Bollywood’s Darling Designer: 25 Years of Manish Malhotra

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Behind that finely chiseled jawbone is a man with steely flair for passion. His striking looks defy age and experience, but when Manish Malhotra takes the stage, you can only expect fireworks. The iconic stylist and designer celebrates 25 years in the industry this year, having given us Bollywod’s most iconic looks and more reasons to dream up a “Bollywood ishtyle” wedding than any other designer.

The costume stylist

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Manish’s biggest break was arguably his costumes for Urmila Matondkar in Rangeela. Fashion designer Nachiket Barve says (in a tweet to us), “Urmila gyrating to Tanha Tanha on the cliffs in the solid colour dresses! My jaw-drop moment!” Srishti, blogger at Style Fashion Etc, agrees, “Styling Urmila’s costumes and look in Rangeela was a life changing moment for Manish Malhotra. I think things just took off after that. “

From Sridevi to Kareena Kapoor, our contemporary style icons owe part of their fame to Malhotra. Stylist and makeup artist Priyanka Gulge points us towards more blockbusters. “Look at Karisma Kapoor in Raja Hindustani—he even styled her eyebrows! And Kareena Kapoor looked smashing in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.”

Though he may have transitioned to mainstream fashion, Bollywood’s favourite stylist remains loved among stars and ingénues. As Alia Bhatt said, on the occasion of her first runway appearance for the designer “An actress’s life is never complete if she doesn’t walk for Manish Malhotra once.”

The designer

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Since his first runway show in November 1999, Malhotra’s designs have focused on fine craftsmanship and intricate detailing. His Mijwan collection, designed in collaboration with the Mijwan Welfare Society, showcases his signature style at its best; the shows, with Bollywood showstoppers, are additionally important in their support for Kashmiri crafts clusters.

Though Malhotra may have affirmed that he’s done with films, a large section of the fashion community often relegates him as a Bollywood stylist. Yet in a culturally robust country as ours, where karigari (craftsmanship) is an important benchmark, Malhotra nails it time and again.

The bridal couturier

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Malhotra’s designs have always found a soft spot among brides. Ask any bride and a “Kareena-wala lehenga” is a must-have in their wedding trousseau. His latest outing, The Empress Story, with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan acting as showstopper, saw him venture into statement gowns. Needless to say, along with the celebrities, new-age brides are eager to lap it up. His expansive stores are a treasure trove of elaborate designs, and the designer himself is a hospitable host to young, discerning women (and now men too). The brides love his aesthetics, so do their mothers, and this writer too!

Stylist, couturier, and an amazing man. With 1000 movies and 35 awards, including the first ever Filmfare Award for Costume (for Rangeela), Malhotra’s most heart-warming feature may be his ability to bear his laurels lightly.l 

Images: Manish Malhotra; Lakme Fashion Week; The Crimson Bride.

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