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Manish Malhotra: How to become a fashion designer

Alia Bhatt and Manish Malhotra (Photo: Tarun Vishwa)

Alia Bhatt and Manish Malhotra (Photo: Tarun Vishwa)

by Rujuta Vaidya
Manish Malhotra’s name is synonymous with Bollywood and Indian fashion. It’s not an exaggeration to say that every star, from Kareena Kapoor Khan to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone to Sridevi, is a fan of his work. Which is why it’s hard to believe that the model-turned-costume-designer-turned-couturier made a name for himself without any professional training. “I did not go to design school, but I did watch a movie almost every single day,” says the designer who will always cite Bollywood to be his first love.
You can trace the evolution of Indian fashion in tandem with Malhotra’s work. Starting with Filmfare Award-winning costumes for Urmila Matondkar in Rangeela (1995), to showcasing at the first edition of Lakmé Fashion Week in 2006, to designing theatre costumes for the play ‘Mughal-e-Aazam’ in 2016, and addressing Harvard students earlier this year, it’s safe to say Malhotra has done it all.
His notable contribution to Indian cinema by creating iconic looks for films like Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya (1998), Mohabbatein (2000), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) is unmissable. But Malhotra’s journey hasn’t been without its highs and lows. “The great part about my early days was that I was never jaded by opinions of others,” he tells us. “I think I was resilient and that really helped shape my work ethic.” Vogue speaks to the veteran about what went into the making of his expansive legacy.
You are one of the rare names in fashion without a background in design education. What was your recipe to success?
I am not sure if there is a recipe to success. It has a definite, formulaic connotation to it, which I will never endorse especially because ‘success’ is a relative term. To me, anyone who finds their calling and is fortunate enough to pursue and practice it in an ethical and mindful manner, is successful.
Do you think having an education in design is absolutely crucial to having career in fashion?
I have been fortunate to have a family that works with me and looks into the ancillary functions of the business of fashion. But I am not sure if my label would have been as successful had I been [working on it] solo. I do think that having an education empowers you and anchors your decisions. Having said that, the best education amounts to nothing if you don’t have a passion for your work.
When starting off a career in design, did you have a vision for yourself? What is your vision for the brand?
The vision was to be the best in whatever I did. I know it sounds clichéd; but from a young age I knew that I wanted to leave a legacy behind. It’s an abstract vision, but, even today, I find myself asking myself questions to that end all the time. Idea or innovation? A store or an experience? I love to challenge myself and my team constantly—that is the only way to grow!
What inspires your work?
I derive a lot of inspiration from old-world charm. The beauty of older films, old architecture and so on hold a special place in my mood-boards. This along with a sense of drama and glamour in the detailing sums up the design prism of my label.(-Vogue India)

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