Ace stylist Shaleena Nathani on curating wardrobe for the Pathaan cast and experimenting with styles


Shaleena Nathani has a polished palette that oscillates between minimally chic to high-end style statements. She marries the two seamlessly as has been showcased in the lookbooks of A-listers namely Deepika Padukone, Kiara Advani, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Kartik Aaryan and Shah Rukh Khan to name a few. Having Deepika Padukone on her speed dial is what sartorial dreams are made of. And together they make a winning combo like no other. The latest addition to her stellar portfolio is the splash she’s made with her styling in Pathaan. Its wardrobe has definitely grabbed eyeballs. Taking street-style glam for a spin, Shaleena has brought back uber-cool ‘90s trends such as crop tops, chequered prints, cargo pants and denim shorts. What’s more, she’s taken it a notch higher with an array of boots that’s definitely a conversation starter. Excerpts from a candid conversation with the talented fashionista.

Did you always plan to get into celebrity styling?

I am grateful for Anaita Shroff Adajania. I do not come from a fashion background and I started my internship with her. I started off styling celebrities with her and going on shoots with her. What was great is that I came in knowing nothing, just having an amazing passion for clothes. I got to meet interesting people and I have made some of my best friends doing this. To be honest, it is not something that I thought I wanted to do. But I don’t think I could be more grateful for being able to do what I do right now.

Tell us about your big break in this field.

Pathaan was a huge break into the industry. I have done films, and it has always been with Anaita or someone else. I have always been a little scared of it because it kind of intimidated me. When you have a film with Deepika and Shah Rukh, two of my favourite people, I don’t think I could’ve gotten a better opportunity.

Shaleena Nathani

What went behind styling the wardrobe for Pathaan’s title track?

I love street fashion, and I thought that it would be a nice change from what we have done in Besharm rang. It was shot on the streets of Spain and has a fresh vibe. I don’t think there is anyone who wears a white shirt better than Shah Rukh Khan. So I used those basic elements and just made it our own, like with the denim holster. So I felt like whatever they are wearing should be casual. To summarise, I took a really cool casual style and simply tweaked it to make it our own, making it fuller and more song friendly.

Shaleena Nathani

What’s it like styling for Deepika?

I have learnt a lot from her because she really pushes me to do my best and she is also trusting of my approach. She will always listen to your idea. I couldn’t have done what I did with her without the kind of trust she puts in me. And of course, she carries everything off beautifully.

Shaleena Nathani

Shah Rukh looked so suave in Pathaan, are there any particular styles he does not prefer?

There is nothing in particular that he dislikes. The best part about him is that anything you give him, he just makes it better; he makes it his own. Also, the clothes should look cool and easy. He just carries them off effortlessly. He does love blacks, whites, those kinds of colours. It was a real treat for me to style him in the songs, especially the title song.

Having styled A-listers for various international events like Cannes and the Met Gala, what were the challenges like?

Cannes is all about walking the red carpet, and looking fabulous on it. Also, a lot of the events in Cannes happen in a day, so you can really go all out. It is about the drama that is created on the carpet for a couple of minutes. The only challenge you face is the pressure to outperform yourself from year to year. This year, Deepika was a jury member, so it was a different side of Cannes that we saw. Also, when you do Cannes and Met, you get a little brief that comes with it, and you work with other designers to create an amazing outcome for those two minutes. There is a lot of pressure in that brief window of time where you have to express yourself. There is so much anticipation, and you always want to bring something new but you also know not to overdo it. For the Met, you have to do a lot of research, a lot of collaboration goes into getting that look right. The Met is purely fashion. Those are the kinds of constraints but it’s so much fun to push yourself.

Shaleena Nathani

There were lots of mixed reviews about Deepika’s look for the FIFA World Cup 2022 trophy unveiling…

Honestly, I don’t know what the controversy was. She is the global brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton and it is about putting the best look out there. I think that is what we did.

Shaleena Nathani

How different is styling for a big Bollywood feature film compared to ad films?

For an ad film, it is important to stick to the script, the product you are trying to sell and who their target audience is and what their target market is. So you have to kind of adapt to those things. It is the product that you are selling. Even for a Bollywood feature, it is about the big screen and what’s going to look nice and what’s going to appeal to people. So you create a character, and you create a mood board of what things they would wear, for example, in their daily lives, to the office, or to an action sequence.

If you had to pick the most fun project you’ve had while styling a Bollywood star, which one would it be?

I would honestly have to say it was Pathaan because I had two of the actors that I love very much in one project. It was really special to me for many reasons. Just everybody who was on the team—Deepika’s team, hair and makeup, Shah Rukh’s team—we have all worked together for so long that we know each other so well. Everyone who worked on this is so special. There was a lot of pressure but I just wanted it to be the best that I could do.

Shaleena Nathani

Tell us a little about your own aesthetic sensibilities.

I love the whole super oversized, baggy trend that was there in 2022. I was really hoping that I could incorporate that into the work that I do or maybe one of the films that I am doing. Colour has also returned, such as bright pink and purple, as well as sneakers (like old school sneakers) and cycling shorts. There is so much cool stuff that has come in. A lot of the ‘90s fashion is coming back, which is quite interesting. I think that it would be great to do a film or do other things to kind of incorporate these trends. The thing is, in a film, you get a bigger canvas and a longer period of time to work on. You get to build. It’s almost like you are creating a whole new style for a person and then showing it over a period of time for it to really register. That is what I always feel when I style someone. It is important for me to style someone over a period of time and show what we are trying to do, it is not a one-time thing.

Shaleena Nathani

Tell us your favourite 2022 trends and the ones you look forward to  in 2023 too.

There are so many trends that I hope to incorporate into movies. There is so much ’90s stuff that came back—like how Lady Diana used to dress. It’s just so cool. I would love to do something like that in a film. The whole oversized thing can be feminine, so I feel like just making it cool and



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