Article By Manish Mishra
Society’s Fashion Savant
Style maven Avantikka Kilachand discusses popular media culture and the new-age socialite…
Talking to Avantikka Kilachand is a palate-cleansing experience as she speaks her mind and doesn’t mince any words. As fashion director of HELLO! India, she’s taken the glossy to new heights under her stellar leadership and vision. From lending a new style approach to styling Bollywood actresses to bringing out a unique and never-seen-before aspects of the royal families of India, Avantikka along with her creative team always manages to throw a pleasant surprise issue after issue. Besides, being the heart and soul of the magazine, she’s also a wife and a hands-on mother to three gorgeous kids and juggles several roles with a charming ease. Here, the lady who was recently blessed with a baby boy, discusses the new power movers in the fashion world and the growing dominance of the digital space….
ANY STYLE ICONS YOU ADMIRE OR LOOK UPTO?
“I admire my mom – Shobhaa De’s sense of fashion and style. She’s been individualistic and a non-conformist in all her appearances over the years and has really put the sari on the map. She’s proves that one doesn’t need luxury brands to define one’s sense of style. It could be something from a market in Jaipur or H&M store, it’s how you put it together reflects your personality.”
THERE WAS A TIME WHEN INDIAN STYLE-SCAPE WAS SOCIALITE OBSESSED, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT GENERATION IS OBSESSED WITH?
“This era definitely belongs to the digital world. I see my three-year-old daughter catching up with Instagram, whenever she can lay her hands on my phone. As a mother, I find it scary that everything is accessible. This exposure can be a bit dangerous and as parents, it’s our job to try and control it.”
FROM SITTING IN THE FRONT ROWNS TO INFLUENCING POPULAR MEDIA,EARLIER SOCIALITES WERE ABLE TO DICTATE FASHION. WHO DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST INFLUENTIAL FORCES OF FASHION TODAY?
“I think even today socialites are strong fashion influencers and trendsetter. It’s the lives of the rich and the famous which is aspirational for everyone. Having worked with HELLO! for so many years, they’ve been part of our journey and one can’t ignore their influence in society at large. Definitely, socialites still play an important role even though Bollywood has become a major force to reckon with. Our film industry today is much more avant-garde, follows global trends and more aware. Bollywood actresses have created their own mark along with our designers and stylists. One can sense a change in the outlook, the way we perceive and consume fashion. Of course, there’s a huge high street influence which ones sees in the Indian department stores. Indian designers, again thanks to the digital world, have more exposure and are well-travelled. Designers like Falguni and Shane Peacock, Manish Arora and Rahul Mishra have made their presence felt internationally. In India, Masaba is someone who in a short career span has made a unique mark for herself – be it her fashion lines or multiple collaborations. She’s definitely worth someone watching out for.”
DO YOU THINK POPULAR MILLENNIALS ARE THE NEW SOCIALITES?
“I don’t know if they are socialites, but they are definitely influencers. Having said that, I’d like to add that socialites have their own place and role in the luxury and lifestyle space. Their contribution to our magazines and newspapers is significant.”
IN THIS INSTAGRAM GENERATION, PEOPLE FOLLOW MULTIPLE PEOPLE AT THE SAME TIME. WITH FAST-FASHION AND HIT AND MISS APPEARANCES, HOW DOES ONE ACTUALLY MANAGE TO BE RELEVANT AND INFLUENTIAL?
“Labels like Gucci, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent have reinvented themselves and become au courant. It’s incredible how Alessandro Michele has changed the brand psyche. Also, the high street today plays a huge role in this process. You see it on the streets, at college campus and on blogs. Among the Indian bloggers, I like House of Misu and Santoshi Shetty. Internationally, I follow blogger Chiara Ferragni. Of course, Insta sensations Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid are inspirational for a lot of girls. Today you don’t have to rely on international Vogue to know about the latest trends.”
WHAT WOULD BE THE TOP THREE FORCES OF FASHION IN YOUR OPINION ? WHY ?
“I‘d say Bollywood, Hollywood films and international TV shows. In Bollywood, Kangana’s style and the way she carries herself is applause-worthy. She has her own individual sense of style and doesn’t conform to any trend. I also admire royal icons like Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. I can’t help, but recall the recently-held Versace tribute show in Milan where the supermodels walked down the runway in chainmail dresses. Any of these icons can give Gigi Hadid a run for her money. I’d love to see something that epochal happen in a show here in India. You miss that era.”
AS A FASHION DIRECTOR, WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATIONS FROM?
“It’s difficult to answer that. It always happens at the spur of a moment. It could be a movie I watched or a book I read. Also, when my creative team and I sit and brainstorm, it just comes. Of course, digital world plays a huge influence. I think the inspiration is innate.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE SEEK THE WEST FOR FASHION INSPIRATION, HOW WOULD YOU PLACE INDIA ON THE GLOBAL FASHION SCALE? IN WHAT ASPECTS DO YOU SEE INDIAN FASHION PROGRESSING IN THE COMING FUTURE?
“Indian designers have learnt to build their core brand value on things, which are unique to us – like the indigenous textiles and handcrafted embroidery. A lot of them have realised the potential of being individualistic. One can be Indian in aesthetic and yet be global. They have got their own silhouettes, techniques and beauty which the world is recognising.”
PEOPLE OFTEN VIEW LUXURY FASHION AS ASPIRATIONAL AND NOT INSPIRATIONAL, HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO STYLE MODELS VS. REAL PEOPLE DIFFERENTLY?
“At HELLO!, I often work with real people, who are not from the showbiz and it’s a challenge to let them be confident in front of the camera. At the same time, it’s quite exciting as they are regular people with flaws and to break them into camera mould is fun.”
WHILE STYLING THE ROYALTY WHAT WERE SOME CHALLENGES/FEARS THAT YOU FACE?
“Royalty has been our USP. We have featured the top royal families of India – from chronicling the birth of a child to getting exclusive wedding imagery. I think royalty is making a huge comeback. HELLO! recently shot with the new-age princesses, who turned out to be bold and experimental. They all have an innate old world charm, which can’t be copied. It’s in their eyes, mannerism and grace.”
THE INTERNET IS FULL OF OPINIONS AND CONTRASTING THOUGHTS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ISSUES LIKE BODY IMAGE SHAMING, FEMINISM AND GENDER EQUALITY?
“A section of brands have taken a bold step – it’s about being comfortable with your body and celebrating it with all its flaws. As far as the feminist T-shirts are concerned, I don’t relate to it. You don’t have to wear a slogan T-shirt to be a feminist. It should be in action and in the thought process. The gender equality battle has been going on forever and I don’t think we’ve fought it well enough. It still exists in society and there’s a lot of progress to be made on this front.”
HOW DOES AVANTIKA KILACHAND LIKE TO SPEND ANY LEISURE TIME SHE GETS?
“Luckily, it’s not a 9 to 5 job. I wake up, drop my kids to the bus stop. One’s phone is one’s desktop literally which has actually made it easier in a way. I don’t want to miss out on any of my baby milestones. Any free time I get, goes in planning family getaways with my mom and siblings. Over the years, I have learnt to balance it out – work and family. I have a supportive husband, who can be a soccer mom, if needed. (Smiles)”