Celebrity fashion styling is no mean feat. So, what does it take to become a celebrity fashion designer? Well, who better to answer this, than a celebrity fashion designer who has undertaken this challenging journey from the ground zero and has eventually achieved success. Meet Shadab Malik, a highly influential name in the world of fashion and show biz, who's dressed some of the biggest stars in Bollywood—Salman Khan, Govinda, Sohail Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, to name a few. In an exclusive interview with Deccan Chronicle, he talks about his journey to becoming a celebrity costume designer.
Tell us about your journey in the film industry
I consider myself very blessed that I got my first break, literally, on a silver platter—thanks to my friend, brother and mentor Mr. Sohail Khan. He blindly trusted me and gave me an opportunity to enter Bollywood with his home production ‘Maine Dil Tujh Ko Diya’, which also marked his acting debut. He taught me everything about filmmaking. He has been my pillar of strength and support in this journey.
Later, when Sohail became one of the judges on a popular comedy show, I was worked on his styling and dressing for the show. During the many seasons, I became friends with Mr. Krushna Abhishek who was also an important part of the show. Soon, the friendship evolved into brotherhood. Ever since, I’ve been designing for him. He is a fine human being. His kind is very rare to find in today’s world. Apart from my family, Sohail and Krushna are the two people in my life on whom I can blindly count on for anything and everything. The film fraternity has also been very kind and accepted me as one of their own.
What are some of the challenges you faced while breaking into the industry?
Not really. As I mentioned earlier, the industry has been very kind to me. After working on a few projects with Sohail, I became known as Sohail Khan’s designer. Working for Sohail Khan and his production house kind of established my credentials as a costume designer in Bollywood.
Before working on a project, do you get involved in the script? Are you part of the script narration sessions?
Yes. Our first step is the script. But I get involved in the script only after the director and producer lock the final draft. I get a narration and costume breakdown only after that.
What's the deciding factor for you to okay a project?
Actor I have to style for, director whose vision for the movie I get to translate on screen through my work and producer are the deciding factors for me.
Have there been incidents where the artists differed on your choice of style?
Not really, to be honest. Having said that, there are always a few suggestions and special instructions from directors and actors while putting together a look for them.
Do you get a free hand when it comes to dressing up celebrities or do you get creative inputs from them? What are the sensitivities involved in working with top stars
Yes. Mostly I have a free hand, but at times there are special requirements according to the script which I may have to incorporate in my designs. The biggest challenge is to keep artists’ comfort in mind at all times and to yet not drift away from the desired look needed for the project. Fabric selection is the most challenging part for all the artists I have worked with so far. Every artist has his own style and body language. Fabric selection and colour helps in achieving the perfect look.
How did it feel when you first saw your creation sported by a celebrity on the big screen?
I felt very overwhelmed and proud of myself. I was on cloud nine when Maine Dil Tujh ko Diya was released.
Could you share some interesting behind-the-scenes anecdotes from your illustrious career?
1. While shooting a song for ‘Partner’, Salman bhai asked me to remove my T-shirt and he removed his and gave it to me and he wore my T-shirt for the song. I still have that T-shirt preserved as a memento.
2. While shooting for the song ‘Just chill’ unfortunately, Sohail’s pants somehow got damaged. So, I had to make identical pants overnight. I had to hand paint to give the faded effect.
3. Krushna always plays pranks on people around him. One of his favourite pranks is feeding people spicy chilli chutney. He makes it sound so delicious that one is tempted to sample it without hesitation or suspicion. But it’s only after he takes a bite does he realise that his tongue is on fire!
How do you work on the design when there are two big stars to work with, like in the case of ‘Partner’ which had both Govinda and Salman?
It was my privilege and dream come true to dress up Mr. Salman Khan and Govinda. Everyone calls Salman 'Bhai' out of love and respect and I’m no exception. The opportunity came to me, all thanks to Sohail and Alvira Khan Agnihotri, who entrusted me with this grand project ‘Partner’. Bhai has a brilliant sense of dressing, so for me dressing bhai was an easy task. Anything and everything simply looks good on him.
On the other hand, I thought Govinda will be a challenge for me because he has his own style. His look in ‘Partner’ was not his regular style. But to my surprise, he was so cool and understanding that he willingly accepted all my costumes. He wanted to look the part.
Who are some of the easiest stars to work with?
Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Sohail Khan, Krushna, Nawazuddin Siddique, Akshaye Khanna and Kunal Khemu.
Which stars, according to you, have their own individual style statement and what do you like about them?
Salman Khan for his simplicity, Saif Ali Khan for his royal style and classic cuts and Jackie Shroff for his bindaas attitude.
Name an actor who has a great sense of fashion and doesn't really need a stylist.
Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff. All of the four, have a great fashion sense and would simply look great and well dressed even without a stylist.
Did you ever turn down a star and why?
No. I never had a chance to turn down a star. In fact, I am hungry for every opportunity to work and showcase my creative acumen. Hence, the question of turning down any star does not even occur to me.
It is not easy to match style with the personality of an individual. How do you get that right?
Yes. It gets tricky at times. An individual’s personality and the character he plays in the movie are very different. At times, we do test shoots with different looks. We also try different makeup and hair to get the perfect look.
What are some of the most iconic looks you are proud of?
While I take pride in all my work, I am particularly proud of my work for Maine Dil Tujh Ko Diya, Partner and Heropanti 2.
What does it take to become a celebrity costume designer?
Good friends/network in the industry, dedication, hard work, creativity, spontaneity and confidence.
You have designed costumes for some of the biggest stars in the industry. What defines style for you?
For me, style is to stand out, yet should be practical and comfortable for the person sporting it. It has to be an extension of your persona.