She is the mastermind behind the looks that many celebs carry off!
She is the mastermind behind the looks that many celebs carry off with such ease, both on screen and off. As a celebrity stylist, she is a magician of sorts, a fashion magician if you may, pulling off one stylish look after another. RITZ sits in on a conversation between Neeraja Kona, one of Tollywood’s most sought after celebrity stylists, and Saloni Shah, who hopes to become Chennai’s own go-to-girl for all things style and lifestyle related.
They may each style clients from opposite ends of the fashion spectrum, but the one thing that Neeraja Kona and Saloni Shah agree on is that, “No matter who you are, sneakers are currently in, and they’re making a strong style statement!”
For the uninitiated, Neeraja Kona has been pulling off some gorgeous outfits out of her magic hat for the last four years for A-list clients like Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Rakul Preet, Kajal Aggarwal, Hansika Motwani, Trisha Krishnan, Nayanthara, Nithya Menen… the list goes on.
“It is wonderful that the idea of stylists has caught on and that everyone wants to look their best for events. I began work with Samantha, but now I have styled almost all the girls in the industry. I prefer mixing up the people I work with, because if you work with just one person you end up becoming rusty,” Neeraja says.
In addition to her candid and often quoted statement that Samantha is her favourite celebrity client, the selfies and pictures that she puts up on social media tell us of the bond that she shares with the actress. Picking off on her answer, Saloni prods Neeraja about her friendship with Samantha and the equation they share. “We are just attached to each other; Samantha and I hit it off from day one. When people see me or Samantha work with somebody else, they keep asking me, ‘Oh, did something happen? Are you guys not talking?’ And I keep repeating the same answer. We think it is healthy for us to work with other people,” explains Neeraja.
While actors give their stylists a heads-up on events, Neeraja confesses, “There are those early morning and late night phone calls asking me to put a look together. This morning I got a call from director Krishna Vamsi telling me, ‘We are shooting tomorrow morning with Pragya Jaiswal, and we need three changes.’ Right now my assistant is shopping for those looks. You have no other option but to keep up. No matter how much pre-production work goes in, you have to expect a certain amount of uncertainty.”
Saloni Shah, who is a newcomer in the business of making Chennaiites look fabulous, is quick to heave a sigh of relief and tells Neeraja that her creative process isn’t as stressful. “What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about celebrity styling?” quizzes Saloni. “Celeb styling is about how the look will translate out in the media. The feedback on the look is almost instantaneous.” Neeraja says.
Saloni next picks a question that is on everyone’s mind. “Do celebrities ever wear the same clothes twice?” Neeraja answers the question laughing, “Never. We return clothes. By the end of the evening, your celeb has been photographed so many times, that designers are happy with the publicity. Celebrity pictures travel at the speed of light, literally!”
Though the two insist that they keep a keen eye out to see who is wearing what, Neeraja tells Saloni that social media is the fastest ways of keeping oneself updated. “Social media just makes life easier. If I see something that I like I enquire where the clothes are from, who designed it and how I can make use of it,” Neeraja tells Saloni, who nods in agreement.
While closet staples range from Zara, to River Island and plain ikat cottons, the must haves for Neeraja’s clientele range from established brands to the newer crop of designers – Sonali Pamnani (The Meraki Project), Translate, Vrisa by Rahul & Shikha, Agrima Batra and I Am Design by Pratik & Priyanka.
“What would you pick for yourself – style or comfort?” Neeraja answers Saloni without a second thought, “I would pick comfort any day. My recent binge has been Meraki. I love their Ikats!”
Despite being in the business of making styles trend, Neeraja says she doesn’t follow trends, “I follow fashion phases.”
As we leave we eavesdrop on the little heart-to-heart that Neeraja and Saloni are having. “I’d love to style Deepika Padukone, she’s on the top of my to-style list. And right below that is Sonam Kapoor…” we hear Neeraja trailing off as the duo walk out together.