anaita shroff adajania© Anaita Shroff Adajania

HELLO! 100 Most Influential: Anaita Shroff Adajania

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Sangeeta Waddhwani

Why she matters: She’s come a long way from styling for editorial shoots to dressing A-listers the world over. Former colleague, author and journalist Sangeeta Waddhwani traces the fashion savant’s journey from her starring role in DDLJ, to turning fairy godmother to many a celebrity today.

Blunt and unapologetic in her stance, and a terror to a copy team, often compelled to rustle up endless options of text for her fashion stories, Anaita Shroff Adajania was nevertheless a young warrior at the forefront of the lifestyle magazine styling arena from her mid-20s.

She braved it all. Eccentric editors who’d call her back from applied leave because a particular “foot fashion” spread was “not working.” The scorching Indian sun on her forays into fashion sourcing, often crashing on the floor of the office balcony, surrounded by bags and bags of clothes, her skin flushed from too much heat and a migraine writ large on her face. But the deadline was always met — and how!

Anaita’s private cabin as a Fashion Editor at Elle was studded with arresting celebrities in even more arresting ensembles. My favourite shoot from that time was her brilliant “Indian” take on Naomi Campbell, draped in nine yards of chiffon but, somehow, more naked than ever, her ebony oomph amplified a 100 times.

I also remember the time we worked on the inaugural edition of L’Officiel. I was at a photo shoot with a model who had to be styled for the theme, Indian Beauty. Anaita was, fortunately, on the same premises, busy with another shoot. Our model looked limp as dead fruit. So I asked Anaita for help and was promptly blown away by her confidence! The model, a voluptuous Bengali woman, was asked to knock off the blouse and her saree draped once more to tease, to tell a new story of seduction. We now had a vixen for our “Indian Beauty,” and a great picture was born!

It is to Anaita that we can credit the gym-honed physiques of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan from Dhoom 2. Her trump card was to make cinematic styling edgy, bold and uninhibited.

Revisiting our days at L’Officiel, I recall a fresh idea from Anaita, when we were dedicating a series of stories to top Indian fashion designers. Sabyasachi was all of 28 years old, but his Kamathipura-inspired ramp presentations and daring-do themes had already set his brand on fire. Anaita had suggested, “Sangu, don’t have a normal conversation with him. That’s so done. Go with him to Crossroads Mall, walk around and look at how he sees fashion.”

And what unravelled became a spectacular afternoon rich in fashion learning for me. It was a far richer interaction than one that would have meandered on everything people knew about Sabyasachi.

However, not everything about being Anaita has been about glamour. Parsis use her name when young people want to be parental parasites. They are told, “If you don’t stop nagging us for more money, we will send you out of the nest, and you can find your own way — like Anaita did!”

And that’s what Anaita stands for. Sweat, gamble, experimentation and confidence. Luck, did you say? Well, she did get cast by Karan Johar as Kajol’s bestie in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. There’s little doubt she loved that experience, as at lunch, she’d regale us with just how amazing a human being Shah Rukh Khan is.

“Magnanimous... He had us in splits… He’s so uplifting…” she would gush. The world of celebrity styling has now got a far larger roster of talent, but this girl is the OG!

To see who else is on the list, grab the copy of HELLO! India’s August 2023 issue right here!