Inside Manish Malhotra’s elaborate designing empire

Mein shaadi karungi toh Kareena wala designer lehenga pehenke karungi, warna dulhe ko tata tata bye bye kar do…” This is what Alia Bhatt’s character told her family in the film ‘Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania’. Just like the reel bride, many would-be-brides share similar sentiments for ace couturier Manish Malhotra’s avant-garde creation. With over 30 years in the fashion industry, he is not only instrumental in starting the culture of the front row during fashion shows, but is also the go-to person for many Bollywood divas, who can’t resist their temptation for his outfits that are synonymous with glamor and grandeur.

From styling actress Juhi Chawla in the 1989 film “Swarg” to creating a sensation with Urmila Matondkar’s look in the 1995 film “Rangeela”, Manish has designed costumes for the style goddesses of the film assiduity including Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Preity Zinta. Even new-age stars like Sara Ali Khan, Janhvi Kapoor and Ananya Pandey are his fans his.

The acclaimed designer is currently eyeing global expansion after Reliance BrandsLtd. bought 40 per cent in the designer’s label, MM Styles Ltd. in October 2021. In an interview with The Free Press Journal, the ace couturier speaks about the association, the impact of Covid on the fashion industry, fear of being typecast, and the future of fashion in the age of NFT. Excerpts:

What kind of creative challenges did Covid brough on for you?

The pandemic was surely overwhelming in many ways. However, I’ve always believed that one must work twice as hard and let adversity lead to creative growth in challenging times. You pause, introspect, think differently, and let that change in energy lead to the awakening of your alter ego. That’s what I did when I started working on Diffuse, a new category that plays with prints, eases couture, and has fun with fashion. Also, I started making fashion couture films, which is a new take on fashion shows. I thoroughly loved the process of directing these films as much as I have loved creating and designing the new collections.

If someone wants to pick a budget Manish Malhotra design, what would it be?

As pandemic welcomed and gave rise to the new normal, so did our conscious-priced line, Diffuse, to welcome an already-existing audience into the fold. A bridge line that is fresh, young, consciously priced, attainable, and accessible for the younger demographic.

What are the most sought-after trends in summer wardrobe?

Colorful print iterations, metallics, vibrant ensembles for my ever-young audience.

We all know about your designs, but what about your home? How does it reflect your vibe?

On one hand, I like glamor, bling, and the glorious celebration of everything, but home is different—it has a lot of white and wood. I love space and I resent clutter. I’m also particular about how a home smells — fresh flowers and plants; everything must be detailed, specific, and well-served. Warmth for me is an important aspect.

What kind of clothes do you prefer and what are your favorites?

It may come as a surprise for someone who designs these elaborate ensembles, but I prefer wearing simple black clothes and jackets with them.

How did you manage to not get typecast?

I always try to challenge myself with the projects I take on. From designing and styling a musical like Mughal-E-Azam to doing a Jab We Met to introducing a new category like Diffuse for the younger audiences, each time I like to raise the bar and try something new.

Reliance co-bought 40 per cent in your brand. Why was this the need of the hour?

I wanted to make my brand truly global, diversified, and chart a new growth dimension for Indian luxury while creating personnel opportunities. Collaboration was necessary to do the needful. I was receiving several offers, but I felt complete faith and alignment with Reliance. I’ve been a great admirer of the organization’s thought process and way of working. They are passionate about art and culture and are the only ones with the entire spectrum — from high-street to absolute luxury brands. For me, it was clear that if there were to be a partner, it would be them.

You are also associated with many social endeavors, like Shabana Azmi’s Mijwan, Cancer Patients Aids Association, and many more. Please tell us a little about them.

The Mijwan Welfare Society in collaboration with Shabana Azmi and Namrata Goel is a cause very close to my heart. Through this, we try to empower women by teaching them the craft of chikankari and then enhancing their creations and making them a part of our signature collection. I feel humbled and happy that I am able to contribute to these women’s lives in a way that gives them the independence and the knowledge they deserve.

From Hollywood, who would you love to dress?

From the new generation, it’s Zendaya, and the classic and iconic Meryl Streep.

What are the most significant changes your label has gone through over time?

Lots of prints, metallics, and hand-painted ensembles, are some add ons this year.

NFT is the buzzword this year. How do you think it will impact fashion?

Pandemic made people be by themselves at home and led them to explore an already existing digital avenue like NFT. They were just mere buzzwords that have now turned into digital assets. The past two years ushered in dramatic changes in expectations in how consumers interact with art and add new layers to collectibles/luxury purchases. NFT, with the blockchain that underpins it, have evolved into a whole new institution. The concept is borderless; imagine concert tickets, artist payments, property in the form of NFT! Everyone’s going to own multiple of them; it’s already becoming a crucial component of picking up projects. Not just art, even the invoices of your art could be NFT soon. The space is perfect for getting Indian craft and technology under one unit. We’re just testing the waters right now and can’t wait to explore its horizons.

Rapid Fire

If not a designer, what would you have been?


According to you, what traditional pieces should one have in one’s wardrobe?

Invest in timeless lehengas, kurtas, bandhgalas, metallic sarees and printed staples.

Your favorite line from your launches till date?

All actually, each collection is unique.

Your biggest achievement?

Yet to come.

Your biggest regret?

Maybe not having a formal education in fashion designing.

You are scared of?

Waking up one morning and not being able to go to work.

Published on: Sunday, April 03, 2022, 07:00 AM IST

About the author


Leave a Comment