Having worked on the costumes for films like "Rangeela", "Mohabbatein", "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" and "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" in his over-two-decade journey in Hindi filmdom, ace fashion designer and couturier Manish Malhotra says Bollywood has a powerful international impact.
In his stint in the Hindi film industry, Malhotra has styled the who's who of Bollywood, including names like Tabu, Rekha, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Sridevi, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Priyanka Chopra, among many others.
Asked if celebrities play a big role in driving a designer's popularity, Malhotra told IANS in an e-mail interview from Mumbai: "In a country where cinema and its influence is as prevalent as it is, actors are looked up to as much for their sartorial choices as for their performances. Bollywood has a powerful international footprint, with massive popularity, including social media following, not to mention a front row seat to every fashion week.
"It is only natural that actors mirror the evolution of modern culture on-screen, and off it -- with their personal style."
Malhotra ventured into the world of Hindi showbiz by designing costumes for actress Juhi Chawla in 1990 for the movie "Swarg".
He also designed ensembles for actress Urmila Matondkar for "Rangeela" in 1995, for which he garnered recognition. Since then, he has been on a roll and has designed costumes for films like "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...", "Raja Hindustani", "Veer-Zaara" and "Dhadak", as well as carved a niche with his own brand.
Malhotra launched his label in 2005. He says designing clothes for films is his "first love".
"I'll never leave them, and they'll never leave me -- hopefully. Today, if I had a choice between a couture collection and the movies, I would choose the latter. For me today, it's all about my label. I want to start a diffusion line, I want to open stores worldwide, I want to expand the avenues of my label. Maybe 10 years ago, I wouldn't have had that mindset, but today I do," he said.
From styling the likes of Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Kareena, Rani Mukerji, Priyanka Chopra, Preity Zinta and even international singer Kylie Minogue -- is there any personality left he would like to give a style twist with his designs?
"I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such wonderful talents across generations, be it Karisma, Kareena, Anushka, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka, Kajol, and Alia Bhatt. It has been their confidence, grace and femininity that has continued to inspire me."
Malhotra said he is always looking to work with trailblazers who are not afraid to experiment through fashion as a medium of self- expression.
Currently, the designer is looking forward to showcase his collection, inspired by his latest couture range Zween, at the first Fashion Weekend International (FWI) in Doha.
"Various aspects from the Middle Eastern culture -- be it the centuries-old architecture, black and white cinema to the native flora and fauna -- have been key inspirations for this collection," he said, adding that he would be showcasing over 60 ensembles.
Aishwarya will be seen walking as the showstopper for Malhotra at FWI. He says the former beauty queen epitomises grace.
"Aishwarya is not only a dear friend but has also been my design muse for many years now. Having worked with her in various films, runway shows and red carpet appearances, it has always been a pleasure, given her strong work ethic," he added.