Highly talented Mumbai-based stylist Nisha Kundnani recently founded Bridelan – a niche, holistic styling and personal shopping service for brides, grooms and their families. Nisha’s background as a fashion stylist includes working on leading magazine editorial shoots and styling numerous Bollywood celebrities such as Shraddha Kapoor, Anuskha Sharma and Aamir Khan to name a few. Looking through Nisha’s extensive work, what becomes clear is her impeccable sense of style with the ability to arrange various intricate elements to create a complete look that is unique to her client.
Bridélan: The One-Stop-Shop for All Your Bridal Styling Needs
Nisha’s foray into bridal styling services comes from her passion for working with ‘real’ people and realising that the need for refined aesthetics and well styled looks at Indian weddings was a massive gap in the market. Founded a year ago, Bridelan has quickly established itself as the the leading bridal service for style-savvy, discerning brides and grooms seeking to create unique looks for their wedding. With great attention to detail, Bridélan provides personalised end-to-end styling and personal shopping services for pre-wedding shoots through to the wedding day.
Bridelan’s services are particularly useful for Indian brides, grooms and their families living outside of India who may be unfamiliar with Indian fashion or where to source the various elements of their wedding looks. Bridélan is able to make wedding shopping a hassle-free, enjoyable experience through which brides and grooms feel well supported and understood throughout.
We caught up with Nisha to discuss what a bridal styling entails, some key wedding trends and top tips for the Modern Indian Bride.
Tell us about yourself and how ‘Bridélan’ happened?
Nisha: I studied Journalism in London, worked for two leading newspapers in Mumbai and then worked at Marie Claire India as Fashion Editor. Then delved in celebrity styling work.
Bridelan, however, has been my dream right after my stint at Marie Claire India in 2009. I knew one of my key strengths as a stylist was working with real people and I wanted to offer my services to ordinary, non-celebrity people who understand the value a stylist brings to the table. I did my first celebrity commercial when I styled Saif Ali Khan for Airtel post Marie Claire India. Then, I met Aamir Khan and styled him for a cover shoot for Femina magazine as a freelancer. After that, there was no looking back. I got entrenched in celebrity styling with Anushka Sharma and a lot of other big names.
Busy elsewhere, I decided to put the idea of Bridélan on the backburner. Back then, the digital space wasn’t well developed and I wasn’t sure how my business model would work, as weddings traditionally happen through word of mouth. Now the digital media environment is challenging conventions and making anything possible.
By 2014, I was determined to bring Bridélan to life. I was still balancing between styling for celebrities such as Shraddha Kapoor, who had just risen to stardom with Aashiqui 2 and Ek Villain. While still working with her, I gave a lot of time and attention to launching Bridélan, which first came about through the website in January 2014.
Tell us about the bridal services you offer.
Nisha: We provide an end to end styling consultancy service for the bride, groom and their families. We are passionate about creating a stylised and well put-together, cohesive wedding wardrobe for our brides. Our styling services also extend to wedding-day assistance in dressing up, draping and styling for pre-wedding and wedding shoots. We offer personal shopping services from finding that dream wedding lehenga to jewellery shopping to full trousseau shopping. We have strong relationships with leading fashion designers including Sabyasachi, Manish Malhotra and Tarun Tahiliani in India and offer extensive custom order services for all clients.
Some additional services under the umbrella of our styling consultancy include styling for grooms, shopping for both families, makeovers, advising on grooming/pre-wedding fitness, makeup and hair consultations, trousseau shopping and one of the most unique services – pre-wedding shoots and film styling. We suggest the couple to take time out before the wedding and plan a wedding film or an editorial shoot in a stunning location. We make sure we style the couple impeccably to bring to life the romantic and personal shoot documenting their love story. We also have an in-house production service where we put together cinema-skilled talent to produce these photo shoots and fashion films.
Bridal Styling Explained
Tell us more about bridal styling and what it entails.
Nisha: Styling as a concept and a professional service is mostly understood in the context of celebrities and famous people. We know, see and relate only to the celebrities, but there are dozens of professionals working behind the scenes to make them look good. A stylist is one of the most important members of a celebrity entourage; the ‘glam-squad’, as I jokingly referred to us at a recent wedding we styled. A stylist’s choice and aesthetics can make or break a look and that’s why celebrities rely on them.
However, the idea that brides and grooms should hire a stylist or a wedding consultant for their big day is still an emerging concept. Many brides still view styling as ‘I know what I want. I can do this myself.’ without perhaps realising that ideating and achieving a unique look requires a lot of thought, effort and working with the right suppliers. Working with a stylist for your wedding can give you the confidence to create a unique look based on your personality
It’s courageous to allow a stylist into your personal space to help decide your look for one of the most important days of your life. Working with a stylist is however a very consultative process. As a client, you have to be open to going on a journey with your trusted advisor and see where it leads; it’s an experiential concept. At Bridélan, we’re just a year old and it’s a concept that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. Fortunately, we’ve done fairly well. We’ve served brides from all corners of the world ranging from United States, Australia, Europe, South Africa and the UAE.
What services do you offer brides based outside India?
Nisha: Bridélan has a unique NRI following. Brides of Indian origin living overseas often come to India for their wedding shopping as they often do not have access to the designer stores locally to shop from. They may have done some research online, pinned several pictures on their Pinterest board and put together a wish list of designers, however this is often based on limited / outdated information and may not be enough. For brides visiting India, we can also help arrange personal shopping sessions and consultations with leading designers. When brides arrive in India for wedding shopping, often only for a few days, they feel lost and overwhelmed. There are unfamiliar with where to go scouting for the designers and the timelines on how long things take to get done
Bridelan’s personal shopping service has therefore been popular with brides living overseas. We work with clients via phone, Skype or email to discuss their vision and what they may be looking for. Based on these consultations, we advise the clients on a number of options and help purchase the pieces they want and have them delivered to them in time without them needing to travel to India at all. For brides visiting India, we can also help arrange a personal shopping sessions and consultations with leading designers. Even after they return to their overseas home, the Bridelan team are working on the ground to get their order completed on time.
Our styling services have also been extremely useful for the NRI bride. With so many tasks on her plate during the wedding planning, one of the the most important part of the wedding, her wardrobe, should not be neglected. Brides therefore reach out to Bridelan to help them make their wardrobe and styling decisions based on the events, how grand the wedding is, and other important factors. Many times the NRI bride may not be familiar with the Indian fashion design landscape and may feel confused or overwhelmed with the options available. Each designer offers something different so it can be difficult to filter and find what’s best for you. All this can be taken care of and streamlined by a styling consultancy like Bridélan.
Are you present on the day(s) of the wedding to assist with styling? How important is it to be present on the day?
Nisha: Always. I think that it’s crucial to be there on the day as it’s the most important part of the styling process. All that has been planned meticulously over the months needs smart execution for effective results. The hair and makeup needs to be right, as well as the jewellery styling. Most importantly, we need to improvise the look and make sure everything is perfect before the bride makes an entry and the photographer is ready to capture her and her wedding dress from every angle.
There also needs to be a stylist, someone like me, who shadows the bride on the day and keeps her entire look, from the placement of her jewellery or draping of her dupatta, in tact because it’s not easy to photograph someone wearing couture and so much jewellery. A slight displacement of your maang tika or falling dupatta will not only not do justice to your otherwise well-planned bridal look, but also prove to be detrimental in pictures. These elements, like jewellery and the veil, tend to move with the movement of the bride and there should be someone there who understands the impact of these finer details from a camera point of view. It’s the same process that the stylist goes through at a magazine photoshoot – every image captured by the photographer is practically improvised by the stylist beforehand, as he or she works behind the scene to ensure everything looks perfect for the lens. These pictures are going to be a lifelong memory for the bride and groom, therefore it is important to make sure everything is precise.
What is one of the most memorable experiences of a client you have worked with?
Nisha: Every bride is special in her own right. However, a recent fulfilling experience has been a bride-to-be from Melbourne, Australia. Her wedding was in Goa, India in December 2015. It’s been an emotional and very creatively challenging journey with her. She and her groom-to-be came to Mumbai to shop in July 2015 and they trusted me with all their needs. They are intelligent and have the sweetest love story. When you are styling someone’s wedding, you are part of one of the most emotional journeys of their lives. The role is not just being a stylist, it becomes like that of a friend who’s always there for you from start to end of the wedding wardrobe planning and execution.
Style & Inspiration
What are you sources of inspiration?
Nisha: I think I am just like any other person working in the fashion industry. I derive my sensibility from a wide array of things, mainly from day to day life. I am a keen observer of culture and traditions. However, fashion is interesting because it is a melting pot.
Most of my inspiration comes from popular culture and what’s happening in our environment. Sometimes it is a leaf out of a Satyajit Ray film and the Indian textile and weaves. On some days it is a blog I love which talks about Cartier designing jewellery for the Indian maharajas, another day it is a detail made by a designer at Dior. At times I am drawn towards the pastel palette of the Impressionist painters, sometimes its Sufi music and at others, the interviews of talented Indian designers such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee or Raw Mango.
Even Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to California and the revolution of ‘Digital India’ impacts the fashion industry and is thus inspiring. Years ago, I came across this quote by Coco Chanel, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Coco Chanel passed away in 1971 but her philosophies are relevant even today.
Who or what has influenced your style the most?
NK: I have had a journey of almost a decade in the fashion industry and there have been many influences. I came to fashion because of Manish Malhotra, but stayed because of Sabyasachi Mukherjee.
The fashion I saw as a young girl in Yash Chopra movies had a huge impact on me. I remember I was completing my Bachelors degree in Calcutta in 1997 when Yash Chopra’s Dil Toh Pagal Hai was released. I loved Madhuri Dixit’s minimalist chiffon kurtas and saris so much that I decided instantly what I would do in life. I must have watched that movie 35 times in the theatre! As you can see, I was in awe of Manish Malhotra’s work back then.
But soon afterwards, Sabyasachi came into my life. When I became an art journalist with DNA and then fashion writer at Hindustan Times, I used to interview Sabyasachi in the same way I would interview Indian artists such as Tyeb Mehta and Krishen Khanna. I never asked Sabyasachi any questions. I would just listen to him like a curious student and let him speak. Life moved on and I became a stylist and now as an entrepreneur, I still listen to him. I hold on to every thing he says and use it in my work as gospel. He has mentored me and has been a huge personal and professional inspiration.
What are some of your favourite Indian bridal designers?
Nisha: I like a lot of designers for various reasons. Sabyasachi is clearly the leading designer in terms of popularity as every bride want to buy his designs. He’s an aspirational designer that way. He’s also the best we have because of his fair price points. He can dress the nouveau rich bride as well as the humble budget bride because he has the best bridal wear for all kinds of brides.
I like Manish Malhotra for his pastel and glamorous lehengas. There are also less famous designers from the Gujarat region of India such as Anuradha Vakil and Umang Hutheesing. They aren’t as much in the media but their work is rooted and traditional. Among the new crop, I like Sanjay Garg of Raw Mango, Payal Khandwala and Payal Singhal too.
Bridal Trends & Tips
What are some emerging styling trends in bridal fashion for the upcoming wedding season?
Nisha: I think the Indian landscape has changed 360 degrees in the bridal market. There is a need for sophistication and elegance and every designer is collectively participating in that change. The change was badly needed as Indian weddings would often look over-done and garish.
Elegance has been a big trend but it is not a passing fad. It’s here to stay because the bridal market doesn’t accept change very easily. It thrives on classics and that’s how it should always be. There are however some styling trends that are going to be popular with brides:
- The colour red – Red has never been out of fashion when it comes to Indian bridal wear. But it has had a huge comeback this season because of the fashion calendar. Last year, one would hear brides say that ‘I don’t want to wear the cliché red.’ This year we are hearing them say, ‘Red is classic, let’s do red.’ Even if it is no for a red lehenga, brides will try and incorporate red in some way or the other in their wedding look.
- Traditional jewellery – When it comes to jewellery, brides want to return to the roots. Wear a big nath, mathapatti, jhumkas, hathphools and go all out traditional.
- Less is more makeup – Big Indian kohl rimmed eyes, luminous skin and light pink lips is the makeup mantra for Fall/Winter weddings. Hair neatly tied back in a chignon is a classic must-do as well.
- Bringing sexy back – Brides are going to wear glamorous gowns for their engagement and reception parties. Those who have reservations about gowns can wear cocktail saris.
- Being fit and strong – it has become imperative to work the abs for a lehenga body. Almost all my 2015 brides have worked on sculpting great bodies at the gym so they can wear their dream lehenga.
Top 5 Tips for Brides considering wedding shopping in India
- Couture is not ready made – The big designers take custom orders for couture lehengas and saris. Not everything is available off the rack. One has to place orders based on samples you try. It is imperative to try and weigh all your options before making an informed choice.
- You get young talented designers for less but please don’t buy knock-offs – Be respectful to the big names. There is a big “copy market” in India and everything is available at knock-off prices. Put in a little more money and buy a less ornate piece but don’t compromise on quality by getting a knock-off.
- India is expensive – the Indian economy is one the fastest growing economies of the world. It’s a rich country in terms of craft, textiles and jewellery. It is a myth that India is cheap or reasonable. Be prepared to spend, as Indian couture can be the most expensive in the world. However, everything you buy has heirloom quality and it can be passed on to generations.
- Know your jewellery – Kundan is just glass stones. It is not uncut diamonds like polki jewellery. Not all costume jewellery is pure silver; it will corrode in a few months and turn black. Whether buying fine jewellery, gold, diamonds or even silver, be sure of quality. Knowing where to buy genuine quality is key.
- India is vast in geography– We’re a very big country with key shopping cities spanning the length and breadth of the country. It is impossible to cover north, south, east, and west in a short trip. It’s like trying to cover the United States or the whole of Australia in just four days. Stick to one city, or maximum two, to finish your shopping. I would also go on to advise brides to be practical. Try to cover most designers in the bigger cities such as Delhi and Mumbai.