• Wednesday, June 12, 2024


Komal Shahani: Styling a successful career

The fashion designer talks about her fabulous career, including her incredible work with mega-movie icon Vijay, leading directors, and celebrities.

Komal Shahani

By: George A

A DYNAMIC approach to fashion design and styling has taken Komal Shahani on a transformative journey filled with magical moments.

Having started as a designer for fashion brand Mischief Boutique, the cool creative commenced her celebrity journey by styling Preity Zinta for a leading magazine cover.

She has since then established herself as a fashion force across an action-packed 21-year career, with work across cinema, leading brands and for major movie stars. Some of her most notable work has been with Tamil superstar Vijay on films like Thuppakki, Jilla, Theri, Mersal and Bigil.

Eastern Eye caught up with the fashion queen to talk about her fabulous career, including her incredible work with mega-movie icon Vijay, leading directors, and celebrities.

What first connected you to fashion?

My earliest fashion memories are of my mom. I loved watching her and getting inspired. My brother Reza Shariffi, also a renowned costume designer, used to dress me up for hours and we would do fashion shoots. I still remember the full process of experimenting and trying fashion. So, I knew early on that I had to be in fashion.

You have worked on many major movies, but which character has been your favourite to design for?

Each character I’ve had the pleasure to style holds a special corner of my heart, like cherished mementos gathered along life’s path. While singling out favourites is a challenge, sculpting Thalapathy Vijay’s iconic look in Thuppakki resonates deeply with me. It was a moment where style and substance intertwined seamlessly, leaving an enduring mark.

Shahani working
with Akshay Kumar

You are widely appreciated for changing Vijay’s style game in Thuppakki. Tell us about that.

It was such an amazing experience to style the entire cast of Thuppakki, which included Vijay sir, Vidyut Jammwal, and Kajal Aggarwal. This opportunity allowed me to completely transform their looks and leave a lasting impression on their characters. Each ensemble was carefully curated to reflect the essence of their roles, enhancing their onscreen personas. For Vijay sir, the iconic rolled-up sleeves and layered looks became synonymous with his character’s rugged yet stylish demeanour, setting a trend that resonated with audiences long after the film’s release.

The looks you created for Thuppakki added an extra visual layer to the hit film.

The attention to detail in crafting these signature styles not only added depth to the characters but also contributed to the overall visual narrative of the timeless classic in Indian cinema. The best part about Vijay sir is that anything you give him, he just makes it better and his own.

Also, the clothes should look cool and easy. He just carries them off effortlessly.

Your work was outstanding in the film Cobra. Tell us about that styling you did for actor Vikram.

Crafting the many different personalities that Vikram portrayed in Cobra was a deep dive into transforming characters. A lot of effort was put into creating all the different disguises for Vikram’s character. From meticulously crafted and elaborate costumes, each disguise was tailored to perfection, seamlessly showcasing his chameleon-like ability to sink into every character without a trace, but also highlighting the depth of storytelling in Cobra.

What has it been like working with filmmakers like AR Murugadoss, Atlee and Priyadarshan?

I feel blessed and grateful to have worked with them all. I have gained valuable insights from my experiences in costume design, which have taught me the importance of adhering to the script and narrative, avoiding the influence of current trends, and staying true to the essence of the film. When it comes to Priyadarshan sir, he wants the audience to connect with the character. Atlee wants to ‘wow’ the audience and give them something new. He loves fashion – that’s his narrative.

Tell us about working with leading filmmakers.

Collaborating with esteemed filmmakers like Tarsem Singh, Nagesh Kukunoor, Santosh Sivan, Abhishek Kapoor, AR Murugadoss, Atlee, and Priyadarshan has been humbling. Each one brings their unique vision to the table, and adapting to their styles has been a delightful exploration of creativity.

Recently, I worked with Tarsem Singh from Hollywood, the director of Jennifer Lopez-starrer The Cell. Every day brings new learning opportunities.

What about the experience of working with the many film stars?

Styling luminaries including Vijay, Akshay Kumar, Vikram, Preity Zinta, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Kajal Aggarwal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Mrunal Thakur and others has been immensely enriching for me.

What is your process of working with them?

As a stylist, my goal is to help actors explore new horizons. I believe that by pushing boundaries, we can create unique and captivating looks. However, before diving into the styling process, it’s important to consider the actor’s preferences, personality, and character they are portraying.

But it also depends on what the actors are comfortable with wearing.

Shahani with Vijay (left) and Atlee

Are there any personal favourite stars you have loved working with?

When it comes to dressing celebrities, Akshay Kumar and Thalapathy Vijay stand out as icons of style. Akshay’s versatile persona, ranging from action hero to suave gentleman, offers a playground for creativity. It was a real treat styling him in movies like Khiladi 786, Boss and Selfie. Vijay’s timeless elegance and magnetic charm provide the perfect canvas for crafting memorable ensembles. Working with them is not just about fashion; it’s about capturing their essence and enhancing their on-screen presence through thoughtful styling, to create a lasting impression with every look.

It has been said that you are superstar actor Thalapathy Vijay’s favourite costume designer. Can you share a little more about working with him?

Being entrusted as Thalapathy Vijay’s preferred stylist is a privilege I hold with deep gratitude. He has become a trendsetter in fashion too. What he wears today, becomes the fashion tomorrow. I remember styling sir in Bigil with tracksuits – they were sold out all over the country within a day of the Singappenney song being released.

What is the secret of becoming a success in your industry?

Styling as an industry is growing and evolving every day, so the key is to watch out for new trends, get inspired, and learn to experiment. It’s a world full of opportunities. You can also assist someone with experience. Above all, persistence is crucial; never giving up ensures that dreams become reality in the ever-changing world of fashion.

Can you tell us about some current projects?

My next movie is Hollywood project Dear Jassi, directed by Tarsem Singh, which stands as a testament to his dedication. It has earned accolades and acclaim at major international film festivals, including Toronto and London. Recently I styled (adverts) Sparx, Kajaria, Kurkure, Dabur, and Tata Ace Gold with Akshay Kumar sir. I have also styled Sobhita Dhulipala for Manyavar’s bridal campaign, PV Sindhu for an advertisement, Narain Karthikeyan for JK Tyre advert and various jewellery campaigns with major brands.

A final word on your fashion approach.

I’ve always been a bit of a rebel when it comes to fashion. I love to experiment with different styles and push the boundaries of what is considered ‘fashionable’. I think fashion should be about selfexpression and having fun with your style.

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