Woman of the hour

In a short span of two months, Shweta Bachchan-Nanda has not only  become a businesswoman with the launch of her premium fashion brand, but has also penned a book, and it’s not an autobiography.  She speaks to Shrabasti Mallik

She hails from one of the most influential families of Bollywood, but she chose to stay away from the silver screen, preferring to be a home bird instead. But now, as she says, “the kids have grown up and don’t need my constant attention, I have decided to do something with my life”. And suddenly, within a span of two months, a new Shweta Bachchan-Nanda has emerged: an entrepreneur, fashion designer and an author. 

“I have my plate full,” she laughs, as we sit down to talk about her venturing into a new phase in her life. Coffee and breakfast are ordered, and she insists I eat first. I feel like a long-lost friend, not someone she is meeting for the first time. She makes me feel at home. She looks like a diva even in a pair of comfy pants and a long tee-shirt from her own brand, sans makeup, not bothered to camouflage.
She comes from the starry world but is one of us, I realise.       

Having launched a new fashion line called MSX with designer Monisha Jaising, Shweta has forayed into the business of fashion. Though she has walked the ramp for some of the most celebrated Indian designers before, what made her venture into designing?

“It happened by chance. And this brand is about my kind of style, it is street fashion. It’s not couture,” she says.

The beginning

The brand was conceived when Shweta had approached Monisha to create an outfit for a friend’s birthday party. “I had an idea in mind. I consulted with Monisha and we ended up designing it together,” she says, adding that it was the creative process of materialising that design, which set the foundation for the brand. “I felt we should take it further. And when I shared the thought with Monisha, she jumped at the idea and decided to build something concrete with our collective efforts. That’s how the brand was born,” she shares.

The idea

Neither Shweta nor Monisha wanted to build a couture line. They wanted to create something fun and easy-going for the modern-day woman. Their idea was to “bridge the gap between Zara and Gucci”. The collection is inspired by street fashion and pop culture, and is priced between `8,000 and `70,000. “There are a lot of women who do not always have fun clothes to wear to a cocktail party or to a casual event, or just on an outing. We are trying to create a line that is luxurious and fashionable, yet does not pull at your purse strings,” Shweta explains.

The collaboration

While Monisha has made her mark in the Indian fashion industry with her quirky creations, Shweta has always been appreciated for her classic style and elegance. So the duo not only agrees on the basic aesthetics of fashion, but also on the minute aspects of a garment – starting from the design to the fabric and even the embellishments. “I have no formal training in fashion; that is Monisha’s strength. She is someone who, even after 28 years in the field, is always open to new ideas and suggestions. She readily shares her knowledge and expertise, which helps to expand the vision and gain an in-depth understanding of the fashion world, especially for a beginner like me. That gave me a lot of confidence,” she adds. According to her, every garment from the brand is a 50-50 effort.

The personal touch

As elegantly as she appears for events, Shweta’s personal style is “casual and comfortable. Tee-shirts and long pants”. “My personal style is street fashion – clothes that are casual yet stylish. Both Monisha and I value comfort, and that has seeped into the collection,” she smiles.

The book

Writing is in her blood and it was only a matter of time before Shweta decided to put her thoughts to paper. She grew up with her grandfather, noted poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, who encouraged her and her brother, actor Abhishek Bachchan, to write. Shweta’s debut book Paradise Towers, a work of fiction, is centered around a residential building in the heart of Mumbai where every occupant has a story to tell. Or in the words of the author, “stories to hide”.

In fact, she has been writing from a young age, diaries and short stories, which she has never shared with anyone. It was after writing several columns for a prominent English daily in Mumbai that she finally mustered the courage to pen a book. She shares that the idea of Paradise Towers came to her one fine morning. “This is not unnatural for me. I come from a family of storytellers. Writing and reading were an important part of our life. As children, we were encouraged to write and read, and our imagination was given free rein.” Ask her why she didn’t debut with an autobiography, and her answer is an honest one: “I don’t lead a glamorous life. And people would want to read my autobiography for glimpses into my family. I would rather tell my own tale.”

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