The star behind the stardust

Jan 09, 2013, 01:52 IST | Dhara Vora

A relatively new profession in India, celebrity stylist Pernia Qureshi tells us about how styling as a profession caught her fancy, its many challenges and its future in the country, in the last of our Looking Forward series about trends in 2013

The technology boom has witnessed its pros and cons within the film industry. While stars are now able to reach out to fans with the umbrella of social media, this quick access has also meant them being under constant scrutiny. Every public appearance — be it in a designer gown or a tracksuit, it grabs eyeballs, and finds space in countless fashion blogs and in chatter among social media gurus. Clearly, every hair in place is now a decisive factor.
But not every star is a professional in the styling department. To help these hapless starlets emerge into a people-friendly avatar has lead to the emergence of a most sought after profession in the industry — the stylist. And, Pernia Qureshi seems to have captured three worlds with her being a fashion designer and a fashion portal runner to boot.
Excerpts from an interview:

Sonam Kapoor

How did you get into styling? Tell us about your first project.
I have always been passionate about fashion and styling but the thought of making it a career struck in my first year of college while I was interning with Cosmopolitan. Next, I worked as an assistant stylist in New York for Ann Caruso, a contributing editor at Harper’s Bazaar. Later, I continued doing freelance work with Conde Nast in New York, before moving back to New Delhi in 2008.

People think styling is easy, to get pretty dresses and make celebs don it; what is the toughest part? Can you recall a particular incident during a shoot that stands out?
Styling requires a lot of planning! It starts with creating a mood board and theme for the shoot. Next, the looks and outfits are decided and put together to suit the concept of the shoot as well the look of the person being shot. Hang-ups like sizing issues, quality issues and delays are not new, even the mood and temperament of the person being styled is important. However, with experience and proper planning, one learns to tackle such problems, hence, it’s difficult to pin-point an incident in particular.

Amy Jackson
Amy Jackson walked the ramp for Pernia’s debut collection at Lakme Fashion Week Winter Festive last year

How does one become a stylist?
Be your own muse. Style is personal — one learns by experimenting.

What about its perks?
Styling keeps you up-to-date on new trends. It is like working on making people feel good about them, so it gives you a sense of pride.

Pernia on location for a shoot for her online site

Your high point of being a stylist?
I love my job as much as the fish loves water. From conceptualising looks to buying to shooting, its all got something to keep me going. Being appreciated is like the cherry on top.

Stylists are revered abroad. What is your take on the styling industry in India? And, its future here?
India has always been the epicentre of fashion and luxury since pre-historic times; however, styling is a relatively new concept. It is great to see how people have begun to experiment and take risks with dressing. People have started to realise the importance of dressing, and even Bollywood has adopted the trend of hiring stylists to ensure they are always impeccably dressed. This is a positive development. Things seem to be getting better.

Sonam Kapoor

Among India’s celebrities, whom do you love styling the most?
Styling Sonam (Kapoor) is always a great experience. Our basic aesthetic, especially in terms of fashion, is similar, so working with her is always super fun. She is experimental and edgy, which is great. I styled for her in Aisha (2010) and then again, for Thank You (2011).

Any personality you’d like to work with? Also, who among the younger, current Indian stars are doing in sync as far as their wardrobe is concerned, with or without a stylist’s help?
I would love to work with Rekha; she is one of the most stylish women in the industry, and has aged, elegantly. Among the younger stars, I feel Sonam Kapoor, Neha Dhupia and Jacqueline Fernandez are stylish. They know their body types and dress accordingly.

You moved from styling to designing, how did that happen? Apart from your clothes, which designers (Indian or international) do you admire most, use for your work?
Working in this industry has been a learning curve. Every job is special and I’ve learnt something each time, and have grown as a person. Designing is not particularly a move from styling; it’s an addition to what I do. I ventured into designing because I wanted an in-house brand for my online store, The thought of experiencing the designing process is enriching — from conceptualising the outfit to seeing the designs on the runway.  As far as styling, I use a lot of vintage wear along with designers like Atsu, Nikasha, Burberry and Gucci.

You also run a successful e-commerce portal. What do you feel about the e-commerce industry in India? Also, with designer goods, is the demand still specific to upper tier cities?
E-commerce is gaining popularity, globally, and India is catching up too. Fashion should be accessible to all, and as India grows so do the aspirations of its youth who want to look and dress better. I hope to make them reach true fashion through my online store. In India too, the website offers something for all. We must keep in mind the affordability and accessibility with pricing in India to ensure that fashion isn’t restricted to the upper crust.  Hence, you’ll find that our customers transcend boundaries — they might live in The Netherlands or in Orissa. 

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