Dilnaz Karbhary was 13 when she decided to pursue fashion as a career. “I had seen a photograph of Milind Soman, Madhu Sapre and Mehr Jesia in a newspaper and they were styled by Shahab Durazi. It made such an impression on me that I knew I’d join the fashion industry,” she recalls.
Article by Vidya Prabhu | Indian Express
Nearly 25 years later, she awaits the release of the film Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi — in which she has designed all the looks for lead actor Farah Khan. “It’s been just three years since I launched my own label and I’m yet to start my own store or do a fashion show. To have been able to take on such a challenging assignment is a big high in itself,” says the 38-year-old. She, however, thanks her Parsi roots and Khan’s faith in her design abilities for having bagged the project.
This is not the first time she is working with the choreographer-turned-filmmaker-turned-actor. Karbhary has also designed clothes for Khan in her TV show Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega. Khan was impressed with her work and recommended Karbhary for Shirin Farhad. “Given the fact that I was designing for the character of a 42-year-old Parsi woman, and I hadn’t really lived in a Parsi colony, I had to do a fair amount of research. I did the rounds of several Parsi baugs and also ended up raiding the wardrobes of quite a few of my relatives, apart from referring to books online and poring over old Parsi magazines,” she recollects.
Then followed a period of sketching, scouting for the right fabric, trials and fittings, after which the look for Shirin — Khan’s character — was born. “I have worked with fabrics such as lycra, silk and georgette. Also, I have done gara embroidery on knits, which is quite popular among Parsis. For instance, there’s a three-fourth sleeve cardigan with gara work that is paired with a matching blouse and a slightly flared skirt,” she says.
What sets Karbhary apart from the current crop of designers is her lack of a fashion degree. “After graduating from St. Xaviers College in History, I had secured admission in Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, but my father fell ill that year and I couldn’t it take up. I stayed on in India and worked my way up,” says the designer, who first applied to Tarun Tahiliani for the post of a design assistant. But Tahiliani asked her to join the staff at his sister Tina’s store, Ensemble. “I took up the job of a sales assistant. However, after I helped Tarun with a show, he agreed to take me in his team,” she says, adding that she ended up learning on the job. By 2009, Karbhary had risen to the position of head of couture and women’s wear at Tahiliani’s design studio. She quit the job that year to start her own label.
“Whatever I am today, I owe it to Tarun Tahiliani. I am nowhere close to mastering the drape the way he has, but I am proud of my zardozi and gara work. Working mainly with lace, silk, chiffon and georgette, I’ve made customised evening wear my forte. I am also looking at designing for films more often,” she says.