The picture above might not give this away, but Divyak D’Souza is easily one of the funniest people you'll ever meet. He’s also sharp as a whip and, as deputy fashion editor of Femina, India’s most widely read women’s magazine, a powerhouse in his own right. Not bad for someone who originally intended to be a doctor! (They do say laughter is the best medicine.)
I chatted to him earlier this week about the little-known things that come with the job and the importance of a good American Idol song.
What’s your morning and evening regimen like?
I was obviously the kid that used to play in his mom’s beauty cabinet and try out all her creams and makeup and now that I'm a grown up, I use Avene’s Cleanance face wash in the winter and Kiehl’s Facial Fuel Energizing Face Wash in the summer. It’s like this superhero face wash – Power! Fighting! Enzyme! Fizz! Fighting! I love it.
I’ve recently switched to shower gels, because I feel like I’m a loofah girl, and I’m huge on Forest Essentials. They have these great creams and body lotions. The one I’m using right now is called Nargis. I walk into a room and people are like, “Oh my god, I’m in the Taj Mahal.” It’s a very exotic, I for India type of scent.
What’s your advice to women waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror, and getting dressed for the day?
Wear or do whatever it is that makes you happy. People say it isn’t important what you wear, that your personality counts for more, but your outfit is your visiting card. People see you before they hear what you have to say. It’s not shallow; it’s more a starting point for your own self-expression. So think about who you are and what you want to say to the world when you're getting dressed for the day.
What is the one piece of clothing that works on everyone?
A white shirt. I know it sounds boring, but it’s so versatile; anyone can make it their own. India does it as a kurta, Europe does it as the Oxford shirt, and the Middle East does it with their kaftans. It’s this classic, multicultural piece of clothing that crosses borders and works on pretty much everyone.
Who’s been your favourite person to work with?
One of the most enjoyable actresses I've worked with is Alia Bhatt. She’s young and stands for all the things that Bollywood should be. She’s not self-obsessed; she’s very real about who she is and what she’s doing. She’s a part of the crew and she respects the process, which is always great.
I’ve probably learnt the most from Nonita Kalra, my ex-editor at ELLE. I’d heard all kinds of stories before working for her; some horror ones and some of adulation, but everyone seemed to concede that working for Nonita was a rite of passage if you wanted to work in the magazine industry. I didn’t go to fashion school, but ELLE was it for me.
What's the most important part of your job?
Being observant. You need to have your finger on the pulse and be part of the zeitgeist. It’s not just about the clothes; it’s about the music of the times, the mood of the times, the language people are using, the places they’re travelling to, and putting all of that into perspective and creating imagery. I don't know if you can teach that.
What’s the one thing about being a fashion editor that nobody knows?
People mistake it for being this super glamorous job where interns run around getting you coffee and you wear designer clothes and sit in the front row and hobnob with models and celebrities. That does happen, but way too infrequently for my liking. It’s not the norm.
I never used to like networking until I realized that it’s part of the job and that really, it’s not about exchanging visiting cards and having more names to drop; it’s about exchanging ideas. I spend three days a week on my knees in sweatpants folding clothes, packing suitcases, dragging them up and down staircases and going to fittings, but that’s hugely fun for me. I like doing the legwork. But it’s a lot of physical hard work; being an editor isn’t just all in the mind.
The best moment of your career so far...
There’ve been a few. What really put things into perspective for me was working on a feature in Femina recently called Fashion Democracy where you pick a concept that is, to use the cliché, on the fringes of fashion; plus sized women, for example, or androgyny, and work with a designer to bring the concept to life.
It was my editor’s idea and it took a bit of convincing but my first story was a real eye opener for me. It made me realize that what we do is not rubbish. It’s not shallow; it’s not just about the key piece to buy and the 'It' bag to have, it’s about helping women find a voice.
What’s the one thing in fashion you’re sick of?
The whole ‘must buy, must have’ outlook; just sort of being dictatorial about things. I don’t feel like you need to tell women what they need, it’s much nicer to show them what they might like instead, or give them options for things you think they can work into their lives. The other thing that bothers me is using products to sell content. It should be the other way around; you should be selling your content using product.
If you could sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
Oh my god. This is actually a dream of mine. It’s a real fantasy. It’d have to be Donna Summer or Diana Ross, something like Hot Stuff or She Works Hard For The Money.
Are you a hunter or a gatherer?
Is this a sexual thing? With life in general, I like to think I’m this aggressive go-getter, someone who’s proactive and on the ball, so definitely a hunter.
What’s your least favourite thing about people?
As I’m getting older, I don’t like it when people call unannounced. It’s like, ‘Please text first!’ My mother called me without warning today, and I was all, “What do you mean? Check with me first!”
If they made a movie about your life, who would play you?
If I was being realistic about this then obviously it would be Matthew McConnaughey because I’ve been told we’re practically dopplegangers. Seriously though, I think it’d probably end up being Jack Black.
What song best describes what you do?
Dancing On My Own by Robyn.
What’s your favourite pick up line?
Have you been anywhere interesting lately?
I was in Berlin for the second time this year recently, and it was excellent. People think so laterally in Berlin compared to the rest of Europe; everything there, from the art to the music and fashion is so democratic.
They have lots of these multi-designer stores that stock local brands, for example, and the way they approach silhouettes is so free from gender norms; none of that 'men should dress this way and women should dress that way'. Their club culture isn’t too expensive, either; no place costs more than 10 euros, and no one’s going to stop you from going in or judge you by what you’re wearing. Everyone’s homogenous but still very individualistic; it’s really chilled out, and you really get this sense that you’re welcome to do your own thing, whatever that might be.
As told to Jossbox.
Divyak is wearing kurta by Suket Dhir, jacket from Weekday, trousers from Primark, sandals by Sanchita and carrying Moschino's French Fries iPhone 5 case.