From the small, red star-shaped tattoo behind an ear to a cupboard full of dresses with silhouettes that are difficult to decipher, and eclectic pairings (orange-striped salwar with a loose, waist-length, sleeveless white shirt), designer and stylist Aparna Chandra believes in creating her own style rules. Chandra, who shuttles between Mumbai and Delhi these days, styles ad films for brands such as Ponds and Airtel, and is likely to sign her second film after Luck By Chance, which she co-styled with Arjun Bhasin.
Mix ’n’ match: Aparna Chandra, in a Fabindia salwar and a loose white shirt, with her pug Yoda. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Her label is almost in cold storage (a small collection of her clothes will be available at White, Hauz Khas Village, New Delhi next month) because she got bored with designing. The only time she misses the hustle and bustle of a manufacturing unit and the chatter of the masterjis, as the tailors are usually called, is when “someone asks for my clothes, when I see other designers excited before a show, or when I desperately want to alter a garment”.
Asking Chandra to explain her style sensibility means turning your back on all that is conventional. She says she prefers draped dresses over fitted ones, doesn’t own the traditional “little black dress”, is unlikely to ever buy one, and, given a choice, would wear white all through the year. Edited excerpts:
Describe your summer wardrobe.
I hate anything synthetic against my skin. I only wear thin fabrics such as cotton. I mostly wear pyjamas and I recently made myself six white pyjamas (loose-fitting, calf-length cotton with an elastic waistband). I can’t wear jeans in this weather. Plus, I love white. For my graduation (from National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi), I designed a line which was all white. The colour just stayed with me. I do wear colourful stuff for a few days or weeks, but I always go back to white.
How many of the outfits in your closet are your label?
I can’t really say, but I do have clothes that I designed five years ago that I still wear. My wardrobe is a mix of stuff from other designers such as Savio Jon, in addition to things I pick up from small boutique stores in Bangkok, where I go for shopping trips while styling for an assignment. I also pick up things from flea markets in Goa. I love street shopping in Mumbai and scouting around stores like Zoya, Si Branche and Attic in Bandra, Mumbai.
Who are your favourite Indian designers?
Savio Jon. I love his clothes because they are so clever. Look at this white kurta-shirt. It is made with transparent mul fabric, the design is simple yet it has a twist, as in the inner seams are neon orange.
I have recently discovered Anuj Sharma. His work is fabulous but he does not stock in Delhi. When I asked him why, he said nobody buys him here. I like Anshu Arora Sen and some of Manish Arora’s stuff. I am open to different kinds of looks and am equally comfortable with the kind of work Savio and Manish do, although they are so different. I even have a Ritu Kumar in my wardrobe. I don’t have clothes from known “big international brands”, though.
Style diva: (clockwise from top) A Manish Arora outfit (extreme left) and dresses bought from boutiques in Bangkok; Chandra’s current handbag was bought in Orissa; chains and long necklaces dominate her accessory collection; and she likes to wear colourful flat slip-ons during the day. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
I don’t want to spend a lakh on a pair of pants or on a dress. Sure, I would love to wear a beautiful gown some day; I even wore one from an international label for a photo shoot, but then I am likely to add a twist to it. Maybe do something to my hair, which is completely out of sync with the outfit.
Do you like to accessorize every outfit?
I wear lots of chains together. I like junk stuff, and the 1960s plastic jewellery. But I am not big on wearing accessories on a daily basis. I also have favourites, like this ring (a large piece with semi-precious stones and a red stone in the centre) I picked up in Turkey a year ago. I have one favourite bag every month. I try not to buy leather bags. My current handbag is from Orissa. Someone I knew was carrying a similar bag and I asked them to get it for me too.
What about shoes—do you prefer heels or flats?
I love footwear but I don’t own much because I am really fussy. I don’t seem to find the right footwear or I just can’t afford it. For the day, I like basic chappals (slippers). I am not much of a heels person and wear them only when I go out in the evenings for a dressy affair. Even then, it is unlikely that I will be seen in black pumps. In fact I only have one pair of black heels, which I got as a gift. I love colour in shoes—lime green, fuchsia, purple. I also prefer closed shoes with heels. If I am wearing pyjamas to a formal affair, I will not wear heels with that.
Any summer-style advice for men?
Even for guys, I tend to lean towards loose fitting silhouettes in natural fabrics.
A thumb rule about looking stylish?
Keep trying different things—not just with your clothes but also your hair. Otherwise your look will get boring. I experiment a lot with my hair and have a new haircut every few months. Thank god for Avan (Contractor, at Mumbai’s BBlunt), who tries out new stuff all the time. I often meet people who say they love my haircut but would not try it because “it would not suit me”. At least try it, it may work.