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Five young designers update the Bollywood wardrobe with their quirky, individual styles. They talk about what an Aishwarya Rai or a Sonam Kapoor does for their brand, and their stories of discovery and success.
Her label is a little over a year old, but Shehla Khan's glittering client list tells the story: it includes Kareena Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, Sonam Kapoor and Kajol. At her debut show at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai a fortnight ago, the front row shone with faces you would recognise from the glossies — Rhea Kapoor with mother Sunita, director Karan Johar, newbie actor Varun Dhawan, socialites Natasha Poonawala, Madhoo Shah and a host of other celeb friends. But more importantly, the clothes were worth the hype. For spring-summer 2013, Khan worked with lace. In a series of cocktail dresses and evening gowns, she managed the right balance of sensuality and romance, marrying lace with embroidery and net, organza and other sheer fabrics.
Khan had a privileged start in the industry. Her aunt was among the first people in India to embroider and ship clothes to international designers, and her father, who assisted her, grew to be the proprietor of Saks India, which worked for international design houses of repute like Escada, Elie Saab and Valentino. A career in fashion was ordained for Khan. "I was born into fashion. It's all I've ever known," says the designer, who is in her late 20s.
Surprisingly, she got on to the design board only a couple of years ago when school friend and actor Sonam Kapoor asked her to design an outfit for an appearance at India's Most Desirable with Simi Garewal in mid-2011. "This was way before I started my store or my brand officially. She saw talent in me and encouraged me to establish myself as a designer," says Khan, who designed a honeycombed maxi dress for Kapoor for the show.