From a cameo in Karan Johar’s DDLJ to styling some of Bollywood’s top stars…Anaita Shroff Adajania talks about her 20 years in the business of making people look chic

Hrithik Roshan – the man keeps getting better with age, and so do his clothes. While he has the gym and his lineage to thank for his looks, it’s Anaita Shroff Adajania who’s responsible for his dapper appearance. “He used to wear his trousers too high and clothes too tight. When I started styling him, I told him to wear his trousers lower and clothes looser,” smiles the stylist, costume designer and fashion director of Vogue India.

It’s been 20 years in the industry for Anaita. She’s worked on a sizeable clutch of commercial and film projects, and has an enviable client list, with regulars like Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut, Aishwarya Rai and Katrina Kaif… Her first assignment was for commercials like Maybelline and Lux, and then in 2001, at the behest of Rahul Bose, she styled for the film Everybody Says I’m Fine! She then went on to style for her friend Karan Johar’s songs. Incidentally, it was him and Aditya Chopra who bullied her into acting in DDLJ. Remember Sheena, Kajol’s friend in the movie? That was her. But she believes that role is best forgotten. “I’ve never aspired to be an actor. I am bad at it,” she laughs. While Manish Malhotra did the clothes for Kajol in the film, Anaita put together her own outfits. “I went shopping for my wardrobe with Karan,” she says.

Much as she wishes, with the film becoming an epic hit, no component of it is unforgettable. But perhaps she can take comfort in the fact that a lot of her styling work, which is where her heart lies, is just as unforgettable.

A page from Anaita’s look book

The distinct looks Anaita created for the Dhoom series became quite a hit — be it Esha Deol’s shiny little golden dress, Aishwarya’s bronzed look in dangerously low-cut clothes, or Katrina’s risqué black leather outfit or tasselled red-and-gold corset. And then, there are those trendy and avant-garde red carpet looks that she creates for celebrities. “I love styling for the red carpet, because I can finish my work and go home instead of waiting on the sets,” she laughs and adds, “Earlier, people made safe choices for the red carpet. I changed that with a look I created for Deepika. I gave her a green backless Gauri and Nainika gown and braided her hair. My favourite look, however, is when I made her sport an Alexander McQueen skirt and a ganjee, with a huge uncut diamond necklace.”

In Chennai for an event at the Phoenix Market City where she curated looks for a few women from the city, Anaita says “One part of my job I love is working with real people and making their fashion fantasies come true.” Sometimes it’s important to sometimes break out of a mould. “Very often we create an image of us and stick to it for life. I hate the fact that everybody wants to look like each other. You are the showcase to yourself.”

She may have access to the best brands from across the world, with the added luxury of big budgets, but when she started out, the styling scene was a stark contrast. The youngest on a set was sent to the markets to buy T-shirts in generic colours, and the concept of a stylist didn’t exist. “We had to talk to local stores and source whatever they had, and get things tailored. Shoes were just not available. It was difficult, but ideas even then were amazing. Today, we are spoilt; the budget has increased from Rs. 15,000 to anything upwards of Rs. 50 lakh. The world is my shopping centre. People follow seasons and talent agencies let you see peoples’ work and choose accordingly,” she says.

But a stylist’s role doesn’t end with just putting together a look for a client; there’s a lot of impromptu thinking, and sometimes, making do with whatever resource you have. At the IIFA Awards one year, Hrithik was wearing a beautifully tailored suit, but the pocket square to go with it hadn’t arrived. “We were in one of the villages in the United Kingdom, and we couldn’t find a shop, so I just cut the top of a tie and stuck it into his pocket,” says Anaita.

There is often a misconception that a stylist’s job is glamorous. “You have to be on your feet, rushing to bazaars. Yes, you get to meet beautiful talented people, but it is a lot of running around with regard to sourcing.” With people becoming style conscious, there is a surge in the number of stylists. The field is getting competitive. There are people who had earlier worked with Anaita, and she’s proud to see them blossoming. “I’ve spawned. Before my own child, I’ve had others.”