Film producer and celebrity stylist Rhea Kapoor recently spoke to Guardian 20 about her journey as a professional stylist, and shared some exclusive styling tips with us. Kapoor has backed films like Aisha (2010) and Veere Di Wedding (2018) among others, and has her own fashion line called Rheson.
Q. How and when exactly did you start working as a professional stylist?
A. I started styling when I was 21 years old. I used to follow a lot of stylists abroad. Sonam [Kapoor Ahuja] and I love clothes. I started to do it unofficially for brands. Then after a while, I thought I should be paid for this as it’s a full-on job.
Q. Is the entertainment industry now more accepting of professional stylists as compared to the time when you were starting out?
A. The industry has changed a lot. When I started styling, there was no such thing as a celebrity stylist or red-carpet styling in the country. People didn’t get stylists to go for their launches or events or promotions. I remember following so many stylists abroad and letting people know that professional stylists get compensated for this work. Since then it has changed so much. Every second or third young girl or boy I meet wants to be a stylist. I feel excited for them, but it is a difficult thing to do. We live in a visual world now and people are a lot more aware these days about what everyone is wearing on the red carpet and who is the best or worst dressed. But according to me, you should not judge someone’s style, as it’s a personal style. There are no rights or wrongs.
Q. What are your thoughts on the self-proclaimed fashion critics on social media—like Diet Sabya, an anonymous Instagram account that exposes imitations and appropriations in fashion?
A. I don’t believe in anybody stealing anybody’s artwork. I feel when it comes to Instagram, anyone can open an account and become a fashion critic, so we must take everyone’s opinion with a grain of salt. It’s not about what they do but how we perceive them… Everyone is free to do what they want and is free to give an opinion. But we should be mindful of the things that we consume online as they affect our subconscious, opinions and outlook.
Q. Turning to the movie business now, most of your films have a plush setting. However, Hindi cinema is moving towards small towns and middle-class settings. So why have you kept yourself away from that trend?
A. I use backdrops that go with the story. I use what is relevant to the story that I’m telling.
Q. The movies you produce generally take a long time in the making. Don’t you want to increase your output and produce films more often?
A. I want to tell as many stories as I can possibly tell and I want to do it well. Maybe I will take my time or maybe not. I will just do it when the time is right.
Q. How about exploring the digital space? Any such plans in the future?
A. The digital space is the future, but again, I will do it when the time is right. And something exciting is coming up soon.
Q. You have recently worked, with the luxury jewellery brand Zoya, on Style Digest 2, a style guide for specific occasions. What was the inspiration behind the looks you created for this guide?
A. The inspiration was to find the perfect look for a contemporary woman as she celebrates her personal milestones, such as an award or her daughter’s engagement. As part of the videos, we did two looks. One was for my friend Kainaz Messman, who owns and runs Theobroma, a pan-India chain of patisseries. She is a talented businesswoman and chef. What we did for her was out-of-the-box from what she would normally do for herself. We styled a beautiful white ivory shirt with an incredible Indian designer’s skirt and we paired it with the emerald necklace from Zoya’s Hollywood Collection. We mixed everyday street style with femininity and glamour. That is reflected in my style as well and I relate to Kainaz as she is not necessarily a girly girl either, but she likes to feel feminine. I was excited about that.
For the second video, we styled Karishma for her daughters’ engagement in an Anamika Khanna outfit. We used a very beautiful ivory enamel piece from Zoya’s collection, Inheritance, which was beautiful—geometric and symmetrical. We styled her in a modern Indian look, which is quite unique. When I see young cool mums doing looks like that, it just makes me happy because it feels like there’s a personality to it and it doesn’t look generic.
Q. You have had a long association with Zoya. So how does the jewellery brand, and its designs, resonate with your style sensibility?
A. I love working with Zoya, and I like their whole approach to design. There’s a lot of time and effort involved in the craftsmanship and making each piece. It can take nine to 12 months. The pieces are elegant, understated and exquisite. And there’s beautiful storytelling with each piece. And while they are statement pieces, they don’t overwhelm you. I don’t do much collaboration, but when I do it, I want to make sure that I believe in it. I use Zoya’s jewellery a lot in my styling and I personally wear Zoya’s pieces as well.
Q. What is that one piece of diamond jewellery each of us must own?
A. A tennis bracelet or a pair of diamond hoops.
Q. One affordable jewellery styling tip that you may want to share with us?
A. Buy jewellery that can act as a base and can be layered. For example: if you buy a pendant, make sure it’s of high quality with a beautiful chain that is of high quality as well. Then you can keep adding pendants to it. This will make it look richer, diverse and unique.
Q. How important is pairing the right piece of jewellery with your clothes?
A. Jewellery and clothes are both integral to the look. They are not styled separately. The styling ideas for both jewellery and clothing should come from the same place.