“Liking Beautiful Things Doesn’t Make Me A Dumb Person”—Rhea Kapoor On Fashion, Feminism & More

I was desperately and sincerely waiting for March to end but did not expect it to end on a high note. On the last Saturday of the month, in the mildly hot afternoon, I made my way to Soho House. Though it wasn’t the first time I had been to the place, it’s always fun to go where we usually spot our celebs. The reason I was here was completely different, and I wasn’t on a look out for the stars. I was there for the first edition of #FashionForBrunch, which is a unique concept that the Italian restaurant, Cecconi hosts. The idea was of an open conversation on fashion, and the first one was between the editor of Harper’s Bazaar India, Nonita Kalra and celebrity stylist and film producer, Rhea Kapoor. The theme and the speakers had me intrigued immediately and I was really looking forward to it.

As expected, it was an intimate affair and the courtyard setup just added to the allure of it all. The sea breeze was a saving grace for me as it relaxed me a bit and, in fact, re-energised me. I took a sit in the corner and was all set for it to begin. While I was waiting, I could see Rhea being photographed, and I knew I would soon be seeing the photo on Instagram. There’s no doubt that the Kapoor sisters were the pioneers of the Insta-perfect pictures that we now see, and Rhea did talk about this trend and its inception in the discussion. But at that particular moment, when she was getting all geared up for the conversation to start, I was mesmerised by the outfit she had on. She sported a typical white shirt and blue jeans but with a sartorial twist of the blazer that had a floaty back panel, something that reminded me of a superhero cape. Later, I would go to her feed to find out that the outfit was from Seen Users.

Nonita started the session with such ease, and the conversation felt like two friends meeting up and just chatting away. It was an eye-opening talk to listen and definitely one that kept me engaged till the end. Rhea shared her insights on fashion, the life of a stylist, working with Sonam Kapoor Ahuja and so much more.

On fashion…

When asked about fashion and feminism, Rhea had it straight and mentioned how it’s all about expression.

Liking beautiful things doesn’t make me a dumb person. I love very beautiful things and I am a very intelligent woman, trust me. Men like Lamborghini, McLaren and whatever those cars are called and nobody calls them dumb or stupid. You’ve your things, we’ve ours. Fashion has been a very key part of me (and) finding my strength because it’s almost like saying what’s on your mind. It empowers so many people. I appreciate that this generation really feels like, ‘I wanna say what I wanna say, I feel this’. And I wanna say, ‘calm down, relax, you can filter it through and say it articulately and you can say it in a tone that people can actually listen to you’. I think that fashion is that. It is articulation. So, today if I feel a certain way or I want to express something about myself, why not wear it on my body, why not encapsulate it in a way that people are looking at me.

On Sonam Kapoor…

I always wondered how Rhea started styling Sonam and how their relationship evolved. She shed a light on their this side of relationship too.

Since we were very young, I always had that (rapport) with Sonam, She would always be, “Should I wear this? Should I wear this? Should I wear this? Should I wear this? Should I wear this?”
Then I went to college, and I wasn’t there, she then really started to miss me. When I came back, I just started to dress her, in general. I was at home and (she asked), “Should I wear this for this event? Should I do that?” Obviously, I had been to New York, I knew that people get paid for this. It’s a legitimate job, and with Sonam, it’s not easy to do. I was like, I need to be paid. But seriously you can’t ask for a better muse. She’s just not interested in being a celebrity, she is interested in fashion.

Rhea then also told us why it all works for Sonam every single time.

I have never put her in a mini skirt, I have never put her in a high-slit dress. She isn’t that person, she is never gonna try to be. Genuinely, Sonam is that insane and that’s why she can pull it off. “Rheu, I don’t dress generic”, these are the things that Sonam Kapoor says. So, that’s why when she wears these crazy things, it looks right. That’s why it looks good on her.

On being a stylist…

What it’s like working as a celebrity stylist and what it takes to be one? Rhea showed us a glimpse of this part of her career through the discussion.

As a stylist, you need to tell a story, you need to understand who your client is, what they want, what you want to see from them and how that fits together and that really is to create a moment. When you see the best-dressed people in the world, some incredible fashion icons, to get inspired, they’re telling a story.
Right now styling has become like chugging suitcases and pettis from one celebrity’s house to the other, and same suitcases going everywhere. But it’s not what styling is.
Styling is, you need to be able to make a fool of yourself. You have to because look at us as people, we are not confident at all times, we’re vulnerable all the time, we make a fool of ourselves all the time.

She explains personal style and expression by giving Anushka Sharma‘s example.

I think Anushka is very straightforward about who she is. I see her dress and I am like, this is who she is. She is this no-nonsense, straight to the point, no frills person. I can make out and I know she is telling me the truth. (With) a lot of other celebrities, I am like, ‘dude that’s not your dress and it looks like it’s not your dress’. That’s the only thing. For me (there are) no dos and don’ts. For me it’s I believe you or I don’t believe you. You don’t look like you’re happy in that, you don’t look like yourself in that.

She further explained how celebrity stylists have to work in sync with the celeb’s persona.

It’s your job as a stylist to channel that celebrity’s personal style and articulate. It’s your job to nudge something in them but you should genuinely see it in them, it shouldn’t be your projection of what you want to see in them. So, I think it’s your job as well to be like, ‘you can do this I see this in you’. I do really feel also, to some extend, that it’s your job to also push somebody little, edge them out of their comfort zone.

On films…

Rhea also discussed how taking on two different roles of a stylist and a producer is all about the time span.

With styling, you pick an outfit for someone and they wear it in that week or the next day and the reviews are out and the pictures are out. The whole rollercoaster gets done in a week. But when it comes to film, people put a lot more faith in you because they may see the result of your work, their investment in a year or two years or at times three years. So, it’s scarier, much scarier.

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Where it all began… @kapoor.sunita #mothership

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On their trailblazing Instagram photos…

When it comes to Insta, the Kapoor sisters are on point and Rhea told us how it all started and how they became a trailblazer of this particular trend.

We started shooting with House Of Pixel because (of ) two reasons. One is that we had so much fun getting dressed up and then the lighting on the red carpet is white, it’s awful; and second she launched her app so we needed some content and we were like, ‘we’ll do portraits’. It started very organically. It didn’t start like we’ll make Insta-content! Anything with us never starts like that. And now everyone is doing these photo shoots, I am exhausted. The other thing is that it is very tricky to get pictures of the red carpet. Because then it takes too long, by the time it’s already there and they’re watermarked. Then they ask you, “Can we get your personal email address? We’ll send you the pictures.” Then you don’t get to select the pictures. It was a whole thing. So, we were like let’s just cut to the chase. This literally was a functional thing.

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✈️ @fendi

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On the now-acclaimed airport looks…

Rhea had a fun story to share with us and how the coveted airport looks of Sonam came into being in the first place.

Airport look, it’s another saga. Sonam was taking flights at 6 am, three times a week, she kept telling the girls, ‘I can’t think, just put my look’. So, we’ll be like, take out a travel look. Genuinely, my sister, in her life, she just likes Payal Pratap and Anokhi and that’s her vibe. And we were traumatised. ‘Every day you can’t wear kaftans to the airport, you’re depressing me’. That’s the reason we started doing these airport looks. I couldn’t see another maxi dress with those dirty Chole flats. Literally, that’s how this airport look started.

On Rheson

When Rheson was launched, it was a collaborative effort of the Kapoor sisters to bridge the gap that they recognised in the Indian fashion industry.

I just felt like there was no Indian brand consumed for everyday wear. It just didn’t exist. For example, if I want to go for a job interview, I can go to Zara and buy something, but if I want to go for a puja or lunch then there is nothing to buy that’s cool. So, we started to make palazzo sarees and we started to create things like that. It was just to create an indigenous brand that understood the urban, modern Indian girl’s sensibility.

On the Kapoor sisters’ legacy…

In the end, we had a Q&A round with Rhea, and I got a chance to ask her about the fashion legacy they have created as Kapoor sisters.

We’re just trying to cover our arms. My legacy is (that) I am trying to figure out a hundred ways to not wear sleeveless.

On that fun note, the discussion was concluded but I bet with so much insight now, we do know that Rhea and Sonam have paved a new path of fashion that is an era of its own. Do you agree?

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