If you are not a regular consumer of fashion, you may not recognise the names Pranay Jaitley and Shounak Amonkar. However, you'd certainly recognise the brand that Who Wore What When has come to be.
Although they are popularly known for their work as celebrity stylists, the arenas where the creative geniuses of these two mavericks shine brightly, is their editorial work, and the campaigns that they create. Case in point would be the numerous projects they have undertaken for the label Falguni Shane Peacock.
As for styling celebrities, you’ll often see Vidya Balan, Kalki Koechlin, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Rajkummar Rao, Vikrant Massey and a plethora of other major celebrities, in ensembles that they have created.
How does one come up with one divine looking outfit after the other and what does the future of celebrity styling look like in the “new normal?” This is exactly what we ask the two, in a free-wheeling conversation. Edited Excerpts:
Tell us about your journey, how did Who Wore What When come to be?
We started as a photography blog in Milan sometime in 2013-2014. Back then, we were called Diary Of A Camera Bag, as what we primarily did was photography. We started to shoot and influencers, bloggers, magazine editors, and mainly street style during the fashion weeks. It was mainly a blog back then. In 2015, we came back to India and shot for Gaurang Shah. That is how we became a company and started styling celebrities.
How do you come up or think of aesthetics when you are creating a celebrity look?
The key for us has been to understand the personality of the client we are working with. The ensemble has to be an extension of them. If they are comfortable with what they are wearing, they will look and be comfortable, as well as confident at the event they are attending. Wearing something completely different from who you fundamentally are, come across very badly, and that is evident in the photographs.
As for aesthetics, we get to a middle ground between what our client likes, and what we feel will work best for them. For example, Radhika (Apte) is a very minimal person, and so we tend to go for very classic & sharp silhouettes, and monotone looks, with some accessories.
How do you go about for your editorial work? Is there a different thought process in place when you are working on a campaign, as compared to regular, everyday styling for celebrities?
All three of them, editorial, campaigns and styling celebrities are remarkably different. Editorials are all about the vibe, the mood and most importantly, the story. Other factors such as the model or the talent, the clothes, they don’t really matter that much.
Campaigns need to tell a story, but the clothes or a product needs to be in focus. The story has to revolve around the clothes or the product - they are the star in a campaign.
As for styling celebrities, it is all about the person being styled. The main focus is on reconciling what a celebrity wants and what would be best suited for an event.
When styling men, how would you go about it?
For us, the important thing is for the look to be very classic, because that is what we tend to bend towards. We try to avoid the newer silhouettes that are available in the market today.
What is that one fashion trend that you don’t like, or don’t agree with?
For us, it has to be neons, and knee-length socks with sandals for men. Unless you’re a model walking down the Dior Runway, such a style is something that you should stay away from.
What are some must-have staples that men should hoard in their closets?
Every man should have a perfectly tailored and nicely fitting white shirt in his closet. Along with that, a pair of perfectly fitting high waisted black pants. Other must-haves include a well-tailored suit, a classic watch, and a nice perfume. You need to have a good staple perfume.
What are some basic and often repeated mistakes that men make when putting together an outfit?
One mistake that almost everybody makes is ignoring their body type and shape when buying clothes. One mistake that most men make invariably is ignoring the fit and the length of their pants. Another mistake that men ought to avoid making, is wearing a baggy shirts with baggy pants. They look very odd when combined.
Given the COVID situation, how is the process of styling celebrities going to change?
I think sourcing for one will definitely change. I think celebrities will be more open to choosing pieces from their own wardrobes. I think it will be fun to style them in their own pieces.
We have done this for digital shoots, but I think that going forward, this practice will start when we are styling them for events as well. I think we have also realised that comfort is more important than anything, so the kind of silhouettes that we used to see earlier, might also change.
How do you see Indian fashion changing and adapting to the “new normal”?
I see a lot of changes coming our way. People are buying clothes without trying, and returns can only happen after 30 days of buying a piece, so there’s that. Also, designers have moved to the digital space for launching new collections and showcasing their work.
This opens up a larger market. Also, the reach and inclusivity are exponentially larger thanks to social media. We also get to see some of the cooler backstage stuff that adds meaning to the shows.
How do you think we are dealing with this issue of sustainable and “eco-friendly” fashion? How often do you get requests, asking you to source from sustainable brands?
We have always believed in brands that work keeping sustainability in mind, and homegrown brands, who believe in a better tomorrow. We are very happy that it is a topic of conversion that people all over the world are talking about. Going sustainable is not about being sustainable 100 per cent for the sake of it, it has to bring about a larger change, even if what you do is one per cent. You can be sustainable by upcycling or reusing your clothes, you can be sustainable by wearing them more often, and you can be sustainable by buying fabric and getting clothes stitched from your local tailor, instead of investing in a high-end brand.
As we said, we have always believed in sustainable fashion and homegrown brands. So even if we don’t get a particular request to source from sustainable brands, we end up taking that route.
What is your take on androgynous and gender-fluid fashion? Which celebrities can really pull off such a look?
I think androgynous fashion is something that needs to be spoken about a lot more. Gender-fluidity as a concept is still coming up, and it is fantastic that people are accepting it, even if it is a small percentage. I feel that it is only going to get better.
I think Konkona Sen Sharma, Kalki Koechlin & Radhika Apte have been inclined towards androgynous fashion and they carry it really well. As for men, Jim Sarbh & Ranveer Singh have been seen in some really aesthetic gender-fluid silhouettes. We hope that it gets “normal.” The more people see, the more it gets accepted.
How would you define your signature style?
When it comes to Indian ethnic wear, we tend to stick to the classics. For everything else, we are maximalists, especially in terms of accessorising.
One celebrity who can teach everyone else a lesson or two on how to pull off the Indian aesthetic elegantly, when it comes to menswear?
We think Rahul Khanna pulls off the Indian aesthetic very elegantly.
One thing men should never do while dressing up in traditional Indian wear?
Avoid sequins and sneakers.
One traditional Indian menswear item you believe every Indian man should have in his wardrobe, and why?
A classic well-tailored bandhgala in black.
Ethereal, elysian, and sublime - these words can often be used to describe the ensembles and outfits that we have seen Bollywood celebrities wear. However, more often than not, there is an entire team of people, working behind the scenes to bring us some iconic and memorable statement ensembles.
As a series, Style Pundits looks at the eccentric people behind these ensembles and celebrates the ever-changing notions that have come to define India’s sartorial sensibilities and the fluidity of our style.