Style comes quite naturally to Sheetal Mafatlal. Growing up in an iconic house in the rarefied Pali Hill area in Mumbai – now inherited from her late father Manhar Bhagat – she was always surrounded by beautiful things, from rare arts to antiques. Her foray into the luxury scene was therefore rather unsurprising. While she consults for various luxury brands, she likes to create her own look for her social appearances, and doesn’t believe in drawing inspiration either from the runway or a magazine. She feels that when you create a look, it is “original and not a replica”.
Sheetal has recently launched Mafatlal Luxe in the luxury capital of the world, London. It’s a luxury brand consultancy that specializes in advising Western brands on how to penetrate the Indian luxury sector. Needless to say, Sheetal’s understanding of the South Asian, European, and global luxury markets provides critical insights into luxury consumers’ profiles, behaviour, and trends. Here she gets chatting about work and more.
What are some of the challenges you face at work?
The multifaceted fashion and luxury industry is not only fast-growing, but it’s also changing at a rapid pace. Hence the biggest challenge is to predict the next big trend, and also the consumer mindset. Success in the luxury segment is determined by the ability to understand and provide consumers with bespoke, unique brand experiences by being a bridge between the brand and the consumer.
You seem to have a great fashion sense; how do you keep up with the trends?
Thank you! My style is high fashion and maximalism. For me, fashion is not just about the runway, it’s about translating the runway into what a real woman needs. It’s a combination of personal style and current fashion trends, which create an aura of feminine sensuality, glamour, elegance, and the edgy-chic appeal. It’s something that just can’t be ‘purchased’. People can buy the same designer pieces, but what sets them apart is the way they wear it. I believe one should own the look. This can happen only when you wear the clothes and not the other way round. Once you have the key essentials (something everyone should invest in), you can always recreate a look based on what’s trending. Small details can change your entire appearance. For instance, your sunglasses or a hair accessory can recreate/update your entire outfit.
Tell us about some of the heirloom pieces in your wardrobe. What’s your favourite?
Heirloom pieces are truly special, not only because they are rare and cannot be made with the same craftsmanship, but also because of the sentimental value they carry. My grandmother’s sarees and pearls are something that I will always treasure. I look at Sabyasachi’s latest campaigns that convey the old-world charm and they transport me to the times I have spent with her and her friends. Her hair was always perfectly set, similar to the style of Rita Hayworth; strands of Basra pearls or one piece of statement jewellery, combined with a bordered chiffon saree. This was her signature style. She was the epitome of elegance and has merged Indian traditional wear with the Hollywood glamour of the 1940s.
I wear my heirloom pieces when I want to feel special and connected with her, rather than just for any occasion.
What do you like most about what you do?
My work is an extension of me, and it gives me the freedom to be myself. Also, I feel that fashion/luxury is in my DNA. Since I appreciate beauty, too, where better can you see it than through access to the luxury brands? The world of luxury encompasses diverse sectors ranging from fashion, art, antiques, jewellery, alcohol, cars, boats, aeroplanes, homes, home décor, and more. I enjoy meeting the creative geniuses behind the luxury brands and learning about the brand’s history and significance. It allows me access to collectors of these unique beautiful pieces.
What is your go-to recovery method after a long day?
After a long day, there’s nothing like soaking in a hot aromatic bathtub surrounded by scented candles and soothing music. I’ll follow this with a deep tissue aromatherapy massage with eucalyptus and lavender oil. I also find flowers and gardening very therapeutic. I often spend time planting and replanting flowers and trees. – as told to Sumana