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'A lot of Bollywood actresses immediately need stylists'

Last updated on: September 27, 2012 16:25 IST

'A lot of Bollywood actresses immediately need stylists'

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Avni Mehrotra interviews Delhi-based designer Nida Mahmood, known for her whacky sense of style.

Nestled in the heart of South Delhi, the Shahpur Jat area is a haven for fashionistas -- quirky lanes, and crooked streets, all lined with one designer studio after another.

A sense of exclusivity envelops us as we enter 36, Shahpur Jat. This is leading Indian queen of kitsch Nida Mahmood's studio, with its splendid Bollywood posters and curtains created from dupattas exuding Indian ness in every detail. The ethnic feel is further augmented with the name of her collection 'High on Chai' plastered across the walls.

With a designer brand and an initiative undertaken to revive Bollywood's painted posters, Nida has her hands full with her craft. Discussing work and her venture the New India Bioscope Co., the designer gets candid over a cup of chai.

What does fashion mean to you?

For me fashion goes way beyond clothing, but rather extends to lifestyle in general. Fashion has its roots in everything you do. The kind of phone you carry, the kind of apps you use...even in choosing a basic colour. Moreover, everything is fashionable. If you are wearing something, there was a design sensibility that went into creating it. Everything comes under the purview of fashion.

How important do you think 'dressing up' is in terms of defining one's personality?

Extremely important. I think it is imperative to dress up right. Not for anyone else, but simply for yourself. If you have the confidence, why not flaunt it by wearing the right kind of clothes?


Image: A Nida Mahmood creation and (inset) Nida Mahmood
Photographs: Courtesy Nida Mahmood

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'Though initially I was studying to be a doctor, the lab coat never attracted me much'

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Tell us more about your career path.

Well, I always knew I wanted to go into something creative. Though initially I was studying to be a doctor, the lab coat never attracted me much. I eventually graduated from NIFT in 2002 and went to Mumbai post that. There I worked with leading designers like Manish Malhotra, Aki Narula, Rana Gill and Pooja Nayyar to name a few. After being a part of the industry for around four years, I eventually did my first show, GenNext at Lakme Fashion Week in 2006.

What was the inspiration behind this kitschy line of clothing?

After a lot of introspection, I knew I was highly inspired by the Indian streets and kitsch. I was fascinated by the high importance of little things in life like chai, a newspaper et al. My initiative was to turn boring into dramatic. My first collection 'High on Chai' was launched at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in 2008. The idea was to bring people like street vendors, chudiwaalas, chaiwaalas and people from several other walks of life onto the ramp and present them in a fashionable manner. It was then that I knew where my calling lay.


Image: A Nida Mahmood creation
Photographs: Courtesy Nida Mahmood

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'People are now wearing saris to red carpet events as confidently as they wear gowns'

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What advice would you like to give to today's youth?

For students aiming to get into fashion, I would suggest they find their USP. Carve your own niche and excel in it. Everyone needs to have a signature style to be remembered by.

As for the youth in general, my only advice to them would be to work hard. Everything is possible as long as you work hard and stay grounded. Your life, personal and professional, will have ups and downs, but don't run away. Have the strength to face it and keep fighting.

Who are the best-dressed celebrities of India, according to you?

Sonam Kapoor, Kangna Ranaut, Sonia Gandhi, Madhuri Dixit, Shobhaa De and Mr Amitabh Bachchan.

Who do you think immediately needs a stylist?

Without pinpointing anyone, I feel a lot of Bollywood actresses immediately need stylists. The gaudy make up and flashy clothing do them more harm than good.

Where do you think Indian fashion stands globally?

Designs in India are very creative and it's heartening to see how some Indian designers are taking the centrestage in global fashion. We not only have Hollywood celebrities wearing Indian designer labels, but Indian fashion is also creating a huge impact on foreign designs. People are now wearing saris to red carpet events as confidently as they wear gowns. Everybody is reveling in this 'Indian ness' and flaunting Indian kitsch.


Image: A Nida Mahmood creation
Photographs: Courtesy Nida Mahmood

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'Many people don't understand fashion if they don't belong to the fashion circles'

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How conscious are Indians towards fashion and overall dressing up?

Honestly, not very conscious. Even if they are, women are more conscious than men. Moreover, it's funny to see how a majority of Indian men are still dressed by the women in their lives. It's sad to see how many people don't understand fashion if they don't belong to the fashion circles.

What are some common fashion mistakes that people you have come across tend to make?

Oh there are many! I don't understand why people never give importance to wearing the right kind of shoes. Every shoe doesn't go with every dress. Also, women should stop wearing dresses that are three sizes smaller. It is okay to be plus-sized, there are clothes available for the same, too. But leaving your body gasping for breath is just not understandable.

Men with pot-bellies should stop wearing bright thick horizontal stripes. They definitely don't make you look thinner. Also, the fad of wearing sports shoes with formal clothes or jewellery with sporty clothes kills the entire ensemble. Over-accessorising not only kills your outfit but also makes you look like an accessory tree. Minimal is the word these days.

What would you say is the one piece of clothing you don't understand?

Well, that definitely has to be the animal print. Join some initiative to save the tiger, but don't increase its footprint by wearing the poor thing across your neck.


Image: A Nida Mahmood creation
Photographs: Courtesy Nida Mahmood
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'I think the most fashionable city in the world is London, even more than Paris'

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Which is the fashion capital of the world, according to you?

I think the most fashionable city in the world is London, even more than Paris. Everyone in that town has a distinct dressing sense. You take a walk across the street and you won't find a single person dressed inappropriately.

If you were to dress up for a date, how would you play it safe?

I would never overdress -- and I would focus on one piece of jewellery. That could be the highlight of the look. The rest could be kept minimal. Most importantly, my footwear will never be out of line with the ensemble. Always remember, it's one piece of jewellery that is in style these days, not wearing everything you have in your closet.

Name some designers you admire?

Vivienne Westwood, Christian Dior, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen.

Rohit Bal recently commented that Bollywood has stolen the thunder from Indian designers. What is your view on that?

I believe this is solely because of the prominence Bollywood has amongst the general masses. But one thing remains -- if Bollywood is promoting something, there is still a designer label attached to it. Even a piece of jewellery worn by an actor has been created by a designer. So ultimately, fashion is getting promoted one way or the other.


Image: A Nida Mahmood creation
Photographs: Courtesy Nida Mahmood

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'We hope the once lost art (of painted Bollywood posters) can be resurrected'

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According to you, which would you say is the best Indian movie in recent times, in terms of styling?

I would like to name a couple of movies here. Though Aisha ranked best when it came to dressing and styling, there are movies like Peepli Live, Delhi Belly and Dhobi Ghat, which were amazing overall in terms of the ensembles. The styling stayed authentic to the required feel of the script.

Tell us something about your new venture, the New India Bioscope Co.

This initiative by me and my partner Raul Chandra was undertaken to revive the lost art of storytelling via Bollywood posters. I remembered gazing at life-size posters of the latest Bollywood blockbusters in my childhood. Eventually, they were replaced by digital prints, which forced these painters to resort to odd jobs. Getting together a couple of these artists, we started the NIBC to take their art forward. Whatever revenue is earned goes directly to them. We deliver on request a range of handbags, furniture, posters etc. We hope the once lost art can be resurrected to make its way into people's living rooms.

To conclude, tell us a little about the latest collection you have been working on.

My next collection will be launched at the Blender's Pride Fashion Tour. I don't think I'd like to give away much, but it's my take on the Urban Gypsy. And of course, it will be a little quirky, to stay true to my signature style!


Image: A Nida Mahmood creation
Photographs: Courtesy Nida Mahmood

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