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10 Style Queens Spill Their Best-Kept Business And Fashion Secrets

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Ananya Shankar

In a world of passing trends and rooms resonating with echoes, we bring you the bonafide ‘it’ girls. Chic, articulate and at the forefront of the charge — HELLO! meets 10 exceptional women bright and early at South Mumbai’s poshest restaurant which comes alive, pulsating with the spirit of sisterhood.

Dressed head-to-toe in the brand new Anushka Khanna collection — marking her return to fashion after three long years — the air is thick with anticipation, camaraderie and an inherent sense of style.

From Priyanka Khanna, the wunderkind writer who interviewed legends like Karl Lagerfeld and has recently authored All the Right People, to Tasheen Rahimtoola, the maestro behind culinary venture Taste Retreat’s scrumptious extravaganzas, these women redefine what it means to excel. Anshula Kapoor, from the illustrious Surinder Kapoor clan, advocates for body positivity, while actress and model Anushka Ranjan spills the beans on married life and diversifying her career.

Join us in celebrating the vivacity of Santoshi Shetty’s yogic escapades with Yamayoga and The Gardens of Santi, Malvika Sitlani’s growing confidence as she navigates her role as both a new mom and co-founder of Masic Beauty, and the casting brilliance of Panchami Ghavri Malani — I mean, who could forget the heartwrenching Kapoor & Sons? Emphasising collaboration over competition, we have Shaan Khanna of Networking Now India, Khushnaz Ashdin Turner, the logistics expert who turned to content creation as she neared 40, and of course, as we stand surrounded by her marvellous creations, fashion designer Anushka Khanna.

HELLO!: Ladies, thank you for making time for HELLO! We have quite an enterprising bunch here with us today… As women in business, have you faced any challenges and if so, how did you overcome them?

Priyanka: “I was fortunate to work in an organisation that had many women leaders; very different from other industries where they have boardrooms filled with men. I have interviewed Karl Lagerfeld under the Eiffel Tower and Ralph Lauren at Central Park the night before his big anniversary show. Alia [Bhatt’s] first-ever interview was with me and Gaurav Gupta and I started our careers together! But for me the biggest challenge was after I had my children, to find — I don’t want to say balance because that’s so elusive — but that sweet spot between being the mother I want to be and also, the professional I want to be.”

Panchami: “Being a woman in any business has its challenges. There will always be men in power trying to step on your feet. But times are changing and casting spaces had so much of that ‘casting couch’ energy earlier that it’s empowering to be a woman on the scene. People feel safe when they come in.”

Shaan: “Earlier on, I did face a lot of flak when I tried to close a deal, with many asking me who my partner is or why I didn’t bring my boss along. People talk to men with so much respect, but with women, they’re always trying to strike a better deal. So while times are changing, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

H!: How do you think the fashion and lifestyle industry has changed over the years? 

Priyanka: “Our [Hers and Anushka Khanna’s] father is a garment exporter who would stock at incredible stores around the world and we would see the pieces made by him. India has primarily been seen as a manufacturing hub so far but what’s exciting now, is the fact that it’s no longer just made in India, it’s designed in India too. And Anushka’s clothes are incredibly flattering. I wore a black embroidered jacket from her brand to a Diwali party, a Navjot and a wedding! They’re great quality, but also, they work for our lifestyles comprising pieces that you can wear and rewear in different ways. It goes back to the whole idea of girl math, right?”

Khushnaz: “I’m more relaxed than girls in their 20s and I take life easily. I tell my daughter too, that not everything is about you so just have fun! But that comes with age. We’re more relaxed now, enjoying fashion. While I do follow trends, my personal style is what truly resonates with people.”

Shaan: “Collaboration, the idea of helping others. Today, you don’t have to continue on the path you started off on. Everyone has a side hustle — one may have a job, but also assist their mother in building a business; another could be a photographer but also have a clothing business. Opportunity lies in India. People don’t shy away from passing on contacts anymore; you can be what you want to be, do what you want to do.”

Anushka K: “I’ve been on break for the last three years and things are definitely different. Content creators and influencers are doing so many interesting things and this shoot is a great example of that. And speaking of, you’re some of the OG content creators in India! How did you enter the digital space?”

Santoshi: “I had no idea this was going to be my profession. I was studying architecture and always doing something creative. As a kid, even on someone else’s birthday, I was so enthused about dressing up. In college, I would take part in fashion shows — even choreograph them and win! So when Facebook came up, I was the popular kid on it before everyone switched to Instagram. This was also the time where brands were new on social media. They reached out because I had some followers and my profile was fashion-oriented. As I got approached for barter collaborations in the beginning, I would say, ‘Mama, I’m getting a free cover!’ The idea of you getting paid for that was not a concept.”

Malvika: “Girl, I came nine years ago! (laughs) Earlier on, I was predominantly on YouTube; I educated people about make-up instead of just glamming up. As the years progressed, shorter content came along, but one has to sense what the audience is liking at all points now, which wasn’t the case 10 years ago. I’m not on trend which is why I have a very loyal following. They’ve seen me as a 22-year-old and now they say “Mals, we grew up with you!””

Khushnaz: “I worked in my family business of logistics and this just happened to me at 39. A client suggested it so I researched it like I did everything and thought, ‘Maybe, I should give it a go…’ And the rest is history. Initially, a lot of luxury brands wanted me to host events because of the age bracket — the people who have the money to spend on luxury!”

H!: You’re all known to be extremely fashion-forward, with multitudes of people following your personal style — tell us, how do you define it now?

Anshula: “I’m still figuring it out! (laughs) and having fun trying out different colours and silhouettes. I would not be sitting here in a sleeveless dress a year ago, but today, when I look at myself wearing something, I ask, am I feeling joy in it? Am I feeling bold in it? Am I feeling amazing in it? Now I’m more open to trying things out because when I was much larger, I never had the opportunity of getting clothes in my sizes and didn’t have the confidence to deviate. I am coming to terms with the fact that I am more than who I see reflected back in the mirror, more than my stretch marks and my flabby belly; that was a mental health journey that I had to undergo to be able to talk about it today.”

Panchami: “My style has evolved, as it does for most people with age. I’ve been through all the clumsy stages of fashion! But now, I am an androgynous, boho-chic person who definitely puts comfort on top. When it comes to accessorising, I’m minimalistic and I’ve also started taking care of my skin. For all the under-30 readers — things change once you become 30; so remember, a little bit of effort will go a long way.”

Anushka K: “Jeans and a T-shirt. For a wedding, I would love a jacket. My mum had beautiful textiles too. I think that Indian colours are just so beautiful.”

Tasheen: “I’m very modern but I add a timeless piece with whatever I wear. I love my statement micro bags, I’m known for them. I have a tennis racket-shaped Chanel bag and yesterday, I bought the Louis Vuitton headphone bag. I believe I was also the first to carry Jacquemus bags in Mumbai! I just like being quirky and talked about.”

Anushka R: “Oversized black shorts with a shirt whose neckline is literally hanging now! I’m very relaxed, I like to be comfortable in co-ord sets; add jewellery if I have to deck it up a bit. As a model, I did a lot of bridal shows in red lehengas with heavy jewellery so that novelty had died for me. And so for my wedding, I wore lilac — everyone asked me if I was sure about the colour, from my aunt who designed the outfit to Manish Malhotra. I said, I really have no idea! (laughs)”

H!: What would be a fashion hit or miss in 2024?

Priyanka: “For me, a constant hit is quiet luxury and the whole idea of a ‘miss’ is not there anymore. It’s about choosing quality over quantity, clothes that work for you, your life and that you can wear multiple times in different ways.”

Santoshi: “It is very individualistic… Everyone is killing it in their own way. There are no rules anymore. A hit would be your confidence and if there’s none, that would be a miss.”

H!: Who’s your biggest inspiration?

Anushka R: “My father [actor-producer Shashi Ranjan] was close to Shatrughan Sinha, and I admired him greatly. When I was younger, I was very tomboyish, so I always wanted to be like Sanjay Dutt, Shatrughan Sinha — loud and in control. Neena Gupta has inspired me, the way she raised Masaba, the love, respect and dignity.”

Anshula: “Everyone inspires me in a different way; if it’s about being comfortable about who I am, it’s my brother; he’s my sounding board. My mother has always been an inspiration in the sense that she was a trailblazer in everything she achieved for herself, the way she conducted her life and her principles. I try to imbibe as much of that as I possibly can. And with every cousin, every sibling, and everyone in my family, there’s so much to learn from — the motivation and drive to be the best version of yourself and show up every day where work is concerned — like Anil [Kapoor] chachu. Sonam [Kapoor Ahuja] didi, for the way she embraces who she is without caring about what the world says. It’s an eclectic pie.”

H!: What’s next on your plate?

Anshula: “I’m becoming an author! Or maybe I already am an author, but an unpublished one, so far (laughs). I have recently signed on to do a non-fiction book with Penguin Random House India. I have a lot more in the works when it comes to expressing myself through mediums that resonate with me.”

Malvika: “I’ve planned all my life and it just never goes according to it! I want to travel this year. I’ve realised that I wasn’t living my life, I was only working with no time for personal trips. Now, I want to change that by planning some memorable adventures with my daughter, my best friend and my mom. Also, fashion is doing well on my channel so we’re thinking of starting something on those lines.”

Anushka R: “Many of us are deeply focused on our careers, striving to leave our mark, particularly as our generation is the first to witness numerous women achieving their goals. Some women feel compelled to sacrifice other areas of their lives to gain recognition in the workplace However, I recognise the importance of taking time out for myself. At the same time, I’m also thrilled about exploring acting opportunities and venturing into the events business with my family as part of a diversification plan.”

Tasheen: “Professionally, I want to tap into sustainable, eco-friendly decor. Personally, I have a fear of heights so I want to go skydiving!”

(Interview: Ananya Shankar; Photos: Ryan Martis; Creative Direction: Avantikka Kilachand; Styling: Anushree Sardesai; Assisted by: Ila Parakh; Hair & Make-up: Puja Chaurasia; Location Courtesy: Neuma)

This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s March 2024 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!