Fashion Designer Shehla Khan has designed for almost every Bollywood celebrity including Deepika Padukone, Karan Johar, Katrina Kaif, Kiara Advani, Sonam Kapoor and many more. She recently launched her collection -The Beautiful Fall with Alaya F as the face of her collection. In an exclusive conversation with Bollywood Hungama, Shehla Khan spoke about her latest collection, the effect of the pandemic on the fashion industry, celebrity styles and the future of fashion.
What can you tell us about your latest collection The Beautiful Fall?
This is the first collection that I designed right in the middle of the pandemic. July is when I conceptualised it and August is when I started designing it. When I was conceptualising the collection, I put in a lot of thought considering the time and and the market and how weddings have become way smaller. People are really not in the mood to celebrate or go overboard spending money on occasions. I really thought of going back to the classic Shehla aesthetic. Just making it easier to wear yet elegant which you can not only wear to weddings of 20-30 people but also can recycle and wear it in different ways. Use it as separates or wear at a gathering or dinner or a party at a friend's pieces. These are investment pieces as well as classy pieces. Indian couture tends to be conspicuous and you wear it once you can't wear it again.
Why Alaya as the face of the collection?
When I had to make my campaign for this collection, I didn't want to work with someone I had worked with before. So, I happened to approach Alaya because I really like how she carries herself. She was very keen to do it. It came out really well as she added her funky personality to the clothes which weren't simple per say but were understated and classy. She has so much funk and personality that she rocked it and we also styled in a very edgy way which is also away from the more feminie and pretty vibe that the brand is known for.
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How much has the fashion industry been affected by the pandemic?
The market has not been normal but at the same time we have also been adapting to working towards the new normal. We don't know when things are going back to the old normal or whether there will be an old normal. So what we have done is, we used the time, ie I and people who I am exposed to both internationally and in India; we have created our own new normal. Everyone has to survive, our brands have to survive. People are still going to get married. People are going to go out in smaller groups. There are still people who love dressing up, even if it is at home. So, it is not like there is no buyers market but it is about adapting.
Even internationally there are brand shows that have decided to go season less. I think this was already something that was imminent in respect of the environmental and eco-friendly fashion. Like less waste means lesser collection which leads to lesser production and so lesser uses of chemicals. We are trying to do things like dying materials in an eco-friendly way.
For designers who have decided to go season less, it is also because the market is such that there is no point in having eight collections in a year as opposed to three collections with 20 pieces instead of 40-60 pieces. It works better for branch consumers. The consumer will not be spoilt for choice and the brand also has a more clear picture of what they want and less waste and expenditure on our part. The buying power is also not at 100 percent. So coming out with new ideas of what people would like to wear like with The Beautiful Fall. A little more understated, a little more wearable, recyclable, keeping all of these things in mind we will go on.
Is the minimalistic approach the way forward?
I think 2020 was a cleanse for everyone. The new normal might be the permanent normal, because it is better. Even fashion going eco-friendly. Lesser seasons means less fashion shows, lesser fashion shows means more digital approach, a greater digital approach means greater audience. It's just something like working towards the welfare of the future generation.
Where do you seek inspiration from when you start working on a new collection?
Honestly, it depends. I do like being surrounded by beautiful things whether it is furniture, art or just photography, clothes off course. I love watching films. When I travel I like going to the museums. Once, I went to the MET and I saw a Turkish exhibition there and I came back and I used a lot of their patterns in my embroidery. Once I watched a film. It was Pride and Prejudice. One of my collections was really inspired by that. Then there are style icons like Lady Diana who is very elegant and I really admire her. Every designer during that time would die to dress her. My last Lakme collection was inspired by her. My first collection was inspired by French Queen Marie Antoinettet. She is a connesseniuer of dressing up and fashion and clothing in her time. After having watched movies on her, I really looked up to her a lot. My main assignment in last year of college was a shoot inspired by queen Marie Antoinette. So it was understood my first collection after becoming a designer would only be inspired by her.
How do you determine the personal style of an actor?
I always go by the person’s silhouette and the person’s frame and what colours would look good on them. I always go by the theory less is more. That does not mean that everything has to be simple. I just believe that you don't need to be sparkling or accessorised from head to toe. I think you should own your outfit rather than your outfit owning you. So I go by that theory whenever I am styling anyone. I pay a lot of attention to detail. And it depends on who is more open to what. Somebody like Deepika is experimental. Somebody like Alia, she is young, we have to make sure that she doesn't look younger than her age. We keep her style a little mature but not like elderly mature but chicer. Ananya and Tara, they are young and they own it, and that is their vibe and really having fun with them with silhouettes and accessorising. With Sonam she herself takes a lot of passion in dressing up. For her everything is a look, even going to the gym is a look. Everytime I have created a look for her, we have put it together and we always decide it together with her help. She also shares the passion for vintage fashion, western and Indian fashion. So we have done things like pull out pictures of old Hindi movies, black-and-white Hindi films and just take out Madhubala's picture and try to recreate the sarees she wore. I have worked with her sister a lot for creative looks for her as well which has been a lot of fun as well.
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