Neeta Lulla Curated

Couturier and Fashion Designer


  • Describe the Neeta Lulla bride?

    She is the bride who wants something individualistic, something that encompasses her persona, her jewellery and her look and mood together.

  • What is new in your collection?

    Right now we are working with this theme on vintage as I work a lot on resort weddings. We’ve got a very different collection that works for destination weddings and resort weddings which are more on the Edwardian grip, it is very pretty and has a rich vintage undertone to it and then we have got the Persian collection which is very vibrant and colourful, very larger-than-life.  Every season we do a collection on handlooms and we have got Kanjeevaram this season. We have reinvented the Kanjeevaram as and when we do the Kanjeevaram and we will be introducing our collection on fibre-optic garments.

  • What are the key trends for bridal wear this season?

    Lots and lots of ruffles and tiering in terms of style, golds and reds in terms of colour. There's a lot of blue and azure in the jewel tones and very magnanimous silhouettes and a lot of brides are coming in for a very vintage and heritage embroidered look, all in handlooms, like Kanjeevaram or Banarasi’s.

  • What would be your top 5 tips for brides-to-be?

    Most importantly, select your jewellery before you select your outfit. Secondly, do not look at a dress on a hanger and decide your colour. Look at your most becoming colour and select your outfit because this is an event where you cannot try and experiment on. Go with classic cuts is very important, to create an element of wearability even later. Always pick up shoes which have got very minimalistic or no embroidery because you do not want to get stuck in the layers of your outfit. Go with a very classic hairstyle that will look pretty on you. Do not experiment with new hair or makeup.

  • What will be your top 5 tips for brides to be?

    Most importantly, select your jewellery before you select your outfit.  Secondly, do not look at a dress on a hanger and decide your colour. Look at your most becoming colour and select your outfit because this is an event where you cannot try and experiment on. Go with classic cuts is very important, to create an element of wearability even later. Always pick up shoes which have got very minimalistic or no embroidery because you do not want to get stuck in the layers of your outfit. Go with a very classic hairstyle that will look pretty on you. Do not experiment with new hair or makeup.

  • What is the biggest mistake you think brides-to-be make?

    Deciding the outfit and then deciding the jewellery and I’m talking this through experience. Secondly, because of the pressure of the parents or fiance, they opt a colour which is not of their choice, all because they think it is a one-time wear. If you do not like red, do not choose a red colour outfit all because your family wants you to.

  • What is your favourite or signature piece from your collection?

    My favourite and signature piece would be Nishka’s wedding outfit. It has Tanjore artwork on it and it has got very different kind of embroidery which is part of our collection ever since.

  • How would you define your design aesthetics?

    My design aesthetic is more personalised, it is more bespoke, it is more in keeping with the client’s persona and look and feel, therefore I think it is more towards an element of couture.  The underlying philosophy that I look at and I am inspired by are the colours of the Renaissance era and the cuts and the romantic feels of the Edwardian era. I convert that with Indian fabrics and blend it together.

  • Tell us about the fabrics developed for this collection?

    Personally, I love using fabrics that are clingy like lyras and jerseys but I use a lot of tulles and lace for my bridals. I use taffeta and silk for the more voluminous look. I’m not a very chiffon or georgette person.

  • What about the wedding guest? Outfit ideas/ do’s and dont’s for them?

    Weight is the most important, considering there are so many destination weddings. You cannot carry too many heavy clothes, always style your clothes in a way which looks elegant at the same time. You do not have to be completely dressed with over-expensive jewellery which you may not be able to carry as well. Carry basic classic shoes which go with all your outfit, whether it is gold, silver or nudes, works well. Carry styles you’re comfortable in. Clothes should be more style oriented than embroidery oriented.

  • What according to you would be Urban Brides’ wardrobe staples?

    A staple in terms of blouses would be a classic well cut gold blouse. A shirt in a classic colour which can be worn with your skirts, trousers or even your saree. In terms of skirts, it would be a nice straight or voluminous skirt, depending on what you like and in a colour of your choice, which you can dress up or dress down, with a beautiful saree or a dupatta that you have. In terms of accessories, a very comfortable pair of gold and silver shoes and a gold and silver bag which is not too OTT because it will draw attention immediately should be something which is nice to carry and elegant to look at.

  • When did you realise that you wanted to become a costume designer?

    It’s actually a pretty funny scenario. I didn’t really want a career. My in laws are very highly educated, and insisted that I should do something with my free time, whatever my interests lay in- whether it was tailoring or cooking or anything else. It was then that I enrolled myself for the fashion design course from PV Polytechnic SNDT University. During the first year, however, I was pretty much disinterested and attended classes sporadically and flunked in most of the tests. But when the college teachers said that they would inform my in laws that I was not taking any interest in the course, the warning bells started to ring. At that time the annual fashion show preparation were starting. I took part in the makeup and styling categories. To my utter surprise I landed the best designer award. From then on I just went with the flow and even I the second year I got the best designer award once again. That’s how it all began. It was not pre planned, things just started happening.

  • What would you tell someone who says that they would like to become the hottest costume designer in B-town?

    I would tell them that it is important to know your craft and you should love what you do. Your passion will ultimately show in your work. Whenever I have designed anything for a client, and they have asked for a certain design, I still give them 6-8 variants that I have come up with. People often mention about experiencing creative blocks, however, frankly speaking I have never faced a creative block in my career. I constantly am on the lookout for ways to better myself and my craft. Whether I am making a design for Rs 1 lakh or for Rs 3,500, I give both the same level of dedication.

  • More than 375 films to your credit, along with Hollywood films and being a multiple president award winner. Did the 20 something Neeta Lulla ever imagine this is where she would reach?

    The first national film award that I got was for Lamhe. At the same time I was working on the Juma Chuma show with Sridevi, Anil Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan. I wasn’t really keen to go and collect the award and told Sridevi so. It was then that she sat me down and explained to me how prestigious a national award really is. And that I should go and receive the award. I finished the Jumma Chuma show, took a plane to receive the award function venue, and arrived there at 4 pm, on the day of the event, even though the recipients are supposed to report a day earlier. When I finally received the award from the then President of India, the feeling of receiving a national award finally began to sink in.

  • The fashion world is crazy. Agree or disagree? And why?

    It is totally crazy! You have to have a kink in yourself to be able to fit in here and make a career.

  • Who are/were the best dressed actors according to you?

    Nowadays you can’t really judge the actors as each one of them has a stylist. In fact, many of the actors have number of stylists for themselves. Yes, if you talk about the pre '90s and early '90s , then heroines such as Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi  had developed their own style.

  • Who is your biggest critic?

    My children. My daughter is my creative critic and my son is the one who guides me regarding my business decisions. Whether it is what I am wearing or something that I am designing for work, my daughter loves giving me creative inputs and will tell me straight if she does not like something.

  • Who is your biggest competition in the industry?

    I myself am my biggest competition. I have always wanted to conquer new peaks and try out different stuff. My diversity has been displayed through my films- whether it was Khuda Gawah or Roop Ki Rani Choro Ka Raja amongst others. Of course, the media really started noticing all this with Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Then came One Night With The King, where I designed a whopping 2,800 dresses. And then there wasJodhaa Akbar.

  • You’ve done literally, everything…what different plans could you possibly have for the future?

    The creativity that I apply to my designing is not just restricted to that; creativity is a holistic part of my life. I have recently partnered with Founder and Chairman of Whistling Woods International (WWI), Mr Subhash Ghai, to launch my Fashion School, The WWI- Neeta Lulla School of Fashion. Teaching, however, is not new to me as I have been a lecturer for the Fashion Comportment and Grooming at PV Polytechnic SNDT University and is also a faculty member there. She has also developed the Hamstech Institute of Fashion and Interior Designing (Hyderabad) syllabus, faculty training programs, annual fashion shows as well as grooming the students.

  • What are the three things in your wardrobe you cannot live without?

    Crop tops, tutu skirts and my denim shirt.

  • What is your current collection is all about?

    Easy-to-wear, comfortable tunics, shirt dresses , crop tops, maxis in solids and fun prints as well.

  • what your experience of working with Asutosh Gowariker

    When I am working with Gowariker, I am not a costume designer, but a costume technician. He gives you a lot of freedom. Working on a historical involves reading the script several times to understand the characters. You are dressing the characters, and not actors

  • netizens pointed out that the styling seemed heavily borrowed from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani, what do you have to say on that?

    Panipat is set in the same era as Bajirao Mastani. So, how do I change the references? Sadashivrao Bhau [Kapoor's character] is the nephew of Bajirao Peshwa. Parvati Bai [Sanon's character] is Sadashivrao's wife. I cannot change history to make the costumes look different.

  • What preparation did you have to take to prepare for the look of the film?

    We were shooting in the heat and the armour that he wears weighed a ton, but there was no way he could get rid of it. We picked up sarees from Kolhapur and Pune, and then I mixed [the prints] and re-stitched them. We added special touches to her hairdo by way of clips that bore figures of birds and butterflies

  • Grooming for a life in fashion

    Growing up in Hyderabad, school couldn’t keep her hooked long enough due to her distaste for academics. The tomboy, as she calls herself, dropped out in search of more enthralling pursuits. “My mother was always worried about my grades and if I would ever be the perfect daughter who could cook and stitch, but my father always encouraged my interest in sports,” she says. He also indulged her love for reading and bought her the then popular bi-annual magazines Seventeen and Cosmopolitan, available only in select stores. “I was quite the T-shirt-jean connoisseur, but these magazines slowly got me interested in styling, and instilled a spark for fashion,” she recalls. Taking life one step at a time as she was wont to do, she got married at 16 just to evade high school and a formal degree — only to later learn that she was marrying into a highly erudite family. It was decided that she would complete her education and pursue a career — in cooking or tailoring. “My brief but exciting encounters with magazines led me to pursue a Diploma In Pattern Making And Garment Manufacture, at Mumbai’s SNDT University. I had a brilliant guru in Hemant Trivedi who saw my talent and groomed me in the art of make-up, fashion choreography and styling shows,” she recounts. Popular fashion choreographer Jeanne Naoroji was one of her guest lecturers and noticed her interest in fashion choreography — and soon enough, a young and enthused Neeta found herself working as her assistant for nearly two-and-a-half years on various shows. In the meanwhile, her college even asked her to double up as a lecturer in fashion coordination. While her life was functioning like a well-oiled machine, the output wasn’t substantially fulfilling. Thus, when she got an opportunity to work on Tamacha, a film being produced by her brother-in-law, she didn’t think twice. “I remember Jeanne asking me why I’d leave something I was so good at to work on a film! But the challenge to do something new led the way,” she recalls.

  • From home to The House Of Neeta Lulla

    In Tamacha, she assembled looks for Kimi Katkar and South Indian actress Bhanupriya. But it was the film Chandni that really put her on the fashion map. “My creativity got appreciated and when I got an opportunity to work with the reigning queens Juhi Chawla, Aishwarya Rai and Sridevi, work, basically, fetched me even more work,” she says. In an industry infamous for its nepotism, Neeta, an outsider, went on to work for over 300 international and national films. “I just blocked out the nepotism and focused on the quality of my work and let my products be the showstoppers,” she says. Starting off with films before venturing into mainstream fashion worked very well for her – and big banner films like Manikarnika, Gauthami Putra Satakarni, Jodha Akhbar, Devdas, Mohenjo Daro, Lamhe, Taal, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, International Khiladi, Hero No. 1, Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, Darr, Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke, Khal Nayak, Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja, not to mention Hollywood films like One Night With The King, Mistress Of Spices, Bride & Prejudice and Provoked marked her arrival as a formidable player on the fashion scene. Neeta's business that started with one sewing machine at home, just one kaarigar and only Rs 500 as capital, has now served more than 10 lakh clients over a span of three decades. House Of Neeta Lulla, the umbrella brand, comprises four verticals, namely, Nisshk, Neeta Lulla, Little Nisshk and N Bride.

  • There’s more to fashion

    Fame and recognition did not make Neeta complacent; in fact, it inspired her to make frequent trips back to the drawing board to see how else she could contribute to the industry. On one occasion, she found a lecture by an industry stalwart enriching, and this prompted another business idea. “As a creative professional, I wanted to share my experiences with young fashion enthusiasts – as a way of giving back,” she says In fact, a decade earlier, famous Bollywood director Subash Ghai had been so impressed by her work ethic as well as her teaching style at SNDT that he approached her to start something along the lines of a fashion institute. The two ideas worked in sync and in 2014, they collaborated to start an institute, The Whistling Woods – Neeta Lulla School of Fashion, helmed by experts, in association with Whistling Woods, an institute owned and managed by Ghai. “Being a mentor comes naturally to me, the maternal instinct is innate to my persona,” she says of her decision to take her second plunge into business. At the institution, everything from the advisory board to the faculty is manned by stalwarts and leading professionals from the industry. The school offers a unique combination of film and fashion, and hence, the placement opportunities waiting for the students are with design houses, retailers, fashion brands, and entertainment production houses.

  • And there’s more to life

    Bollywood is known for its nepotism and not being very welcoming of outsiders. Neeta points out that besides its nepotistic ways, B-town also harbours a strong gender bias. “I didn't grow up thinking life was fair — it was evident in the simple things that boys and girls are expected to do from an early age. After years of being in this industry, I've kind of rebelled against this idea of being accepted. If you want something different and you don't get it, you can now create it,” she says. Having said that, she believes now is a great time to be a woman in design, as the industry is trying to right its wrongs. “Design is no worse than the rest of society right now. The higher you crawl up the ladder, the thinner the air. The ratio of men to women is far higher. I have experienced discrimination and bias, but it’s worked in my favour — there have been occasions when I was included in shows because they needed a woman,” she explains. In light of her own experiences and of other women, Neeta took a stand against gender-based violence last year. “People around the world were fed up of violence against women, the lack of accountability in the system, thus normalising abuse and failing to combat it. I was emotionally disturbed after hearing about foeticides and later Nirbhaya and felt that as successful women, we must raise our voice against these issues. #SheIsMe, an inspirational fashion showcase, was a personal tribute that proclaimed that despite their flaws and limitations, women are beautiful, magical and strong,” she says. Being the only fashion designer to have won four national awards, hers is also one of the first brands to foray into the online retail space. So, Brand Neeta Lulla, having built quite a momentum, has its work cut out.For starters, Neeta has been doing her bit for the Make in India campaign, by incorporating indigenous Kanjeevarams, Kalamkaris and Banarasis into her collection for over four years now. She is also exploring strategic partnerships with global fashion houses and the government to increase awareness around homegrown fabrics and designs. “Over the next three years, I’m also looking at store presence in different metros and expanding to tier-2 and tier-3 cities where brides don’t have access to signature designer wear pieces,” she adds, before signing off.

  • How do you keep up with the competition? How do you make yourself stand out?

    Social media helps by letting you know about what’s happening in India and abroad. You’re aware of things. The downside of this is that it can also affect your work by sheer insecurity. For me, it helps to compete with myself, as there is already such a huge body of work out there. I need to think beyond that.

  • How do you keep yourself motivated? Do you ever feel like taking a break?

    Never! I have always been motivated. In fact, I don’t even need breaks or holidays. My break is whenever I am en route to a shoot or a show, etc. Even if you ask me what’s my hobby or what do I do when I am not working, the answer would be designing! It is an absolute passion for me.

  • You are one of Bollywood’s favorite designers. How is it working with the Indian film industry?

    When you’re designing for a film you have strict deadlines. Like everything was needed yesterday! Then you have to marry your design with the script, the director’s vision, the actor’s comfort and body structure, etc. You’re striving to create a look on the screen which is memorable.

  • Do you get creative freedom while working with different producers and directors?

    I’m a good listener. I understand what they’re talking about. I discuss with them, but I go with my sensibility. In case someone is having trouble with my vision, I’d probably sketch it for them.

  • How do you see South Asian fashion making a mark on the international platform?

    I think that South Asian fashion has already made a mark in the international market for the longest time. Big brands like Dior, Prada , etc. have outsourced their embroidery to South Asian craftsmen. I think the change happened when fashion became a big thing in the South Asian market. We are no longer the vendors for other brands. In fact, the sensibility we have is in terms of design and fabric as in artforms have been noticed globally. For example, Kolahpuri Chapals and Chikankari Kurtas are very much in demand in European countries like Greece, London, etc. right now.

  • Who is your favorite celebrity to dress?

    I never have an answer to this question. After working with 90-95 actors and celebrities, they each have their own style. You don’t do just one look. When you are working for fifteen years with people they become some sort of family.

  • Do you take into account their inputs or do they trust you completely?

    As I said, I’m a good listener. So I will listen to their inputs and understand where they are coming from. I will give them my feedback from a logical and technical standpoint, so that the celebrities or clients know what I am saying and why.

  • If you weren’t doing fashion, what do you think you’d be doing?

    I love fast cars and driving them. So probably a car racer!

  • What advice would you give to someone who is just starting into the fashion industry?

    Education is important to understand the technical aspects. But it is also important to observe around yourself and delve into whatever you may find intriguing. Read a lot, go to libraries and focus on that one aspect which appeals to you in fashion. That will create a platform for you to venture into the industry for a successful future.

  • Which collection of yours would you be sharing with fans of yours in Singapore?

    I will be premiering ‘N Pret’ from the iconic retail powerhouse, The House of Neeta Lulla, for the first time ever on global shores. ‘N Pret’ aims to create a fine balance between haute couture and prêt à porter for the discerning consumers who are sentient of fashion aesthetics. The unique selling point of the brand is its ability to fuse western and ethnic silhouettes, prints and designs catering to varied taste. Cocktail ready-to-wear gowns, pre-stitched body contouring saree drapes, asymmetric tops with flared pants, digital printed skirts with tasselled and sequinned embellishments are part of the collection which is apt for formal outings and resort or destination weddings.

  • We have gone through your various collections from Runway, Celebrity Style, to Bridal & Couture. How do you keep coming up with new creations?

    To design a collection is to communicate something in an aesthetic and surreal language. It is constant research and I am always looking to do something out of the box and to question the typecast. Very often I communicate ideas knowing that it may have a social message or a rich heritage inspired by our beautiful crafts like Kanjeevaram, Kalamkari or paithani weaves. I choose to create collections through which I can create a dialogue with my consumer about culture, legacy, tradition, and heritage through a collection that retains the indigenous aspect and adds a dash of contemporary chic. Having seen many ideologies in my lifetime, it's difficult to comprehend fashion through a singular thought. I still think the culture and history of the past are important tools for analysing the present and the future and making comparisons. Thus, not constructing my inspirations and going with the flow of aspirations.

  • What is your design inspiration?

    I am inspired by everyday experiences and from everyday people. I draw inspiration from life. The late Frida Kahlo has been a very big inspiration for me as she pursued her work and creative talent against all odds and was a holistic woman of substance. Shahdab Darazi for his impeccable finish, Azzedine Alia for his figure hugging cuts and silhouettes, Alexander McQueen for his luxuriant yet quirky aesthetics with a message that came through from time to time from his collections and Dolce Gabbana for their fantastic sense of blending color and prints and creative vibrant collections. However, despite respecting such talents the sensibilities, my design draws inspiration from the romantic structures and silhouettes of the Edwardian era with rich color of the renaissance period blended intricately with Indian fabrics and weaves and detailed with Indian embroidery to create a fusion.

  • What is a typical day for Neeta Lulla?

    A day filled with passion, experimentation and hustle.

  • We respect you using your voice on gender based violence with your 2016 #SheIsMe collection. Would you consider creating a yearly collection so that the message is always reinforced?

    Neeta Lulla as a brand always has a deeper purpose than just being a runway brand. Fashion needs to always promote a social message because fashion is a mass concept. #SheIsMe was my personal tribute to tell the women of the world that despite their flaws and limitations, they are beautiful, magical and strong. It was an inspirational showcase. People around the world were fed up with violence against women, unhappy with the lack of accountability for abusers, and fed up with politicians and others who normalise abuse or fail to combat it. I was quite emotionally disturbed after hearing about foeticides and later Nirbhaya and feel that we as women who stand up for their own right in our industry should combat these issues in raising our voice or creating awareness in some way. Thus a lot of my shows addressed these issues through inspired collections.

  • When did your journey began?

  • Was fashion design a hobby for you then?

  • How was your life when you started your career?

  • What is more about fashion design?

  • What about looking back into your career?

  • Can you handle any situation?

  • What about creativity?

  • What about confidence?

  • What do you wish for other apprentice?

  • Was designing predominant at that time?

  • How about coming from a technical background into fashion career?

  • What about the capabilities?

  • What is a film defined for audience?

  • How about creating the balance in the film?

  • Did you have clients for different films?

  • What about the awareness about the fashion designs?

  • What would your client say to you?

  • How about a film becoming a experience?

  • What about the scenarios back in the 80s and 90s?

  • Was it being fantastic of your career?

  • Is it from childhood you wanted to be a fashion designer?

  • Tell us something about your family?

  • What king of preference do you personally prefer as a fashion designer?

  • What is the philosophy of that colors?

  • Who is your inspiration?

  • What is the difference between designing for marriages and films?

  • What about the Bridals?

  • What about color combination?

  • How was your experience working for 300+ movies?

  • Was it helpful for your career?

  • What about the compliments that you have got so far?

  • What about self respect of your work?

  • What is the difference between tollywood and Bollywood, whom you have worked for?

  • Who is your favorite actor or actress in Tollywood?

  • HOw about your over years of experience with actors?

  • What would be your message for the apprentices?

  • What about adding to the various land fields?

  • What about reusing the dresses?

  • What about going green?

  • What kind of clothes do you prefer to design?

  • What about teaching your apprentices?

  • What about your institute?

  • How do manage your personal and professional life?

  • Tell us about women empowerment?

  • What about the women's Funda?

  • What else do you want to say to the aspiring designers?

  • What about the observations form others?