Exhibit: Seeing in hindsight, what would you have done differently in your career?
NEETA LULLA: I have never played by the rulebook, I have always questioned convention and taken the path less travelled. Being more of a tomboy in my early teens I was always inclined towards outdoor activities. My mother was always worried about my grades and whether I could ever be the perfect daughter who could cook and stitch. I got married at 16 predominantly thinking it was an escape from high school and a formal degree, without realising that with two MD DPM psychiatrists that too gold medalists and BSC graduates and MA English in the husband’s family legacy, my genius idea was far from being what I thought would be a cakewalk. My in-laws decided I should study further and pursue a career in cooking or tailoring. With my brief advent to magazines, I opted to what I thought was a hobby course in tailoring which in fact was a Diploma in Pattern Making and Garment Manufacture at SNDT University’s Premlila Vithaldas Polytechnic Juhu. Academics again here was not my strength but styling and coordination interested me as I had a brilliant guru in Hemant Trivedi who saw my talent and groomed me in the art of makeup, fashion choreography & styling shows.
I was intrigued by the history behind world costumes but I could only grasp through listening. Textbook knowledge never fascinated me. Jeanne was then our guest lecturer and noticed my interest in fashion choreography and I found myself working with her as her assistant for almost 2&1/2 years assisting her on her shows. In the meanwhile, my college asked me to double up as a lecturer in fashion coordination. I did take it up but it initially scared the daylights out of me for over a year till I got used to it and my teaching pattern was more interactive than academical. Not to sound conceited but I am the only fashion designer to have won 4 national awards. I have not restricted my brand to only fashion designing; I have done ad films, television serials, costume designing and wedding.
Exhibit: How would you like to describe your own style of design?
NEETA LULLA: I believe fashion is a more bespoke industry. You need to cultivate a personal bond with your client to ensure the outfit reflects the wearer’s persona. The whole idea is to make the outfit bring out the showstopper in the wearer. The House Of Neeta Lulla has always focused on the mantra “be your own bride” which means that we don’t restrict a bride’s personality and give her the creative freedom to choose what best suits her personality. I always create designs that make my customer stand out rather than the outfit screaming out loud “Neeta Lulla”. I generally take personalized sessions with all my clients and don’t leave it to my team of stylists. I understand the event requirement and a little about the history of the bride and then mix the two to create the outfit.
Exhibit: Do you remember your first garment? Who was it for?
NEETA LULLA: My first film costume was for a dance sequence for Kimi Katkar in the film Tamacha which was a complete disaster as my technique and cut for a film costume was absolutely wrong. It was a great learning experience. So I worked towards making it right by sitting up all night at a little tailoring shop and learning the right cut and technique from a tailor who specialised in film clothes and took a perfectly fitted outfit for shoot the next day.
“ Technology is like a playground, a place of experiment, and as you dive deeper and deeper into the technology and systems, it rewards you with endless possibilities. ”
Exhibit: Then and now: how has the Fashion scene in India changed and where do you see it heading in the next 5 years?
NEETA LULLA: We are in the midst of a major fashion explosion and there is an increased sense of awareness now, of global fashion trends. Fashion is no longer restricted to Tier 1 cities but is a growing need in Tier 2 and 3 cities as well. Today men are as cosmopolitan as women. A lot of focus is being given to promoting indigenous fashion and artisans from rural areas which is a fantastic move by the Government Of India. There are new emerging designers who are fabulous in what they have to offer. However, fashion weeks and tours need to revamp drastically as there is a sense of monotony that has set in.
Exhibit: Neeta Lulla and Tech- what is this relationship like on a personal level?
NEETA LULLA: Technology is like a playground, a place of experiment, and as you dive deeper and deeper into the technology and systems, it rewards you with endless possibilities. House Of Neeta Lulla was one of the first brands to foray into the online retail space when others were just testing waters. I introduced the concept of fibre optics in India and a lot of my brides have used this for their D-Day.
Exhibit: What do you think about the blend between fashion and technology?
NEETA LULLA: In the past, you would only have access to a fashion show if you were rich, part of the industry, or a media spokesperson. Nowadays, however, they are streamed live to each location. It’s possible to buy the catwalk designs at the touch of your smartphone button. There has been a surge in the number of fashion bloggers in recent years who are considered the authority on go-to-places for fashion. Wearable technology is now a reality. From smart watches to temperature based color-changing clothing, both technology and fashion are seeing a revolution. The objective here is to push fashion beyond the conventional aesthetic role it performs. By embedding technology into clothing and accessories, businesses are now able to cater to the changing needs of the customers in real-time.
Fashion businesses need to start their transition into technology companies now. The sooner they start, the sooner they’ll cultivate the domain expertise required to remain competitive in the future. Firstly, digitise historical designs and build a rich database of products split into their individual variants. Secondly, ditch standard-size grading and adopt parametric pattern grading. With parametric grading, any product design can be made to fit any body type. Lastly, supplement your mass-produced inventory with on-demand production.
Exhibit: One must-have gadget that’s not your phone or laptop.
NEETA LULLA: iPhone Bluetooth earplugs.
Exhibit: One mandatory piece of tech you use for designing.
NEETA LULLA: LED lights and 3D Printers.
Exhibit: What are your thoughts on social media and how its used for promotions?
NEETA LULLA: In a crowded online fashion market, it can be difficult to distinguish your brand from the pack and this is where social media comes in. A good social media strategy doesn’t just display products or push services. It targets a clear customer and tells a story that appeals to that person. Today with everyone being glued to the digital world, it is very important to have a strong online presence.
Exhibit: Who is your favorite person to dress in your collection?
NEETA LULLA: I wouldn’t like to be biased but yes I miss the days of Milind Soman, Madhu Sapre, Sheetal Malhar. From Bollywood, it’s Sonam and Kangana who continually push the boundary and their aesthetic is so nonconventional and I like that.
Exhibit: What’s your life mantra?
NEETA LULLA: Always stay humble because you never know when success, money and fame can vanish. People generally have this misconception of how the success of any individual from the entertainment and lifestyle world is directly proportionate to their red carpet appearances and social media updates. I somehow never understood this concept because I’ve always thought as being a fashion designer is just like another white collared.
10-6 job. Some people are successful, some aren’t but that doesn’t justify the ego! It’s just that I opted to pursue this because I was creatively and not academically driven. I believe in letting my work do the talking, just like I believe in letting my costumes being the showstoppers than a celebrity. I have started from rock bottom and therefore I don’t like to misuse the success I have achieved. I’d want to leave behind a legacy of commitment to my craft.
Exhibit: One thing you’d tell your younger self now that you have so much experience?
NEETA LULLA: Live life to the fullest and always pursue your passion and follow your gut. Never do anything in a halfhearted manner because success comes to those who give their 200%.
Exhibit: Advice for budding fashion designers?
NEETA LULLA: Academics paves a strong foundation for your work in future. It is important to pursue your strength of design with a commitment, dedication and focus. Understanding of your core strength in the field will take you where you want to be. Don’t be enamoured by the glossy life of the fashion world and get prepared to put in a lot of hard work if you want to leave a mark.
- Your go-to fashion trend: Long capes
- Evergreen style statement: Blue jeans and white shirt
- Your muse: Scarlett Johansson and Nicole Kidman
- Best piece of advice given to you: Do your best and leave the rest to destiny
- One fashion trend you would make obsolete forever: Balloon skirts with polka dots
- Favourite app: 24 Me and 101 Power Thoughts
- Most unique gadget you have come across: Microsoft Surface Book and Google Home
- One gadget you plan to buy: iPhone 10
- The priciest thing you’ve splurged on: Relationships
- One day in your life is: Magic