spark or inspire ones creativity.”

Manish greatly admires on the foreign fashion front, designer Georgio Armani. “I love everything about him, the cuts the colours, the suits. Even his stuff for women is very chic. I also like DKNY for sporty stuff and women’s wear.” His other favourites include Vivienne Westwood and Donatella Versace.

Manish’s style is strongly influenced by fusion wear as Manish himself states “fusion wear is here to stay the world is getting closer. French designers are inspired by Indian styles, We reflect international nuances.” He favours pale, ice creamy neutrals, lilacs and lemons for hot, sultry summers adding “chiffons appeal to me. I like soft hair, soft faces, soft pretty Indian femininity.”

Highlights of Manish’s career also include designs for Michael Jackson and also the fact that British super model Naomi Campbell, whilst in Mumbai, picked up a pair of his embroidered denims. He considers his best look to be the transformation of movie star Karisma Kapoor in the movie Raja Hindustani. “it was completely new – from her haircut to her makeup to her eyes. It was the first time she wore brown lenses.”

He also famously designed for Karisma’s star sister Kareena Kapoor in the movie Asoka also starring Shah Rukh Khan. Manish explains that although Kareena was playing a princess her look wasn’t too accessorized. He opted for a minimalist looks for Kareena, she wears period costumes but with a de-glamorized look. As Kareena herself stated “I play a de-glam role with a no-makeup look, not too many actresses would dare do that so early in their careers.” Her powerful portrayal in the movie is in part credited to the look Manish gave her. Famous male actors that Manish has designed for include Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan.

As one can see from the above list of movies Manish Malhotra has designed for most of the hit movies in the last decade together with his acclaimed shows at Selfridges Manish continues to go from strength to strength in fact just recently Channel Four’s hit show “Bollywood Star” featured Manish styling the British wanna-be stars whilst they were in Mumbai.

Maybe part of Manish’s success is reflected in his own personal mantra: “I’m selfless, not cocksure. I’m restless, but patient to wait for break-throughs. I’m willing to work hard and that little insecurity gives me a creative edge.”

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