From Debutante To Diva By Celebrity Fashion Editor TEJASWINI KOLHAPURE
Stylists, designers and photographers who’ve worked closely with the ethereal beauty, pick the cream from Aishwarya’s vast repertoire
Hemant Trevedi Renowned fashion designer
The perfect beginning would be to start with veteran Hemant Trevedi who has been Aishwarya Rai’s co-traveller all the way.
Hemant clearly remembers the moment she walked into his life as a total rookie. He couldn’t take his eyes off her when she walked the ramp for the first time for him at Shopper’s Stop. He knew right then, “A star was on the anvil”.
Hemant, who has been and still is a stickler for perfection, used to be much-chased to be included in the Sheetal catalogue in which he made his models look breathtaking.
His memories go back to the time Aishwarya walked into his famous studio, after being sent by model coordinator Rasna Behl, for the much-coveted catalogue.
They exchanged phone numbers and never looked back. Hemant recalls, “She was someone I would have definitely not worked with considering she was the opposite of everything I wanted in a model ie the dusky, sultry, tall frame.”
But defying his prototype, Ash became Hemant’s muse and was soon a part of every fashion show of his until Miss India happened. She was the clear favourite but it was Sushmita Sen who won the coveted Miss Universe crown. Hemant mentions here, “Ash had felt that another Indian may not win the Miss World title in the same year. But poetic justice was done when Ash WON it!” Even today Hemant proudly states, “That was one of the Best of Ash”.
One of the 150 privileged guests or rather close friends to be invited for all her sangeet, wedding and reception functions, Hemant gifted her a very special, beautiful white Lucknowi chudidar.
He’s not a movie buff but has trekked to watch Ash on screen a few times. Hemant casts his vote for, “Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar. They are my favourites. Aishwarya is the only true international celebrity, a face that sets hearts fluttering not only in India but in the international community as well.”
Jatin Kampani Top fashion photographer
Jatin Kampani is a name to reckon with on the style circuit. Both Aishwarya and Jatin wanted to work together for a while and did loads of editorial shoots till the real opportunity arose with the L’Oreal campaign.
L’Oreal is one of Aishwarya’s best commercials currently on air.
Jatin says, “Aishwarya understands professional limits very well, so she will not interfere in the creative process. She is also supportive of experimentation. She chooses her team very well, which in turn makes working, effortless for all.”
Ash’s best: Jatin’s personal pick is a story that he did with Sabyasachi’s collection, embellished by Louis Vuitton accessories.
NEETA & THE TRIUMPH OF THE TERRIFIC TRIO Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar
Pert and peppy designer Neeta Lulla has been associated with Aishwarya Rai for over a decade and together they have both created magic on celluloid in Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Jodhaa Akbar.
Who can forget that it was three-times National Award winner Neeta Lulla who also crafted Aishwarya’s bridal creation? As one of the guests at the wedding later remarked, when her ghunghat was lifted, everyone was spellbound. That’s how mesmerizing Aishwarya looked as a bride.
The forever-busy Neeta caught her breath for a while to talk of her best work for Aishwarya.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
“This Gujarat-based story gave me a lot of scope to work on bright, gorgeous colours to contemporise the look, using bandhni in a very different format on blouses and edgings of lehengas and dupattas.
Aishwarya’s structure being petite, I did not want to overpower her with too much bandhni. I also used a lot of mirror work in a very delicate form, with a combination of three or more colours.
The criteria given for this look was romantic, elegant yet contemporary.”
Neeta travelled to Bhuj with Sanjay Bhansali and the team for the research on this film. Her brief: to get a handle on the lifestyle, ambience and colours of the Gujarati culture, keeping the film’s wardrobe in mind.
This film got Neeta her first National Award. The story of Devdas was based in the Calcutta of the 40s. ”Devdas was a real treat to work on because of the challenge of recreating what had already been depicted twice over on screen,” analyses the designer.
“To add to that it was a Sanjay Bhansali presentation which meant glamour and gloss. I am grateful to Sanjay for giving me this magnum opus to work on, and that too on the gorgeous Aishwarya.
The look for this film was a careful amalgamation of contemporary and vintage, established after a lot of discussion with Sanjay, Aishwarya and the technical crew.
I worked on revamping the six-yard saree to more than 13 yards. Each look and every drape was different, it took about two months of research in Kolkata.
500 sarees were procured for the film’s female cast and two or three sarees were cut up to make a single saree. Ash carried it off with ease and looked beautiful. I think no one else could have done justice to this look for Paro.”
Jodhaa Akbar Neeta won her second National Award for this film.
“An extravaganza that was one of my best. I worked on the entire film. The research that went into it was extensive and there was a lot of research support from Ashutosh Gowariker.
It took six months of research, sketching and resketching, working on colours, procurement of fabric and two months of production time.
The fabrics and embroideries had to be matt as the entire film was shot in natural light. So dhakai muslin and vintage fabrics were recreated with a lot of texturing through embroidery on cottons, mals and nets to give it a soft, yet rich look.
“A selection of five colours was used for all the outfit co-ordinates, which was challenging. The biggest challenge of this film was co-ordinating heavy jewellery with the lehengas.
It couldn’t have been easy for Aishwarya to wear it all and perform. Despite the weight, she carried it off beautifully. To ease the weight around the neck, the jewellery had to be stitched on to the outfit!
“The dupattas were cut in a different width of about 50 inches, as was worn by traditional Rajput royalty. The Rajmata of Jaipur was consulted and she approved of the look.
A ‘no embroidery’ look was given on the body of the dupatta to enable Aishwarya’s face to be seen clearly through the net, as her face was in ghunghat most of the time.”
Neeta gives credit to the directors behind the three films. “The perfection of the design was possible due to the aesthetic sensibilities of the two respected directors I worked with – Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ashutosh Gowariker.
They knew what they wanted their canvas to look like and the clarity of their explanations helped me create what they demanded.”
A Sketch For MOMMY AISHWARYA
Neeta Lulla sent in this exclusive sketch of an outfit she feels would look stunning on Ms Bachchan
Manish Malhotra Star designer
Manish Malhotra has created loads of designs for Aishwarya including Robot for which Filmfare ‘south’ felicitated him with an award.
Manish picks Mohabbatein as his best work with the star. The designs comprised of skin coloured lehenga with silver embroidery and lighter plain sarees.
However, Ash’s look in Dhoom: 2 and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam also feature as his favourites.
Totally exclusive –
a sketch of what Manish created for the mom-to-be for a commercial shot recently in Bangkok
Gavin Miguel, popular designer
Ash’s stylist had been taking clothes from Gavin even before he met her. Gavin Miguel, very low profile but a top-notch designer (his gowns are to die for) soon worked with Aishwarya on Dhoom:2 and her gown-clad Lux commercial with Abhishek.
“It was a very chilled-out shoot and she was superb to work with,” says Gavin. He thinks Aishwarya makes every outfit look memorable and is keen on working with her again.
Gavin picks Neeta Lulla’s designs in Devdas as by far one of the best looks of Aishwarya Rai. He also loves her red carpet style at Cannes.
He adds, “In this country sometimes people don’t know what works internationally. So I guess time and again she will try and educate these people!”
Kanta Motwani, celebrity hairstylist
One of the most sought-after hairstylists around, her salon Kromakay (in Juhu and other places) is flooded with celebrities who drop by for a cut or a makeover.
Kanta, who has been cutting Aishwarya’s hair from her Miss India days, has also styled her for a few movies like Sarkar Raaj, some songs of Robot, and for quite a few commercials and magazine covers.
“I’ve known Ash since her school days,” says Kanta. “She used to come regularly for her hair trims. She’d arrive straight from school in her uniform to Nalini & Yasmin in Bandra where I worked earlier.
I did her hair for her first fashion show with Hemant Trevedi. In fact I think that’s where Mr Subhash Ghai noticed her and approached her for his new movie Taal.
“I have been regularly cutting her hair since she became Miss India. I really enjoyed doing Robot as she had many different looks in terms of hair/makeup.
Manish Malhotra, who had designed the whole look for her, gave me a free hand and since Ash has such a lovely face, any kind of hairstyle would have made her look fabulous.
Whether it was feathers in her hair or dreadlocked hair with blonde highlights, it all blended beautifully and made her look even more gorgeous.
“Frankly, I like her in effortless and very easy hairstyles. She looks stunning in all her L’Oreal hair commercials. Her hair colour complements her natural blue eyes which make them look even dreamier!”