Stylist to many celebrities and personalties, Geeta Khanna in association with her company Hirumchi Styling and Hachette India, has released Style of India, a coffee table book that chronicles the evolution of fashion. She speaks to us on her journey of styling and the making of the book.
LOfficielIndia: What inspired you to come up with a coffee table book on style? Was it easy to research and capture so many eras, genres and stalwarts of fashion and style in one book?
Geeta Khanna: As an idea, Style of India burgeoned due to my stint in New York. People often asked me about Indian fashion–it was restricted to saris, Bollywood or a few popular Indian designers. I realised that abroad people were unaware of how talented and progressive Indian creative professionals are. There was very little information on the body of work that had evolved over thousands of years. It then occurred to me that there is no ‘modern presentation’ of India out there for them to see, when it came to style and fashion—just various snippets. And this was not just about foreigners. In India too, there was no unifying work that brought the various elements together in a single accessible point. Yes, it was challenging to find a ‘method to the madness’–India with its diversity, parallel fashion and culture phenomena. I think it was easier to simply take the historic timeline approach and weave around it, which is what I did.
How long did it take to complete the book? Were there any challenges or any discouragement at any point?
The thought was brewing since 2007, but I started working on the book full time end 2010. I think I had the ‘beginners’ luck initially, and landed a publisher and a sponsor for my first shoot for the book, even before I started working on the manuscript. But things were very rough 2013 onwards, and several things that I had not anticipated started to emerge. I was frustrated enough at a point to simply ‘sell’ off the entire work of three years…but I held back.
What aspects of fashion did you encapsulate in the book that you think are otherwise forgotten or neglected, when we speak on this and its related subjects?
I think that we attach too much importance to spring-summer and autumn-winter fashion clock. This is much more relevant when fashion is a mainstream business, as it is and was in the west when it emerged. But we should not forget that in India, we dress according to festivals and events such as wedding, ceremonies, or when we initiate our children into student life. Somewhere, we have lost touch with this side of our culture, which is the very defining feature of our lives as Indians. I think when I did the first event to promote Sally Holkar’s effort to help the women who work for Maheshwari handloom as the first ‘Heritage and Style of India’ event, I presented a concept that has since then snowballed into a fashion mainstay. We did this in April 2013, where we invited designers to send some of their tunics, and corsets that we teamed with khadi and handloom saris. Today, I don’t need to even say anything more than this, it was picked as a huge story by a fashion magazine in just six months, and then it was all over the fashion weeks. But what is still neglected, I believe is the deep dive into our cultural nuances and extracting from it.
Tell us more about your company, Hirumchi Styling? What are some of the milestones in the course of its being?
It started as a fashion syndicate for fashion trade magazines in India; we used to style trade fashion shows, and sometimes advice brands with media buying, art direction and execution of art works. As a start-up, we were doing very well with a tight team of about five people. Then things changed in a big way after I started work on the book as a full time project. I cut down on business and eventually laid off most of my team, whom I used to absolutely love. I almost became three people myself, because I started reading, spending time in libraries and looking for information. By 2012, I think I was looking more like a scholar and less like a stylist or a business woman! Some of the milestones of Hirumchi Styling Company include setting up the identity of the brand Alberto Torresi amongst several others, styling for Sportswear International–India edition, starting the Heritage and Style of India platform that promotes Indian handloom, craft and art.
Do you see an evolution, when it comes to hiring stylists? Has there been a surge in the demand for personal stylists beyond celebrities and actors?
Absolutely! The stylists today are very slick, up and with it. I am extremely proud of the new crop of professionals in India. Styling as an industry is just starting, it will get better and better, as people want to be treated like ‘stars’ and want to express their own selves.
How do you define your personal style?
If you were to invent a piece of garment, what would it be?
More than a garment, I would invent a software that creates the best composition to wear so that it is available to you in five minutes... To read more, get our November 2016 copy or subscribe foor the issue here.