On Heritage and Haute Couture: A Tête-à-Tête With Kalyani Saha

by Rhea Peters

Kalyani Saha is no new name in the fashion industry. After a twelve-year stint with Christian Dior Couture as their VP- Marketing and Communications, launching a luxury silverware brand, Rezon Luxury Silverware, and co-founding a luxury e-commerce platform, she has acquired quite a few accolades to her name. It’s no news then that Kalyani can be spotted at every major fashion event in the country, and that’s where we caught up with her to find out what keeps her going.

1. What’s your biggest fashion splurge?

I’ve just returned from a summer holiday, much of the daytime of which was spent shopping! That is the peril of going to a big city! I love shopping in New York as you get luxe to boho to street which is so distinctly different from any other city. I love clothes and that is always a priority. I love shoes too, but I must say I was constrained on this trip. I have so many bags that I have lost interest in bags per say! My favourite buys were a beautiful metallic long dress by Alberta Ferreti and a really cool dress by Vetement, a label I love. I am thrilled to have found some separates from Maison Margiela too!

2. Wardrobe essential ?

I think a pair of really nice, well fitting black trousers.

 

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3. According to you, who is the most stylish woman on Earth ?

I feel this uber cool stylish crop of models- the Hadid sisters, both Bella and Gigi, Kendall Jenner, Winnie Harlow. But my dadi and nani together were the epitome of elegance and class and so very stylish.

4. One fashion trend you despise ?

Fashion trends are a cycle. I hoard clothes and refuse to throw things I love or have memories with, as it always comes back in a few years and then its vintage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5. What’s your personal style like ?

I don’t remember the last time anyone saw me in casuals. (laughs) It’s a big joke amongst my friends. I think I got this innate sense of being properly dressed from my dadi. She was always dressed up and never had a hair out of that coiffure of hers and wore the most amazing jewels. Hers and my Nani’s sense of style influenced me the most. Though I feel-either you have it, or you don’t! And no amount of brands and labels can make a style statement! I think my daughter Tahira Tara definitely has it! She surprises me with her choice of style which is varied and rather nice, I have to say!

6. Since you mentioned your daughter, we are curious: how do
you look so stylish while being a mom?

What does being a mom have to do with being stylish? My grandmothers, up until the time they passed away, were very stylish and I am who I am today because of them. My nani was the quintessential Bengali woman, she wore crisp Bengali sarees and Dhakai sarees with sindoor in her Marilyn Deitrich hairstyle. My dadi with her jewelled pins in her impeccable bun and woven saris from every state of India and Helena Rubenstein blood red nail varnish- that was her- she took her middle name Rani very seriously. (laughs) She was also the first person who got me a string bikini when I was thirteen years old, which mysteriously disappeared into my mother’s closet somewhere. Dadi was a voracious traveller and shopped for me wherever she travelled. She allowed me to design my own clothes and gave me many of her saris to chop and make outfits from! Which I feel so bad about now. We didn’t have any malls or clothing brands in our time, the tailor at home who was an expert at making patterns out of photos from Vogue etc would conjure outfits so easily. And my dad’s returns from his trips were much awaited as he always got me and my sister beautiful clothes from his travels.

7. To the outside world, what is the fashion industry really like ?

It’s not at all what Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Fashion’ is all about. It’s not as
dark and awful as it’s portrayed and as people perceive it to be. Nor is it frivolous, because there’s so much of hard work that goes in. Unfortunately, fashion is made out to be so frivolous, and not perceived seriously enough, although not so much anymore because things have evolved. There’s so much more exposure and the media has helped in that. But I still think that the perception today is that if your son wants to join the industry, you’ll question him. There is not enough seriousness given to this profession. And it’s kind of accidental that all the best designers happen to be men. (laughs) It’s funny but it’s true. Eleven years at Dior and I’m perceived as this girl who just parties and wears pretty Dior frocks and runs around posing for pictures. That’s not true. There are crores invested in this industry, jobs created, foreign exchange generated, education and skill taught to be a part of this industry and retail properties booming. It’s serious- this business of fashion.

8. Last question. From being a genuinely loving fashion girl to actually being an entrepreneur and one of the leading ladies in the fashion world, what is the advice you’d like to give to a millennial girl out there who wants to be like you?

You need to know your core strength and work on it. Young girls today are studying the business of fashion. If that’s what you want to do, you should seek professionalism, but education is very important as it’s technical at every level and competition makes it tough to grab the opportunities unless you know your skills. My advice would be to experiment if you must after college and see what suits you best. No matter what you do, do it with sincerity and dedication. Don’t skip the struggle -nothing comes easy, and whatever does , somehow has a really short life span ! Life is all about trials and tribulations, failures to know what success is and perseverance to build strength and integrity. These are ingredients of a long term professional and personal life.

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