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Archana Walavalkar, Stylist and Co-Founder StyleCracker, Part 2

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The Kapoor and Sons stylist on the ins and outs of styling for Bollywood. 

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“I’ve been styling films for five years now. I didn’t really plan on getting into that genre though. I’ve spent most of my career styling editorials – first at L’Officiel and then as a fashion editor at Vogue India. Later, I started my own company, StyleCracker, to do freelance styling work with celebrities.

Once I started those projects, films were a bit of a natural progression. So far, I’ve worked on Student of the Year and Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. The most recent one was Shandaar – it was incredible styling Alia Bhatt and Shahid Kapoor for the movie. The character she played is very similar to how I dress in reality. In a way, it’s a lot like Alia as well, so it came a natural fit.

We shot in some of the most beautiful locations – Leeds and quite a few internal parts of England. We also did a schedule in Poland. Shooting in all these castles with such amazing light, it was unbelievable.

The styling process of a film isn’t as simple as people imagine it to be. I start off by sitting on a script reading session with the director. In that time, he explains his vision of the film and little details about the character. I re-read the script, make my little notes, do my referencing and make sure I’m on the same page as the team.

Then, I have to just start going out there, looking at what’s in the stores. Sometimes if I’m making custom pieces, I go to local markets to pick cool fabrics, colours and embroidery. If it’s Western clothing, I sometimes commission outfits to the designers in the industry.

I identify their USP in advance and think of options – If I want a plain cut dress then I’d go to someone who specializes in that and if I want something more ornate, I pick someone else.

Then comes the fittings schedule. At this point, the actor also offers their inputs. At the end of the day, you’ve to keep in mind their body shape, the character’s personality, what’s flattering and what isn’t. We do a test shoot with the final outfits, so we know how they’ll look on camera. Sometimes I may need to dye the outfit into a deeper shade for it to work on screen.

We also have to consider weather conditions of the actual shoot location; you have to really think it through because it’s not just about “shopping”, it’s quite technical. Ultimately people see only three hours of a film, but we put in about 100-150 odd days of hard work to make it happen.

In terms of styling, Bollywood has definitely come a long way. I’m really happy that styling is now such an integral part of a movie. Every single frame, every outfit is paid attention to.  And in general, I think Bollywood is a great way to reach out to the sheer numbers in India.

As a stylist, my role is to create an individualistic style for whoever I’m styling. With the right styling, it’s easier to get under the skin of the character. That’s what we do at my company StyleCracker, as well. We just propose little tweaks and changes to make a difference to our customer’s life and help them bring out the most stylish version of themselves.

When it comes to styling red carpet events, things are very spontaneous, and that’s just how the industry works. That’s when your personal relationship with brands and designers come into play – if your team and you are super organised and prepared, then that definitely gives you a bit of an edge.

I’ve styled almost everything from editorials to films, events, red carpet appearances and real people. That’s what excites me the most, the mix. What’s really interesting to me is how you can take editorial fashion and Bollywood and make it relevant and accessible to the masses. 

I’m currently working on Kapoor and Sons – I’m styling Alia Bhatt for the film. We’ve just received a new round of funding at StyleCracker, too, so there’s a lot going on. We’ve developed a new app – that’s something our users will get to see very soon on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

We’ve got over 100,000 registered users on the site now, so it’s an exciting time for us. We’ll also continue to have our StyleCracker Boroughs – one in Pune and we’ll also do one in the summer in Bombay.”

As told to Akshara Subramanian. Archana Walavalkar photographed by Shovona Karmakar.

Read about Archana’s extensive skincare regimen and how she does the perfect bronze smokey eye in Part 1 of her interview with Jossbox here

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