A frock dress. Colourful bangles. A black shrug. Fashion stylist Vandana Sharma says disarmingly that her look on ordinary days is “not the best” of her work.
Her forte, she says is in mix and match and re-inventing with materials at hand. “Even as a design student I loved putting things together. My friends would be rushing off to buy new clothes if they were going to a party while I would take old clothes out of the wardrobe and innovate a look.” The idea, she says is to get a simple look and then break it.
Vandana’s CV reveals this is an old habit: to start from somewhere and end up somewhere else so as to take up new challenges. “I began my career as an inhouse designer with Satya Paul and then with Abu Jani. If you work with big designers as an assistant, you don’t make that much money.”
She branched off to styling when friends invited her to do a stint with Channel V for a lark, a time when the channel was turning youth-centric. This was the time when senior VJs like Laila Rouass and Nina Manuel were still around but youngsters like Peeya Rai Chowdhury were making their presence felt. “My first assignment was to dress up the gorgeous Laila Rouass. I remember she approved of the green floral dress I had brought for her,” says Vandana.
One of the best reasons for youngsters to think of a career in styling, she says is the pay.
‘If you are good at your job and you have a body of good work, a stylist can earn anything between Rs 15,000 to Rs 35,000 for a day’s work.” The highest she says she has earned for outdoor campaigns is Rs 35,000 a day.
Her days, says Vandana, are full of work – “it’s rushing from one meeting to the other,” especially as all the agencies are in Gurgaon.
These days everyone wants a look so a stylist can get a call for work from across the spectrum. From mainstream news magazines to commercials to advertorial work to fashion shoots for women’s magazines, a stylist’s inputs are in demand.
But the brief for magazines and ads, says Vandana are different. “In ads you have to be apt. When the agencies creative comes to you with the layout and the storyboard, the look you give the sets or the ‘characters’ has to be the correct one. You have to be better than the references they bring along.”
For magazines, she says you can let your imagination fly. “I don’t think in terms of success and failure. Each day you learn something new,” says Vandana.
“I also pick up a lot from what I see on the streets,” she says. Janpath is one of her haunts as are flea markets in the city and abroad such as Bangkok, Singapore, Goa and Pushkar, close to home.
Who are her favourites among designers? Rajesh Pratap and Manish Arora get her vote. “I use their clothes a lot in my fashion stories for magazine assignments.” Styling sense, says the 32 year-old stylist comes by being aware of world trends.
But her “real learning curve”, says Vandana was when she joined a fashion magazine.
“While I thank those who helped me on the job, I am especially grateful to those who threw challenges at me and made me even more determined to rise to them.” Understandably, her biggest support, she says, was her husband who is in the book distribution business and -- isn’t clued into fashion! “Each time I had doubts and asked ‘Can I?’ he would say ‘You must.’"