Indian women get a new look, with some help from Pernia Qureshi

November 7, 2013

In a country where styling has not always been recognized as a worthy craft, Pernia Qureshi has put her profession at the forefront of Bollywood fashion.

Qureshi styled actress Sonam Kapoor for 2010’s “Aisha“, ushering in trendy outfits paired with designer handbags that overshadowed the film, a modern-day take on Jane Austen’s “Emma“.

Styling suddenly became serious business and the 28-year-old Qureshi found herself a pioneer in India. The Indian film industry woke up to the trend, shedding its garish costumes, and hiring stylists to mould a more glamorous image for Bollywood’s A-listers. Other celebrities followed suit.

Last year, Qureshi launched Pernia’s Pop-Up Shop, an online luxury fashion retailer like Net-a-Porter, stocking designer dresses from all over the country.

She also wrote a book, released on Oct. 30, which is a sort of style bible with do’s and don’ts for fashionistas in India.

Here are edited excerpts from an interview:

Being a stylist was not always taken seriously in India. Have things changed?
Ever since “Aisha”, it has become quite a popular career and people have started taking it seriously and I think there is a certain amount of respect that costume designers and stylists are getting, which they didn’t get earlier. I think things have changed a lot.

How is styling different in India from the West?
In India, it’s so new, the whole concept of styling as a career is growing up. It’s still a relatively new concept as compared to the West. I think a certain level of organisation and professionalism still has to come into place, but other than that, the actual job that is required is the same.

Do people here take it seriously?
I think people are starting to take it seriously now. There are people who are getting into this profession and getting a lot of credibility. Costumes in a film or styling in a magazine are the essence of the film or magazine, because the look of the character is the first impression that you are giving the audience.

What is “Be Stylish with Pernia Qureshi” about?
I wanted a book which was a style guide or a style Bible for Indian women. I wanted people to have a tool, something they can just go to or refer to every time they have a styling question or a query, like “my body is like this so what would suit me” and “what would I wear to a wedding” and “what should I wear to office”. I get so many questions asked all the time, so I thought it’s nice to make one little book, which is a really fun read. It’s very casual and something you like reading, but at the same time it is very helpful.

What are the questions that people often ask you?
People always wonder what suits their body type as everyone has a different kind of a body. I get asked that a lot. I also get asked what kind of make-up should be worn for different occasions — to a wedding, to office — and things like that.

What are the five wardrobe staples for a woman in India?
— A beautiful sari, that’s the most important wardrobe staple that an Indian women should have. Every region in India has a special kind of sari, so whether it’s Kanjivaram or Chikankari sari, every region has its own special sari, and we should own a beautiful regional sari from where we are from. You should be proud of your heritage and it’s a classic. And most likely your grandmother and mother have one so you can just take theirs.

— A little black dress, which fits you well, for emergencies when you don’t know what to wear.

— A white shirt, that’s always important whenever you have to look professional.

— A pair of jeans that fits you well. For the weekend, for travelling, jeans are always the most comfortable and easy to wear. You should have one pair that you should always rely on.

— A great pair of black pumps, only because they will take you from office to a party. It’s very easy to wear.

Is Indian dressing opulent and slightly over the top?
I think Indian people love to get dressed and they love to be opulent. That’s a part of our culture and that’s a part of our history and women have always been very stylish. I think compared to most other cultures, Indian women are more feminine and they really take care of themselves and dress up and I think it is a good thing.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Robert MacMillan; follow Arnika on Twitter at @arnikathakur, Tony @tonytharakan and Robert @bobbymacReports. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)

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