Voting day look: Alexander McQueen’s black and white animal-print jersey dress, black tights and black mid-calf gladiators worn with bright red Ray-Ban Wayfarers. Hair left loose and messy.
Red carpet look: Anamika Khanna cream and gold toga dress, gold gladiators, kundan choker, Jimmy Choo clutch and hair in an elegant up-do.
She’s got the look: (from left) Styled for a girl-next-door look by Manish Malhotra in I Hate Luv Storys; styled by her sister Rhea, Sonam wears a waistcoat for the androgynous look; she owns about 15 pairs of brogues; styled by Pernia Qureshi for a feminine, preppy look in Aisha.
Magazine cover photo spread look: a flirty, floral Roberto Cavalli maxi dress with hair in loose curls.
Sonam Kapoor works every look—from the very feminine and elegant to the androgynous— with matter-of-fact ease. Not surprisingly, she has become a favourite cover girl for all fashion magazines and is arguably Bollywood’s most evolved and individualistic dresser. At 5ft 9 inches, tall and skinny, sporting jumpsuits rather than cleavage, Sonam has become something of an anomaly in Bollywood where appealing to the masses is considered essential to making it as a top mainstream actress.
“Fashion is fun and it’s individual. If you make it your own, you will look stylish. You can have a Lady Gaga at the same time as a Gwyneth Paltrow,” the 25-year-old tells me when we meet in between takes of a photo shoot for a film glossy. Her entourage, consisting of friend and stylist Pernia Qureshi and her make-up artist, fusses over her. A rack lined with designer clothes, shoes and accessories is waiting to be matched.
She slips in and out of the clothes, gets her photo shot and moves to the next with a certain nonchalance. Sonam wants flowers in her hair for the next look. Qureshi agrees. “We have to control her sometimes. She’s crazy. She’ll wear anything. For the longest time, she was obsessed with black lipstick,” Qureshi says. Sonam laughs.
While top actors such as Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone have adopted short, tight dresses as their signature look off screen, and made sequins and Swarovski-encrusted saris with short blouses their style de rigueur, Sonam likes it androgynous and edgy. She has been spotted in a military jacket paired with a white tank and trousers and even an oversized white shirt borrowed from her dad, worn with a gilet, tights and tan brogues. “Which is why my personal style cannot be in any Hindi movie,” she adds.
Three years ago, Sonam debuted as Sakina in Saawariya, dressed in flowing anaarkalis made with yards of rich fabric, with her long, dark hair reaching her hips. Sonam’s look in her next film, Delhi-6, was also predominantly Indian but she made it her own with clothes by one of her favourite designers, Anamika Khanna. Khanna is known for designs showcasing Indian textile craft. “When it comes to wearing Indian clothes, I’ve very traditional sensibilities. I’m not into spaghetti straps or sequinned corsets,” Sonam says.
In both I Hate Luv Storys and Aisha—releasing on 2 July and 6 August, respectively—Sonam finally sports a non-ethnic look. The first, the new Dharma Productions romcom, is directed by Punit Malhotra and has her playing a girl next door. The fact that she is considered a style icon of sorts played on Manish Malhotra’s mind before he started styling her look for this film. “She has been spotted in everything from Chanel to Balenciaga. But this character demanded a different style statement,” says Malhotra. He scouted stores in London and New York, and only high-street brands such as Mango and Topshop were used for Sonam. “Her look in the movie had to be cool and trendy but Punit wanted viewers to (be) able to relate with her,” he says. So, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, bright dresses and short denim skirts, she makes for the cutesy production assistant, Simran. A complete contrast to her off-screen image.
Aisha is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and is based in Delhi’s high society. “Her character is someone who really cares about her appearance, it’s inherent in her. We thought, why don’t we take it further, make it the first high-fashion film here,” says Rhea, Sonam’s younger sister and the producer of the movie. Styled by Qureshi, Aisha, Sonam says, was a party as far as styling was concerned. After shopping trips to New York and London, and stuff borrowed from closets, Sonam is wearing every designer label you can think of, says her stylist. She’s is dressed in everything from designer dresses and vintage jewellery to dhoti pants and linen shorts. “We wanted to move away from the cotton candy aesthetic of Hindi movies, where the heroine dances around in a neon mini skirt,” says Rhea.
This is also the first movie to have collaborated with an international fashion label. Christian Dior has provided many of the outfits for Sonam in the film and she can be seen carrying a Lady Dior through most of the film. “Aisha is a fashion-conscious Delhi girl, who is very feminine, dreamy and loves all things pretty. So the Dior aesthetic completely matched hers,” says Rhea.
Even at home, her sister plays the part of style adviser. “My friends and sister help give me perspective. Rhea has been woken up at 6am when I have to get ready for an event. Or I would just step out in a mohawk,” laughs Sonam. Personally, Sonam counts Alexander Wang and Helmut Lang among her top favourite designers. “I don’t like being too girlie. With my kind of face, I end up looking like a 12-year-old if I wear cute clothes,” she laughs. So she borrows her father’s white shirts and wears them with tights, a big watch and bright red lips.
Sonam loves accessories of all kinds, but they have to make a statement. She collects jewellery and is a big fan of hats. Sonam towers over many male actors in the film industry, so she is mostly spotted in flat shoes. She also steers clear of high heels to avoid knee and back problems.
A compulsive shopper, she mostly shops online or while travelling, and collects vintage dresses. “Sonam is not a girl next door. You will never see her in jeans and a tank top. She has an easy charm and natural appeal that makes everything on her look like fashion. She never really pored over Vogues. She likes beautiful things, and has a good eye for fashion,” says Rhea.
For someone who says she would much rather starve for a couple of months to be able to afford another vintage dress, Sonam says she is still searching for her style. “I don’t know if I am a style icon. I think I’m just expressing my individuality and if people like that, then great.”
But there can be a thing such as too much fashion, according to Malhotra. He says he wishes she would dress her age. “Her style is very individualistic but she has gotten too caught up with that. She’s too young and there’s enough time for this. She’s beautiful and will be a huge star, but she has to be more approachable to the regular viewer,” he says.