Pranay & Shounak of Who Wore What When talk styling and their love for Vidya Balan

With Who Wore What When, the journey has always been more personal than professional. Co-founders Pranay Jaitly and Shounak Yatin Amonkar have always been that extra push that we might’ve needed on multiple days, and I’m only thankful to them, especially to Pranay. And to see these boys rise and shine as they have and continue to do so, I feel only happy for and proud of them.

A humble beginning and a lot of hard work always ends up in success. Pranay and Shounak have come a long way and their sartorial sensibilities and the passion in their eyes will take them where most people dream of being – at the top. A random phone call from Aditi Sandhu (Vidya Balan’s manager) was their first step in the big league. They were doing their stuff before that, but this phone call in 2016 changed a lot for them. Look at them today – they’ve successfully redefined Vidya Balan in terms of fashion, have multiple more clients (and each of these women stand out in their choices) and above it all, are very grounded humans.

I have one thing in common with these boys – our shared, unspoken admiration for Vidya Balan. In the interview, you will read a lot about their love for Balan. Little do people know that I fell in love with Hindi Cinema by watching Vidya Balan perform on screen. Her performances in Ishqiya, The Dirty Picture, Paa and Kahaani, among others, drew me to the world of films and the day I watched Kahaani, I knew I wanted to do something with films because never had I seen someone perform with such hunger and passion as did Balan in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani.

In a candid conversation with Kundan Ahuja, the stylist duo spill the beans…

Who Wore What When | Bombay Balloon 4
Vidya Balan in Ka-Sha

Your very first project?

It was back in Milan. We had collaborated with Cosmopolitan Italy to do a fashion presentation during the Milan Fashion Week.

As a stylist what inspires you?

Powerful women with strong opinions.

How is it working with Vidya Balan?

While growing up and seeing all the films that Vidya (Balan) had done, it was such a dream to actually meet her and even now, after working with her for three and a half years, it still feels like such a dream. On most days it seems unbelievable that we are a part of her events, her style. She is the most humble, sweetest and nicest person we’ve ever worked with. She’s a very genuine person. Shounak and I are very glad to have had Vidya as out first ever client in the industry and are thankful for the trust she’s had in us. 

How challenging was styling Radhika Apte for the Emmys?

Styling Radhika Apte for the Emmys was the best experience we’ve had with her. We’ve always believed in supporting homegrown brands but our brief for the Emmys was that we had to source international names. We wanted to maintain our aesthetic so we made sure that we connect with the designers we contacted. We were skeptical of getting replies from international designers, but Iris van Herpen replied to us within nine minutes of us sending an email. And from there, everything just fell into place. 

When you work with a new face, like Mrunal Thakur, how do you make sure that she stands out, considering she hasn’t been seen much before?

When we style Mrunal (Thakur), we keep in mind that she’s always up for experimentation. She’s new in the movies, so we can try to portray her in different looks to see what works best for her. Over the last two films that we’ve styled her for, we’ve created some really glamourous looks and some fun and quirky looks as well. So at this point we are just trying to play as much as we can, with colours, silhouettes, hair, makeup.

Who Wore What When
L to R: Kalki Koechlin in Sabyasachi, Radhika Apte in Gucci, Mrunal Thakur in Zara

What is the future of fashion post the pandemic?

It’s very difficult to predict the future of fashion post COVID-19. Once the lockdown is lifted, everyone will get back to their businesses. And the truth is that no matter how big or small a brand is, each brand has lost out on a season. I feel like designers will begin to invest more in prêt collections and the consumers will opt for those instead of couture. The silhouettes are going to change, they’ll be a lot more easier, lighter. 

What is the future of styling post the pandemic?

I feel and I really hope that future of styling will involve using and helping homegrown brands, moving towards sustainability. Appearances could possibly be a little more realistic, than they’ve ever been before.

Describe a day in the life of a stylist.

It’s a very amusing and entertaining day (laughs). There are no working hours. There have been times when we’ve started our day at 6AM and ended it at 01:30AM. You’re always all over Bombay (Mumbai) from Kala Ghoda to Goregaon with five suitcases. It’s stressful, it’s chaotic, but I would not have had it any other way. The entire process of styling, the thought that goes into it is a very beautiful process. 

Because you’re two people in one team, how do you make sure that both your sensibilities and those of the person you’re styling are met?

We believe that whoever we style, it needs to be an extension of their personality. We don’t try to push something that the artist is not comfortable in, because we feel that if you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing, only then will you be confident. “How you look” is not the most important thing. How you feel in what you wear is. Shounak and I are both opposites. If I am Valentino or Dior, which are a little more romantic, Shounak is Yohji Yamamoto which is more edgy. But somehow we always come to a middle ground and I think you see that in our work as well. There’s always a discussion that we do with the celebrity to understand how they see themselves in any and every particular event. There’s a lot of imagery shared between them us and, and that’s how we balance out all three sensibilities. 

What was the moment that changed your life?

I remember (back in October 2016) getting a call from Aditi (Sandhu; Vidya Balan’s manager). She had called us around 10pm, saying that Vidya was attending an event the next morning and she would like us to style Vidya. She asked us to bring a couple of options, adding that Vidya would bring some of her things too and we could then figure what works best. We didn’t know what the event was, but we reached out to a couple of our designer friends who sat with us through the night to finalise some options for her. Next morning, we found out that Vidya was taping an episode of MasterChef India, while promoting Kahaani 2. After the taping got over, I remember Vidya shook our hands and said, “Welcome to the team,” and that is the moment that changed our lives. We would not have been where we are without Vidya’s constant support. We owe everything to her. 

Master Chef
The first step with Vidya Balan

Feature thumbnail image credits: L to R: Vidya Balan in Sue Mue, Pranay Jaitly and Shounak Yatin Amonkar, Mrunal Thakur in Aisha Rao

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