Manish Malhotra Curated

Renowned Indian Fashion Designer

CURATED BY :  


  • After almost a decade in the fashion industry, how do you sustain your creativity and generate new designs?

  • You once had said you would like to dress Meryl Streep. What would you like to see her in?

  • How has Bollywood fashion influenced Indian fashion?

  • Tell us briefly about your journey into the world of fashion.

  • Indian fashion, especially when it comes to the couture, has been dominated by the wedding market. In your 25 years, how has it evolved in the contemporary scene?

  • What is fashion for Manish Malhotra?

  • Tell us about your experience on designing clothes for the first theatrical collaboration Mughal-e-Azam and bringing the same royal aura on the stage.

  • What is the inspiration behind your stunning designs and how do you cope up with the changing trends?

  • Are you planning to come up with a little affordable range of clothes for people like us?

  • Any 3 tips you would give to the ‘to be brides’.

  • What made the Mijwan show stand out in 2015 as it was tagged as one of your most popular shows?

  • How long did it take for you to put up the collection of Mijwan?

  • Many people actually are unaware of the fact that you started working in front of the camera. Tell us how you started.

  • Do you think fashion industry is its own worst enemy in India?

  • What do you think about sarees? Are they trendy enough till now in India?

  • Who was the first bride you dressed up?

  • Who was the most memorable bride you have dressed up till date?

  • Who was the most challenging bride you have dressed up?

  • Which piece from your bridal collections till date took you a lot of time and a lot of effort?

  • What is the most common mistake that most brides make?

  • How do you approach to social media?

  • How do you feel after you made the “Made in India’ so prominent outside India?

  • Have you ever thought of putting any technological for producing your garments?

  • What inspires your designs?

    I am a very keen observer. From nature to architecture, people going about their lives, a beautiful piece of art or beautifully decorated home, inspiration is everywhere.

  • Who, according to you, are the best-dressed people globally?

    Meryl Streep – for her elegance and poise. She is the perfect example of the fact that style is always about one’s personality and never about trends.

  • Out of all your stunning collections, is there anyone that’s really close to your heart and why?

    Each is close to my heart and a prominent milestone in my career. Every collection is distinct in the design and detailing of the outfits. It takes us months to conceptualise the embroidery that goes into every collection. The craftsmanship and skill taken to complete the intricate embroidery is another story in itself.

  • The costumes in Rangeela were iconic and we all are pretty aware that they were designed by none other than Manish Malhotra. Tell us about those days.

  • Can you please talk about how you styled Shah Rukh and Kajol in DDLJ?

  • What according to you makes a particular style or look iconic?

  • Tell us about your working experience as a costume designer in “Dil Toh Pagal Hai” where you had styled Madhuri .

  • Do you consider your work phase to be much more fun compared to the young designers working as costumer designer today? Why?

  • Working with Urmila to Kajol to Madhuri to Karishma to Preeti, What did you do differently with all of them ?

  • What do you do with the actresses who panic about their looks? How do you manage to calm them down ?

  • How do you deal with the comparative aspects of heroes and heroines, because after all, it is human nature to get better than one another?

  • You came into this field around 30 years ago. Tell us how you feel being a costume designer for the new generation, and how your experience working for Student of the year and Judwaa was.

  • Since you have worked with more than one generation, tell us about how you think trends change? Who are the ones who decide?

  • What is your point of view about the criticism that everyone has the same look, as in every hero need to have a six pack, and if they don’t have a natural one, they will get it photoshopped or a girl should have a perfect figure?

  • What are your favourite five iconic styles you have worked on till date and why?

  • We all know that you were known as the filmy designer. Were you accepted by people from both the backgrounds- Fashion industry as well as film industry? Or are you looked down upon in the film industry?

  • You had started quite a number of new trends in fashion field, tell us about any three of them.

  • Who is your favourite designer and your favourite stars to style?

  • Can you share your views about the “ME TOO” movement that has started recently? Do you think it is at all useful?

  • What is it like to be a designer in India?

    Right now, I think the scene is over-crowded — too many stylists, too many bloggers and too many designers. Only the best will survive and become brands. But there is an opportunity for designers to focus on niche products. So it is both good and bad.

  • What is the common misconception about Indian fashion that you come across?

    Thanks to many designers, people think that the industry is tacky, frivolous and all about partying, models and waking up late. But that is not the case. I wake up at 6.30 a.m. And I do not have an attitude. People have expressed surprise at the fact that I come and speak to everybody at my store.

  • What are the boundaries you have drawn for yourself while designing?

    I stick to the genre I enjoy the most. I don’t go crazy experimenting; I prefer reinventing within my design sensibilities. I keep in mind that I support the 650 people who work with me. I am responsible for all of them.

  • According to you, what was the most defining moment of your career?

    Over the years, there are some moments that have changed the course for me personally and for my label.

    1. First amongst them would be winning the first Filmfare Award for costume styling. This really encouraged me to always look ahead and inspired confidence.
    2. Indians have always looked to cinema for sartorial inspiration. Bridging both worlds by introducing the concept of a show stopper from Bollywood was a defining moment as well.
    3. Last but not least, opening my 9,000 sq.ft flagship in Delhi was a proud moment. The store is now my second home ratification of the fact that passion will always trump doubt.

  • What advice would you like to give anyone, who is trying to get into the fashion industry?

    Never lose focus. There are no short-cuts to success. But, when it does come, work harder.

  • How did you come into modelling?

  • As you stated earlier, you immersed yourself into movies. What did you dream about when you used to watch them?

  • How supportive were your parents about your choice of career?

  • Tell us about the early days of your career.

  • If you are asked to look at India and Indian fashion in 2030, what do you see?

  • Have you thought of making your collections more accessible and affordable so that common people are able to purchase them?

  • You are in the field of fashion for a long span of time. How do you manage to stand out from other designers in this constantly evolving industry?

  • Known as one of the busiest designers of India, how do you manage your work and leisure? What do you do when you get a day off?

  • Talk about some of your future plans.

  • One decade down, where do we expect the Manish Malhotra label to stand?

  • Every bride wants to look best on her big day. How do you manage to ideate your every bridal piece to be different? From where do you get so many inspirations?

  • How useful do you find social media in today’s world?

  • Is there one signature pattern that you follow when you take inspirations from different things be it architecture or nature or any other ?

  • We are finding out designers to work with embroideries and upbring the artisans of India. What is your point of view about this centralized structure that is taking place.

  • Today people worldwide are seen to be environment friendly and are bent more towards sustainable products. Do you feel the same change is taking place in India?

  • What is your comment on the fashion trend being followed by the Indians with respect to the rest of the world?

  • Do you see any sort of international designer collaboration in the near future just to be more accessible to the western world?

  • Is it that the inspirations you get from movies are used in the movies you are a part of?

  • Throughout your journey from being a model to a renowned designer, what kind of obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?

  • What do you feel is important for a budding designer to do in order to be successful?

  • If the Bollywood actors and actresses for whom you designed get replaced by Hollywood actors and actresses, do you see yourself designing for them too?

  • What is your opinion about gender fluid fashion in the Indian Industry?

  • How do you balance the commercial world with your creative world?

  • What makes you feel that you are successful?

  • Why do you think its important for a person to discover his or her potential?

  • What are the boundaries you have drawn for yourself while designing?

    I stick to the genre I enjoy the most. I don’t go crazy experimenting; I prefer reinventing within my design sensibilities. I keep in mind that I support the 650 people who work with me. I am responsible for all of them.

  • Your latest collections — Gloss and Portraits — are both couture bridal wear. What particularly attracts you to cater to the bridal market?

    Yes, I always cater to the wedding market, and I have bridal wear that is formal and semi-formal. Brides today are ready to experiment. When I first introduced blue as a bridal colour, nobody even considered it for bridal wear. But it caught on as a popular colour especially for sangeets and mehndi functions. This time my emphasis is on colours like red, silver and wine.

  • Would it be fair to say that the fashion industry is helping traditional artisans by giving them employment and popularising their trade?

    I cannot speak for everyone but I personally am for introducing a lot of traditional craft into my work. I work with NGOs, with different artisans. Take the case of Japanese designers, who took their culture and made it global. This is my way of helping revive crafts that are dying down.

  • Why do you think aspiring designers try to emulate your kind of success?

    I started when I was 23-years-old at a time when I had to introduce the concept of styling and costume design to people, especially when it was looked down upon. Also, I hadn’t studied fashion. All that I know, I learnt on the job. Today I own a brand that makes a Rs.100 crore turnover. This proves that I have stood the test of time, which is the true test for any designer — to hold strong even after 10 years. So, whatever whoever may say, they cannot deny my success.

  • Tell us about your inspiration for the collection you had put up at Zween Couture, Doha 2018/19.

  • Any particular reason you chose Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as your showstopper?

  • How important do you think cultural integration is in the field of fashion?

  • How according to you, the fashion industry is changing?

    I feel the fashion industry is seeing a fundamental transformation in today's day and age on how we create, consume, and communicate about fashion. People are becoming vocal with their opinions on craftsmanship and designs we showcase or the national and international influencers we dress. The consumer landscape is truly changing thanks to social media. Luxury is today as much about the experience/the story as it is about the product.

  • As we know, fashion is one of the topmost polluting industries in the world after oil. Is Manish Malhotra thinking of an alternate idea for sustainable fashion?

    Given the times we live in today, all of us irrespective of which side of the demand-supply spectrum we fall on, must adopt a mindful world-view. At Manish Malhotra, we look at sustainability from the point of view of empowering artisans and spotlighting traditional Indian techniques.

  • Which assignments do you consider as a cakewalk?

    I enjoy doing difficult things. This is my 27th year and I continue to design for movies. Recently, I designed for Alia Bhatt in Badrinath Ki Dulhania, I’m designing for Jacqueline Fernandez in Judwaa 2. I also designed Sridevi’s costumes in Mom. Youngsters like Alia and Jhanvi Kapoor like wearing my clothes. My business is now a 100 crore label. It’s been tough; it’s been about single-minded dedication. There’s nothing else I love beyond my work.
    It’s the first time that a designer did the grand finale at the India Couture Week as well as the Fashion Week in  a span of weeks. I did them in the span of two weeks. Both the shows, besides trending all over, had fabulous sets and music. I have many more such things ahead as a designer and as a label. The brand has completed 12 years. I want to diversify my label. That’s why I began designing gowns two years ago. This year, I started with cocktail dresses, men suits and evening vests. We’re trying to change the perception of Indian couture. There’s a lot more to it than just the red and gold shaadi outfits.  I’m excited about the expansion and the huge office that we’ve taken to corporatise the label. By the end of this year, I’m launching a pret label, which will be showcased in many stores. My Delhi store, which is a 9000 sq ft place, will expand to 15000 square feet by January 2018. I’m also looking to open stores in Hyderabad, London and Dubai next year.

  • Which would be the most challenging films you have designed for?

    Definitely my initial years with Rangeela, Raja Hindustani, Dil To Pagal Hai… because they were about setting a new mark - discussing hair and make-up and putting across your point of view as a designer was difficult those days. Also, during Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (KANK), we didn’t have assistants.  I’d go and shop for Shah Rukh Khan and Karan (Johar) would help me in the fittings. KANK had a huge cast comprising Mr Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerji, Abhishek Bachchan et al. My memories of that film are about hours and hours of walking, sourcing clothes, alterations being done at night and so on. It was one of the most difficult films of my career. I’d also name Mughal-e-Azam, the play. I’d never designed for a play, that too 550 costumes in a month. 

  • Who in your opinion are the best styled stars?

    The young girls have good knowledge about fashion. Like Kangana Ranaut has worked well on her style and so have Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt. What I like about Alia is that there’s a story to what she wears at red carpet and events. But she never overdoes it. There are actors, who are so much about fashion and so little about their movies. If you notice international actors, they’re naturally smart and well-dressed. They know their couture and high-street fashion well. They don’t overtly speak about what they are wearing or who they are wearing. For me a style of a person is about their love and passion for their work. So I’d say Alia is the most stylish. 

  • When it comes to Bollywood fashion, which is the one thing you love?

    I love retro! Nargisji’s costumes, the art décor and set design of Mughal-E-Azam and Pakeezah. I am a huge fan of Zeenat Aman, Rekha, Meena Kumari, Mumtaz, how they took elements and made it their own. Like Mumtaz made orange famous, Yash Chopra’s films made white famous. I miss all that in today’s era. I’m fascinated by Nargisji’s beauty in Andaz (1949). Her style is amazing.

  • What’s the one thing that keeps you going?

    I’m a private person. My mantra is to stay focussed on myself. I don’t look at other people’s work. I thank God and the Universe for having done so much work - movies, weddings, collections and fashion shows all over the world. I feel blessed to have more work than I can handle.

  • Which are your favourite trends of the season?

    I like a global influence, I like the drama. Indian clothes are becoming more and more glamorous because we have so much texture, luxury, colour in our culture. In fact, this year was the first year that I dressed up the Miss India pageant in the last crowning segment. I came up with the idea of dressing them up in Indian and it looked phenomenal. I enjoy the glamour of shimmer, tassels, fringes, feathers, and people are enjoying it too. 

  • How much do you travel?!

    It’s crazy! Yeah, it’s too much. It’s crazy. You are right. It’s crazy, I agree

  • Doesn’t travel get to you after a point?

    t does… because everyone in my office just sends me messages and they expect instant answers. So, it gets quite taxing. But I answer when I have the right answer. Sometimes you have an instant right answer. Sometimes you need to think about it. Earlier in my life, I used to give impulsive answers. But time and experience teaches you some answers can wait because they become better. My time off would be watching a film, a good meal… I love food…I listen to music….

  • You don’t get angry, right?

    I get very angry! I get angry only at work, I don’t get angry otherwise. I am very strange. Silly things can irritate me and with big things, I’ll be like: ‘It’s fine’. Actually sillier things irritate me more.

  • Lots of landmarks coming up next year?

    We are starting the preparations from now only… it’s mid-next year. I’m in my 30th year... will complete 30 years next year. For a costume designer to be starting a business and a label and getting into mainstream and then also working with the four generations of actors and being relevant and working with such young people… very few people, whether they are actors, directors, technicians, see that. I feel privileged and honoured I have seen that. There can be no bigger gift than that. Not money. Not success. Not awards. Nothing can be bigger than the fact of having sustained at a level for so many years. When I came in, there was Sridevi, the top star, Madhuri (Dixit Nene), Juhi (Chawla)… with me came Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Urmila (Matondkar). The next lot was Kareena (Kapoor), Rani Mukerji, Preity Zinta, Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan)… then came Priyanka Chopra, Deepika (Padukone), Anushka (Sharma). Then came Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha… now is Janhvi (Kapoor)

  • How is it in hindsight?

    It’s great. That’s exactly what I would have wanted… super busy. I don’t even remember half the things. To sum up all the decades is that I am running. Always, working hard. I am honest to the job. Everything else in my life is secondary. Money, fame, accolades… I don’t make a big story out of what I do. Sometimes I also think that’s my fault. What I don’t sometimes realise is, the world is changing. They want to know stories, whether they are genuine or not, they want to know the story behind everything. I am more of a storyteller through work than really a storyteller. I am not educated… I haven’t studied fashion... in school, I was not good at anything… I was only good at watching films. I became very good at drawing and sketching. That’s how I passed my science exams. I don’t consider myself educated. I consider myself a person who is very passionate about what he does. I genuinely love clothes and movies. My entire childhood is all about movies and clothes, from my mother’s dupattas and saris and cutting them… it’s a honest love. It’s nothing to do with any kind of pretension… that’s one thing I cannot do. I am not an intellectual and I don’t claim to be either. I think when you come from a very strong, supportive, simple, middle class family, you have that strength of facing the world. I am not waiting for people’s approval. I get up and do what I do. I don’t have an ego or a complex. I have the confidence to walk into a party alone. I do not think coming late means stardom or walking with 10 people means anything. I have never really come with those thoughts. Success is subjective. I am just honest and straightforward.

  • Did the Hindi film industry surprise you?

    Yeah, it was very intimidating initially, because it was another world. I don’t know what I was expecting. I single-handedly built a lot of respect for costume designing. Of course there was Bhanuji (Bhanu Athaiya) who was doing brilliant work and then I built that up… by asking for the script, the story, the characters, working on the research, the sketches, the look… I single-handedly introduced look and styling in films. I was keen to do that and that’s what I did. There are a lot of things I have introduced. The award for costume design started with me. I introduced the concept of a showstopper, a front row, styling stars for their events… today every single designer in the country gives their outfits to actors to wear…. I was critiqued for it. I am having the last laugh. Then I was accused of doing extra bling and sequins and today everybody is doing it. All my movies in the ’90s, all those strappy blouses with low backs, every designer in the country is doing that.

  • What were you references?

    I was very interested. I still am... magazines. Then luckily, I started travelling… so exposure. I imbibe things, I imbibe a lifestyle. Sometimes what happens is, you see something and they are at the back of your mind and they come to you…

  • Did you take a lot of time to convince yourself to take the plunge and launch your label?

    The whole idea to start a label was to make diffusion clothes, because I was busy with films. Then the label also started getting me busy. Then I had stores in between. If you ask me today what is my priority, is it the label, my business or films, I would say my label and business. I love films. It is an eternal love.

  • What is the focus right now?

    The brand. And we have done very well for ourselves. I think the business and the brand needs that focus to take it to the next level. So, the first thing is to systemise it and looking into a lot of the changing factors of today. I started Mijwan nine years ago (the shows in association with Mijwan Welfare Society, an NGO founded by poet Kaifi Azmi) with Shabanaji (Shabana Azmi) and from 40 women, now we have more than 400 women who work. I do a lot of embroidery in Kashmir. Then I did a entire collection on phulkari which the Philadelphia Museum (of Art) took. We have embroiderers and tailors…. We do a lot of chikan. I am looking at a lot more cottons. That’s one of our plans for next summer. For me it is a journey and it is a very honest journey. It is something I like to do, I love to do. I fail, I win, I am successful one day. There are so many ups and downs but I don’t let it boggle me down. Ever.

  • You’ve ventured into make-up, jewellery and homes now?

    All these are verticals to extend your brand. I am a lot involved. I am involved in everything that I do. There are two types of business modules. One is where you do multiple stores. And, the other model is what the international designers do. They have large stores where they house the various things they do…. I am trying to create a Manish Malhotra world. I was the first designer in India to start a 9,000sq ft store in Delhi. Everybody else followed me…. In jewellery we are trying to do uncut diamonds, a little more modern. I like Indian clothes with a bit of a modern twist. That is my sensibility. That is my world. I love home decor. For me, a home is rich, textured, a lot of embroidery but a lot more thread, velvets… I love velvets… I love the fact of mixing velvets with textured fabrics. It’s again got the similar sensibility…. While in clothes I like bling, shimmer, glimmer, opulence, threadwork, I like the homes to be a little more spacious and minimal. In my own house, I have a lot of white walls, mirror, fresh flowers… I find tranquillity and solace in them. I know for the fashion industry, the best thing is to put me into the Bollywood category, but you can never deny or take one thing away from that many firsts.

  • What is the future looking like?

    What is exciting right now is taking the business and the label to many more verticals, adding a lot more gravitas to ourselves, demographically reaching out to lots of different places. The Manish Malhotra world of beauty, glamour, lots of different artwork, craft, texture… I want to be a one-place shop where you can come and get a vivid variety of clothes.

  • What is a typical day in your life like? We heard you are a morning person

    I am a morning person… I wake up at about 5.30am-6am…. A typical day is beyond hectic! I jump out happy. I like to work out. I have tea with my mother. I have always lived with my parents. So, I keep reminding her that there is no other son, 52 years and still living with his parents. I have very comfortably lived with my parents. I have been brought up with certain values and may be because I have lived with my parents, those values have sustained. I find it very funny when designers are looking through each other. I find it silly. The biggest blessing is to wake up in the morning and go to do what you like. That tires you less. Work begins by 7.30am-8am. People start messaging me. I have to take a one-hour break for shower and food.

  • Which is that one beauty trend that you are currently loving?

    I’m absolutely loving the glittery eyeliners. I think they add the glamour and gloss to literally anything. You could be wearing something very simple and just have that little metallic colour on the eyelid.

  • One beauty trend that you absolutely hate right now?

    Well, when there’s too much makeup and there’s a lot going on. I love metallic eyes with a more softer lip shade or just plain eyes with a bright and beautiful lip colour.

  • One actress, you think has flawless skin?

    Kareena Kapoor Khan, Yami Gautam and I think all of them have flawless skin these days.

  • One actress, you think always has her glam on point?

    Rekha, I love her, she’s a diva. I love the fact that even if she is wearing a simple white cotton salwar kameez, she’ll have a deep burgundy or red lip colour. She has made that lip colour her own.

  • If you had the choice, would you pink a red lip over a neutral one?

    Well, I would pick up a red lip for someone who is not going with heavy eye makeup and for somebody who is doing my metallic eyes or if there’s too much brilliance on their eyes then I wouldn’t really go for a heavy lip colour.

  • What would you prefer more - all-out makeup or the no-makeup makeup look?

    No-makeup makeup look but with a hint of metallic colour on the eyes.

  • A new decade has started and you are completing 30 years in the industry. How would you redefine fashion now?

    Redefining beauty would be a mixture of different elements - whether it is in styling, clothes, different textures, different embroideries, different colours. It will be quite interesting to see people style different things together and making it their own. For me, ‘fashion is style’ and fashion in 2020 is about the individual, styling on your own and being yourself.

  • One beauty product you think should be in every woman’s wardrobe?

    A classic winged eyeliner and a lovely lip colour.

  • According to you, which celebrity is always the best dressed?

    Nowadays everyone is well dressed. You can see Kareena Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone. I mean, you take all the girls, they really dress well and that is absolutely great.

  • Lastly, one piece of advice you’d like to give anyone who is entering the fashion and beauty industry?

    Amidst all the glitz and glamour, it is important to be yourself. There will be a lot of people who will be there for you and there are a lot of people who won’t. But, when you believe in yourself you can overcome everything. I have been in this industry for almost 30 years and I have made a lot of friends. But, I have been true. If I go wrong, I admit it to myself. Every morning, I have woken up to think - a new day, new things to conquer, new things to do.