Michelle Poonawalla for HELLO! India© HELLO! India

#HELLO!’sMostStylish: Artist Michelle Poonawalla On Her Style

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Nayare Ali

Style to me is: Something that’s inherent in you. It’s your unique being. Every person has their own unique sense of style.

On being HELLO!’s Most Stylish Artist: Creativity is something that’s inbuilt, be it art, or interiors or fashion. Style is one’s overall being and part of who I am. I’m thankful to be named HELLO!’s Most Stylish Artist!

Style motto: Be you and the world will adjust.

Being stylish VS being fashionable: Style is a timeless art a person possesses in a particular way. It’s a question of the right balance. Each stylish person has their own ‘recipe’ that gives them their very individual style. Fashion, on the other hand, is something akin to a trend one follows. Great style isn’t always wearing the trendiest clothes. Picking a style that’s right for you is vital. There’s an element of being stylish in being fashionable, too, though someone stylish may not always follow fashion trends.

My sense of style: It depends on the occasion. Though I do like to follow fashion that suits me.

My style icons:Jennifer Lopez with her iconic Versace dress inspired me, as it did many others. Princess Diana stole hearts and was a fashion icon. She was unafraid of her choices; the ‘revenge dress’, the black Christina Stambolian number, was one of her most iconic looks. Then there’s Audrey Hepburn, who is synonymous with the LBD, which she wore as a perfect classic silhouette in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Jackie Kennedy was also a style maverick, with her perfectly fitted Chanel suits, signature pillbox hat and classic Gucci Jackie bag named after her. Olivia Palermo is a street style star who is a style icon to many. Kylie Jenner’s signature crop tops, sports pieces bodycon dresses and miniskirts inspire young girls.

Favourite brands and designers: Hermès for handbags, Gucci, Fendi and Dior for apparel and accessories, Chanel for handbags, YSL and Valentino for their classic pieces, Givenchy for its edgy style, Dolce & Gabbana for its beautiful prints, and Louis Vuitton for everything! For watches and jewellery, Van Cleef is my go-to for their timeless designs. Cartier is an all-time classic. I like Chopard for its fun designs, while Rolex is the world’s favourite. I also love Alexander McQueen, David Koma and Altuzarra.

Shop till I drop: That’d be in London!

A must-have piece of jewellery: A pair of classic solitaire earrings.

The most stylish restaurants: London has an eclectic mix of restaurants with various cuisines. There’s Nusr-Et Steakhouse, Park Chinois, Sexy Fish and The Wolseley. Among private clubs, my personal favourites are Annabel’s, Mark’s and Harry’s.

An accessory I never leave home without: My phone cover!

Must-haves in a woman’s closet: 1. A go-to pair of denims — a smart, skinny pair for the day and a darker shade of skinnies for the night.

2. Classic black and white T-shirts that fit well and can be worn on their own or as undershirts with blazers and cardigans.

3. Classic plain knits in black, navy and camel.

4. A well-fitting black staple dress.

5. A black clutch.

6. Classic nude and black heels from Louboutin.

Current fashion obsession:Louis Vuitton, reformed by the late Virgil Abloh with his unique style. One of his creative geniuses was the Paint Can Bag. It’s shaped like a paint can with a metal handle to match and embellished with the LV logo. Despite its out-of-the- box design, it’s a fashion must-have for collectors and personally special to me, being an artist with a love for fashion.

An overrated trend: Platform heels are overrated to me. I wonder whether it will survive the test of time, or go out of fashion as quickly as it arrived. Being a tall woman, I stay away from these. Perhaps they appeal more to those shorter.

The most stylish cities: London and Paris. From the royals to the street style there, London — my second home — is an iconic style and fashion destination. It’s multicultural and diverse, which is always an inspiration to both upcoming and established designers. Paris, the world’s fashion capital, has most major luxury brands headquartered there. The concept of haute couture took birth in this city, and Paris Fashion Week is one of the most influential events that dictates what the world wears. Parisians themselves are stylish and well put together, given their exposure to high fashion.

Items I tend to overuse: For me, Hermès Birkins hold a special place. These are versatile to use as they come in a variety of sizes. The largest is size 30, best for travel, and the smallest is 25, which can be used for a night out. Its versatile design makes it easy to style, be it casual or formal.

My most prized possessions: The things my family presented me with love. My son once found a green stone in a pile of rubble in our garden. He brought it to me as a gift. I turned it into a pendant he helped me wear it.

Style tips that always work: 1. Shop for pieces that suit your shape, and balance your clothes to your shape

2. Invest in what you can afford and good quality basics

3. Don’t focus only on short-lived fads or trends

4. It’s always better to dress up than dress down.

Luxury to me is: A level of service that makes one feel extra special or above normal. Luxury is also about great design and quality. It offers a unique experience that one can’t easily forget.

Inherited sense of style: My grandmother and mother were incredibly stylish ladies.

I’m happiest wearing: A pair of skinny jeans, a T-shirt and boots for daily wear. For a night out, it’s always something sexy.

Work is worship: I love the butterfly motif my art is known for. It stuck with me after my very first show at Vis A Vis Delhi, where I used video mapping with my art. I’m also known for a special one-off technique of oil painting, which my late grandfather Jehangir Vazifdar shared with me. Having showcased large-scale installations at Kochi Biennale, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai Art Week and Saatchi Art Gallery in London, it always excites me to work on interesting projects, like WWF’s Save The Tiger initiative and with Elephant Parade India, a charity of King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla.

Photos: Kanti Maru; Hair: Rita Shukla; Makeup: Aarti Mulchandani

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s November 2022 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!