Creating show-stopping red-carpet looks comes naturally to celebrity stylist Sheefa Gilani. Her latest triumph was at the Cannes Film Festival 2023, where she styled the gorgeous Manushi Chhillar. The result? A breathtaking ensemble that left onlookers awestruck and cemented Gilani’s status as a true style maestro! In an exclusive interview with Travel+Leisure India & South Asia, the celebrity stylists shares details of her experience, shedding light on the inspiration behind Chhillar’s captivating look and more.
Excerpts from the interview with Sheefa Gilani:
T+L India: Can you tell us about your experience styling Manushi Chhillar for Cannes? What was the inspiration behind her look, and how did you bring it to life?
Sheefa Gilani: If I had to sum up the experience in one word, it would be ‘phenomenal’. It was everything I had hoped for and everything I didn’t imagine. I’m grateful to have gotten such a big opportunity and I’ll forever cherish the experience. Manushi’s brief consisted of three words: feminine, chic, and princess-like. The Fovari dress was that and so much more. It was responsibly-sourced and sustainably-curated. She looked every bit a dream on that carpet.
T+L India: When working with Manushi Chhillar for Cannes, did you consider any specific fashion trends or cultural influences?
Sheefa Gilani: Manushi is an admirer of classics. She loves to keep things minimal and effortless. I have always believed in the idea of ‘wear the dress, don’t let the dress wear you’. It’s beautiful but if it doesn’t fit your body type, don’t force it. Each and every outfit that Manushi Chhillar wore was easy, elegant, and graceful.
T+L India: How important is it to incorporate these elements while maintaining the individuality of the client?
Sheefa Gilani: Fashion trends and cultural influences are extremely important but we must not forget the ethos of the said client’s personality. Whatever they may wear, they should feel uncomplicated in the outfit. I truly think keeping a mix of both is the ideal way to move forward.
T+L India: As a celebrity stylist, you’ve had the opportunity to work with various high-profile clients. What sets styling for red carpet events like Cannes apart from other projects?
Sheefa Gilani: The pressure and the monumental size of the event itself, along with the challenges that come with performing and displaying a remarkable look. As a stylist, performance will always remain astronomical.
T+L India: Travelling as a celebrity stylist must be an exciting aspect of your job. Could you share some memorable moments or challenges you’ve encountered while accompanying clients to various places?
Sheefa Gilani: The team you travel with ultimately becomes your family. So even under work conditions, we don’t forget to take a minute and enjoy ourselves while we are at it. Manushi and I took a little trip post-Cannes to Nice and Monte-Carlo. We decided to treat ourselves for all the hard work done. We spent days doing joyous things. A memory I will always hold close to my heart would be our carousel ride in Nice. We played, laughed, and devoured ice creams.
T+L India: What are some of your favourite spots in Cannes?
Sheefa Gilani: The promenade by the sea, the bustling Martinez hotel where the magic unfolds behind the scenes, and the majestic palace stairs are etched in my memory as remarkable visions.
T+L India: How does travelling to different locations influence your styling choices and inspirations?
Sheefa Gilani: A lot of what embodies my personal style is influenced by the places I have studied (London) and the places I have travelled to. I like being culturally aware. I read a lot and like researching and learning about the history of a place and its influence on fashion. I truly derive my inspiration from travel.
T+L India: Do you have any favourite travel accessories or must-have items that you always pack when you’re on the go?
Sheefa Gilani: My Polaroid. I love keeping memories in a box.
T+L India: Can you share some tips for achieving a celebrity-worthy travel style on a budget?
Sheefa Gilani: Always opt for easy, comfortable, and effortless clothing. I think people end up confusing comfort with the expense. Comfort doesn’t have a price. It’s felt!
Your next-door fast fashion brand could be a great option but pick a sustainable option even from fast fashion brands. The tags now come with these details.
Lastly, the streets have everything available. Our country is heavily influenced by the Bollywood community and social media has only made it more accessible.
T+L India: Have you ever discovered any hidden gems or unique fashion finds during your travels that you incorporated into your clients’ wardrobes?
Sheefa Gilani: A good vintage store is all you need to find unique or statement pieces. [Look for] items that are passed down from generation, and pieces that are recycled and refurbished.