From structured pinstripe coat-dresses to soft, draped silhouettes; from quirky, printed trousers to solid-colour shifts—Aparna Badlani’s wardrobe has a split personality. And yet it is these contrasts that make the style statement that is uniquely her own.

The co-owner of Mumbai’s multi-designer store Atosa, who has been a fashion entrepreneur for more than 15 years, started out as a microbiologist. “I didn’t grow up flipping through fashion glossies," she says. Badlani was expected to follow the old India script of career ambition: become either an engineer or a doctor. But as fate would have it, a short summer gig with a fashion brand turned into a full-time job. From there, fashion draped her future.

A mix of Indian and international designers, high-street and flea-market finds, Badlani’s wardrobe is eclectic. This spontaneous process is reflected in the collection at her store which, she says, mirrors her personality. Here she tells us about her love for structure, tribal jewellery, and growing up with curly tresses. Edited excerpts:

How would you describe your style?

A bracelet cuff and necklace by Paul Bhonsle
A bracelet cuff and necklace by Paul Bhonsle

From a student of science to working with fashion brands and now your own store—did your style change over the years?

An Alexander Wang ‘Rocco’ bag that is Badlani’s favourite arm candy
An Alexander Wang ‘Rocco’ bag that is Badlani’s favourite arm candy

How important are accessories to your look?

Very much. My clothes never have any embellishments but I wear a lot of jewellery. That is the reason I prefer monochromatic clothes, so that I can freely accessorize. I like chunky, statement pieces. Interesting earrings, cuffs, flow chains, pieces from here, there, everywhere! I can wear anything that catches my eye—it could be made from metal, acrylic, thread, fibre or plastic. I like sharp edges and tribal styles from brands like En Inde.

Since you also buy fashion for your store, how and where do you shop for yourself?

Blue shoes by Steve Madden
Blue shoes by Steve Madden

I am a recent online shopping convert. I have bought clothes at Koovs.com, Ssense.com, Net-a-Porter. But still, nothing beats the experience of going to a store.

Which fashion trends do you refuse to follow?

I will never be caught wearing an anarkali or a gown. In fact, I don’t attend events where the dress code is “gowns". Today fashion is more about comfort for me. I never wear fitted clothes, I want be able to eat what I want and be comfortable without worrying about what I am wearing. I used to wear heels all the time earlier but it’s an absolute no now. If one is going to be standing for 6-7 hours, like I do at my store, then it takes a toll on the back. I am a fitness fanatic and can’t go into a yoga session with a sore back.

So what do you wear for traditional occasions?

A pinafore-style kurta by Vaishali S. for Indian ocassions
A pinafore-style kurta by Vaishali S. for Indian ocassions

What mistakes do Indian women make when they come to shop at your store?

Indian women seem to chase fitted clothes. They want to hide their flaws but still want the clothes to be fitted. Most are not willing to experiment with silhouettes. Bollywood is such a big influence, and women buy into it with little thought about how these clothes look on them.

How was it growing up with curly hair in a country obsessed with long, straight tresses?

Growing up, I was never allowed to grow my hair because my mum found it hard to manage it. I grew my hair in college but I hated it and would try and comb it out straight. That wouldn’t work and I eventually gave up. Today my hair has become my identity. When I tie it up people don’t recognize me.

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