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The Truth Behind Manushi's Cannes Outing

June 08, 2023 11:15 IST
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'Manushi's trip was very last minute.'
'I did not have her (red carpet) outfit with me. It was already in Cannes.'
'We didn't know what she was going to wear.'


IMAGE: Manushi Chhillar on the red carpet before the screening of Jeanne du Barry in Cannes. Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

"You can never be fully prepared for anything that's coming up," Sheefa Gilani tells Ronjita Kulkarni/

Luckily for the 31-year-old stylist, her debut stint at the Cannes Film Festival was successful, as she made sure Manushi Chhillar looked like a dream on the red carpet as well in her various other photoshoots.

"Manushi's trip was very last minute. I did not have her (red carpet) outfit with me. It was already in Cannes. We didn't know what she was going to wear, so it was a gut feeling that this is what we are going to do," Sheefa says.

Star and stylist arrived in Cannes at 8:40 am, and that's when Manushi tried out the white Fovari dress for the first time.

"It fit her like a glove!" Sheefa exclaims. "She was like, oh my God, this is the outfit!"

Of course, it took Manushi about 15 outfits to arrive at the one she finally picked.

What made her choose the Fovari brand from the shelves of Yara Shoemaker?

Sheefa explains the Cannes process: "So basically, how Cannes works is this: They have a hotel that supports all these designers and brands that are available for fittings for all the celebrities. It's a very seamless process that the festival has for everyone who's attending the festival or the carpet."


Photograph: Kind courtesy Renu Oberoi/Instagram

How did Manushi choose her accessories, especially that diamond and emerald neckpiece from the Renu Oberoi Luxury Jewellery line?

"Accessories are shortlisted on a 'maybe' situation," Sheefa explains. "We always have an extra amount of accessories sourced. I had carried some from Bombay, and also got people to send fine jewellery to Cannes."

The entire world trains its eyes on the Cannes red carpet, and the pressure, Sheefa says, "can only be felt, not explained."

"But I must say Manushi is very calm. No matter how pressurised I got, like, 'Oh my God, we don't have this or that', she'd always be like, 'Listen, I trust you, it's going to work out.'

IMAGE: Manushi and Sheefa race to make their way to the red carpet. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

So did anything go wrong?

"Ah, no, apart from the fact that we had to race to the red carpet!" Sheefa says with a laugh.

"What happens is that you are given a slot and you cannot be late. You have to be on time, and the whole city is shut down! Besides, there's so much traffic, so many people around, there's no place to walk. So we had to get down and run to the red carpet!"

Photograph: Kind courtesy Sheefa Gilani/ Instagram

The backless Galvan London teal dress is another of Sheefa's favourites from Cannes.

"That wasn't the look we planned. It was something we had seen during the fittings, and I had gotten to thinking, maybe we can do it. But that dress, there were so many eyes on her that day, from the minute she walked out of the hotel to her getting to the India Pavilion for the opening party... it was crazy. For her, and even for me, it was overwhelming," Sheefa says.


IMAGE: Manushi and Sheefa share a close relationship. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sheefa Gilani/ Instagram

Sheefa started her career with Manushi's big Miss India win, six years ago, and since then, they share a deep bond.

She understands Manushi's style only too well.

"Manushi is very specific of how she wants to look. She wants to keep her style very feminine, very princess, very elegant and chic. And very minimal. Like, she will not overdo the train or do anything extra big. She likes it simple and effortless," Sheefa says.

"Prints are a big no-no for her."

IMAGE: Sheefa hails from a small town near Nagpur, but she's never really lived there as she attended boarding school from the age of six. She lived in Mumbai for a while and ended up marrying her best friend in the city she now calls home. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sheefa Gilani/Instagram

What exactly does a stylist do?

"Styling is not a glamorous job," she says immediately.

"It's so labour intensive. It starts from trying to reach out to PRs, looking for the perfect outfit, fitting the outfit, getting the alterations done and making sure the outfit is ready on time for your client.

"There may be times when, on the day the outfit is to be worn, it does not fit as well as it did the week before. So you have to make sure that you have the tailor on standby.

"We also have to make sure the client is comfortable or if there are any last minute changes that he or she would like to make.

"Then the jewellery and accessories have to come together."

How different is a stylist from a designer?

"Designers make outfits with no one particular in mind. They're making the outfit for a larger audience while a stylist is picking an outfit and suiting it to one personality," she replies.

Photograph: Kind courtesy Sheefa Gilani

Sheefa explains how she became a stylist, quite by chance.

"I was studying in London and visiting India on a summer holiday. I was doing my dissertation here and happened to get a call from The Times Of India, saying, 'We really like what you're doing on your page, would you like to come in for an interview?'"

Since she was not looking for work at that point, she said no.

But they insisted.

She was asked to style Colors' Mini Series on Miss India.

"This is not something I had planned. I did not want to be a stylist. I wanted to open a lifestyle brand that was suited to sustainability. That was what I was studying in London. But I took this up, and they really liked my work. They wanted me to do Manushi's wardrobe for Miss World. The rest is history. I still remember watching her on television and being like, what, she won!"


IMAGE: Mrunal Thakur. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sheefa Gilani

Besides Manushi, Sheefa has styled other actors as well, like Mrunal Thakur and Vaani Kapoor.

She tries to explain their unique styles.

"Mrunal loves androgyny, so she will do suits with ties, and lots of oversized stuff. That suits her body type as well," Sheefa says.

"I have a lot of fun with Mrunal because she lets me experiment with her. She's not closed to suggestions. Sometimes, things don't work out and it may look really stupid, but she's never upset about it."


IMAGE: Vaani Kapoor. Photograph: Kind courtesy Sheefa Gilani

"Vaani loves to do feminine, but she loves to keep her sense of ethos a little sexier. We make sure her outfits are sewn that way.

"Vaani is really sweet. She is very headstrong and knows exactly what she wants.

"She's not extremely experimental, but I like the fact that tomorrow, I'm not going around town looking for five different briefs. She has a brief and tells me how she wants to look. This makes the effort really seamless."

Despite working with Bollywood celebrities, Sheefa has not worked in a film so far.

"I don't know if I will work in a film yet because a fashion stylist and a costume designer are very different. Unless a film needs me to stylise the character in a certain way... Having my own input is very different than a director telling a costume designer that this is my character and dress her or him like this.

"I feel like I'm not there. I'm not a costume designer, and I do not want to take up a job that I don't feel comfortable with."

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