Thriving Fashion Manish Malhotra

He’s known as one of India’s most successful fashion designers, and has recently completed 26 years in the industry. As his 50th birthday approaches, on December 5, Manish Malhotra summarises 2016 as a milestone year, both in his personal life as well as career-wise.

Congratulations on your 50th birthday. Looking back at the last five decades, if given a chance, would you have done anything differently?
It is my inherent belief that there are no shortcuts to success. I have built the label by bridging the creative and business aspects with hard work. I would never have been able to see ‘Manish Malhotra’ grow to what it is today without discipline and determination. While it may sound clichéd, there is a huge sense of achievement at the end of every day when I see all our accomplishments and the hardwork put in by my team. I am extremely proud of being a self-taught designer who has grown from working as a stylist to mainstream designing and then to starting my own label.
I am glad things turned out the way they did at every stage, for they paved a path for me to get to where I am today. I am not the kind to look back. I believe we all work really hard to turn our challenges into opportunities. Overall it has been a very eventful journey, and I’m more than looking forward to whatever comes my way next.

Is there anything special planned for this important year, on either the personal or professional fronts?
2016 has been a milestone year sinceI completed 26 years in the industry, the label completed 11 years in existence, and we just moved into a new office. We are constantly working on new projects – be it in cinema or couture. The label’s future is constantly evolving. I want to focus on production to ensure that I am able to match the demand at my flagship stores in Mumbai and Delhi, in addition to the stores that host my clothes in India and overseas. Also, I am planning retail expansions, thus, the plan is to focus on opening flagship stores in Dubai and London.

You were the first Indian to create a virtual reality stage set-up at the Lakme Fashion Week this year. What was the audience response like?
Lakme Fashion Week is very special to me. This season we decided to present yet another milestone with a show that celebrated a couple of firsts. I am extremely proud of the fact that the Manish Malhotra label was the first Indian brand to partner with Etihad Airways as well as the first brand in India to have its fashion show shot in virtual reality. This show broke geographical barriers, and gave the viewers the excitement of actually being present at the show; from backstage to the front row and the post-show party. While I am aware of the people who support me and encourage my work, it was overwhelming and almost surreal to witness the amount of tweets and comments every single day, where people liked what I did and encouraged me to do more.

Was it difficult to implement?
I would not say easy, but it has been exceptionally fun yet exciting to work on a concept that has never been done in India before. This has been a great challenge for me as well. Why launch a label if there is no innovation or new stories to tell?

Working on this emphasised that fashion is not just about the runway anymore. It is now about a trend being accepted across countries, at the click of a button. Collaborating with Etihad has enabled me to push beyond my comfort zone and build on the foundation of creativity, evolution, and commerce.

Tell us about your recent collaboration with Google for G Suite.
G Suite’s new video is part of a global transitioning from Google Apps for Work to G Suite. It has been an utmost honour for me to be the first Indian designer to partner with Google in their wonderful transition, and to be part of their G Suite Campaign. An outstanding concept of intelligent applications, G Suite brings people together and helps them to innovate better. With Jack in the Box Worldwide’s proven expertise creating top-notch video content, my 90-second video with G Suite highlights my entire journey as a designer in the industry; it shows that my team has been a constant pillar of support in transforming my dreams into exquisite reality, season after season.

What made you get into fashion in the first place?
Looking back, I think that I couldn’t have had a better training ground to feed my passion for fashion through movies, as I love Indian cinema. I have loved sketching since I was young, and always dreamt of designing the most beautiful garments for movies. I was always fascinated by the costumes in films as they are such a subtle, yet important part of the visual story-telling process. To me, styling and costumes seemed like a natural progression to bring all these together by way of a career. Thus, my styling projects were fuelled by the thrill of being part of a team of such creative people; being part of a process that millions of people across the world would watch. This also meant that my work had to be relatable to the viewers. Given this, my last 26 years have been one
never-ending learning curve.

If not a designer, what profession would you choose as an alternative?
When what you do is not a ‘job’, you will never burn out. Styling has given me wonderful opportunities to work with different personalities. From styling stars to creating my own label, my
26-year journey has been all about telling stories in the language of fashion. My work allows me the freedom to move around and find inspiration in everything around me. And I would not want to change this in any way. I feel like I was born to do this.

What are the current trends in the wedding and party wear segment?
This wedding season sees a transformation when it comes to both craftsmanship and embroidery, with an increase in the use of vintage elements. I see people dressing according to their personality, and that gives me more leeway to experiment with different styles for different sets of audiences. I see a lot more individuality and a great mix of style and fashion. They have become a lot more experimental and, thus, bridal couture too is becoming more artistic, modern and bespoke. Today they are wearing crop tops and off-shoulder cut-out blouses with lehengas. Fashion aesthetics in India are becoming more global in their expression.

What was the biggest breakthrough in your career?
It is humbling that every Bollywood leading lady from the early 1990’s to present day has wornmy outfits. The first film I worked on was David Dhawan’s Swarg in 1989. I styled costumes for a song with Juhi Chawla in the movie. The turning point of my career was when I dressed Urmila for the movie Rangeela and then Karisma Kapoor in Raja Hindustani, both of which were a huge success and are still loved and remembered by all.                        --- as told to Niharika