EXCLUSIVE: Leepakshi Ellawadi on striking balance while styling celebs, films & what it takes to be a stylist
Being behind the scenes is never an easy job but Leepakshi Ellawadi has always made it seem like a piece of cake. One peek at her Instagram and you can see a roster of all the stars she's worked with from Jacqueline Fernandez to Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan. The celebrity stylist who has been part of the industry for 12 years now, has always understood the assignment when it comes to styling celebrities both on and off the screen.
In a tete-a-tete with the stylist who also doubles as a costume designer and wardrobe consultant, we talk fashion and styling, two things she knows best.
You've been the costume designer for a number of films so far: which has been your most memorable and why?
Sultan has and always will be close to my heart. I got a chance to work with Salman Khan which will always be my favourite memory of my career.
Each character's outfits seem to describe their personality perfectly: what goes behind getting everything right?
You need to get into the character and start thinking like them. What would that personality pick if he went shopping, what is the character trying to communicate?
One needs to stay as close to the scripted character. If you are inspired by a real-life individual, you have to think about how you can pick references from him and fit the image and body type of the actor you are working with.
You put Jacqueline Fernandez on the fashion map by picking out pieces that brought out her true personality. Can you tell us how you ease into styling different actors to ensure their personality is visible in their choice of outfits?
Jacqueline herself is an extremely fashion conscious and experimental person. It gets easier with someone like her.
Well, I don’t know if I ease into it but every person, body type, film character comes with its set of challenges. It’s always a balancing act.
Thankfully I have been successful most of the time and sometimes not. But you gotta take it in your stride and learn from it.
Do your clients pitch in when you style them or give you a free hand?
Everyone has an image of themselves in their own head. So when I start with someone new there are a lot of data points which are told to keep in mind. So mostly the job is to tweak that or completely be able to change that. And post that is success and a bond of trust if built, you have a free hand.
Kareena once told us that it's not easy styling Saif Ali Khan as he often picks pieces that match his mood: Can you take us through your styling process with him?
Truer words weren’t spoken! As far as styling him concerns, we have built a strong bond of understanding where his comfort is and how much needs to be pushed and can be.
The great thing is, he also listens to his team's inputs or feedback genuinely and acts upon it too.
Coming to your upcoming project Bunty Aur Babli 2, Saif and Rani are seasoned actors while Siddhant and Sharvari are fresher faces. What did you keep in mind while dressing them up, be it other characters they played, starting with a clean slate, etc.
Working with seasoned actors only adds to the table. Because working with them means they have so much experience and use that experience to achieve what the whole team is looking for. It has only helped, working with Saif sir and Rani ma'am.
Coming to Siddhant and Sharvari, they have been like a blank canvas and as understanding and willing to try out new things that we've been wanting to try on them. All-in-all, they all were more than forthcoming since Bunty Aur Babli 2 was a very costume-heavy film and had a lot of trials. And with Sharvari more so since this was her launch.
Which of the 4 characters was the most challenging to style and why?
I don't think anything is ever-challenging for whichever film I've worked for. The idea is to achieve the end goal and that's a process I really enjoy so don't find it particularly challenging.
Tell us one star you've worked with who has an unmatched sense of fashion and doesn't really need a stylist?
Mr Bachchan brings so much charm and iconic history of fashion moments he's created in the past and doesn't really need a stylist.
The styling industry is booming today, can you tell us what you think it takes to make a good celebrity stylist today?
A good celeb stylist needs to listen and understand an actor or character and bridge that gap. I would say it's a lot of people management as well but I keep my voice alive and don't get influenced or swayed by a bigger star or anything of that sort but at the same time, you have to also listen and come to a meeting point you're happy with and proud of.
Coming to your next project Ram Setu, what can we expect in terms of fashion from it?
Since it's a film that goes back 10-15 years it's not really a fashion film but is inspired by real characters.