As she strides out in a slick leather jacket over a flirty skirt and knee-high boots, it's clear this young woman knows what to wear.
Luckily for her, she realised early on that she could make a dream career out of that knack.
Shreya Anand (29) says she always knew what she didn't want to do. "Clichés like medicine and engineering were not for me," she said. But she was never quite sure what path she did want to take.
As a child, watching the 1988 TV serial Udaan, she was inspired to become an IAS office. That was until she began studying for her Bachelor in Arts at National College. "There, I realised the variety life has to offer," she said. "From plays to debates, fashion shows to festivals, my college mobilised me to do something productive with my life."
So, after a brief stint as a management trainee with an ad agency - which she admits she hated - the daughter of a businessman and college principal began making a living telling models what to wear.
She had just finished a nine-month film and television course at St Xavier's College in 2000 when Anand got her first shot at styling, for Channel V.
She now makes a six-figure salary as an ad film stylist for clients ranging from Nokia and De Beers to Cadbury's, Ponds and HSBC.
"As an assistant stylist for five VJs, I was paid Rs 15,000 a month. Choice Center boutique on Hill Road became my adda and I was practically living at the Channel V studio," says the Bandra girl who grew up in posh Pali Hill.
But that became monotonous. "I was overcome by an insane drive to be challenged and to take on a million things," said the adventure-sports enthusiast who recently paraglided off a mountain in Manali.
That's when she was promoted to executive producer for all Channel V shows. Twenty-two years old, she was now shooting non-stop, six days a week "in obscure places like Chandivali, where there was no mobile network."
An epiphany on a one-month sabbatical to a place she mysteriously refers to as "the mountains" made her realise that her true calling was styling.
The colour purple
In 2002, Black Magic production house approached Anand to style a Cadbury's commercial. "I was given two days and a brief to dress the lead character in the product's colour - purple! The next day was a Sunday, shops were closed and I went into panic mode as I had to arrange for jewellery and shoes as well."
Fortunately, a purple sari quickly transformed into a kurta pyjama for a little boy saved the day. Anand was hired by Black Magic as art director and stylist, with a still-modest paycheque of Rs 17,000 a month.
"My friends started calling me 'shoppers' stop' because I was always rushing about with huge shopping bags," smiled Anand. After three months, with three big shoots in her kitty, she quit to become a freelance stylist.
Anand fondly remembers her first job as a freelancer as her smoothest shoot to date. "It was a public-service ad - 'Goli Ki Humjoli' - for a female contraceptive and it was on a mammoth scale, with four location changes and unrealistic deadlines. But it went like a breeze," she said.
And the Rs 20,000 she got for her four days of work gave her immense satisfaction. "Black Magic recommended me to other production houses and the work just kept coming in," said Anand.
Anand now charges the industry average for a senior stylist - Rs 20,000 a day for regular shoots, Rs 30,000 a day for elaborate or outdoor shoots and Rs 50,000 per day if she's styling a celebrity - and has two assistants of her own. She does about six shoots a month, each lasting two to five days.
Her biggest inspiration, she says, is one of the fashion industry's big daddies - Sandeep Khosla, for whom she has styled a number of shoots. And the admiration seems mutual. "Shreya is extremely promising as a stylist. She's got her head on her shoulders at all times," Khosla said. "She has a lot of creativity and sensitivity with clothes for different occasions. She could deliver really big if she markets herself more."
The transition wasn't easy, though. "In the summer of 2005, I realised rookie stylists were getting more work through aggressive PR," Anand said. "I saw girls who had entered the industry only days ago sitting on director's laps, stroking their beards and taking them out for drinks to land a shoot."
Anand decided to take a break and "escaped" to England for six months to study styling at London College of Fashion.
"Travel was my therapy and I drew inspiration from the rich, cultural vibe of the city," said Anand.
Her family was a constant comfort too. "My parents and elder sister (an installation artist and documentary filmmaker) are extremely supportive about everything - including my work," said Anand.
Now, the struggle for perfection continues.
"I kills myself with every project," Anand said. "You have to have a JUST DO IT attitude when it comes to styling. It's extremely stressful, with tedious demands and unrealistic deadlines." Which leaves no time for a social life.
"I haven't seen a movie since 2006," confesses this workaholic who spends her nights religiously referencing and compiling a detailed 'look book' for every shoot.
But dedication is an essential ingredient in an industry that seems to be sprouting new stylists every day. As Anand says: "Every day, I hear of four new people who call themselves stylists. I've been in this profession seven years and I don't
even have a CV yet!"
With five more shoots lined up for the coming month, she doesn't need one.