Designer Neeta Lulla discusses the launch of her eponymous fashion college and the perks and perils of being a ‘filmi’

Notmany know that,designer to Bollywood stars,Neeta Lulla initially set out to become a fashion choreographer. The then Hyderabad girl trained under veterans Jeannie Naoroji and Hemant Trivedi. But the fashion gods had other plans for Lulla,who was simultaneously offered a film project — someone in the family was making a film and asked her to help out with a bridal trousseau. “Costume designing for films and my foray into bridalwear happened almost at the same time,” says Lulla,49,who has tied up with filmmaker Subhash Ghai’s Mumbai-based film school to launch the Whistling Woods – Neeta Lulla School of Fashion (WWNL). In an interview,Lulla discusses future plans and a certain Cannes “debacle”.

How did the fashion school come about?

I’ve been an academician for almost 26 years now and enjoy teaching. As soon as I graduated from SNDT,Mumbai,they asked me to start taking lectures and I’ve taught there for nearly 19 years. And,for the past nine years,I’ve been teaching at Hamstech in Hyderabad. As for WWNL,it’s been nearly three years in the making.

What will be the USP of the course?

Today,I see youngsters who come out of college and are still clueless about what they want to do. They intern with designers,looking for learning experience rather than being an asset to the designer. My aim is to create industry professionals out of these students. Courses start in August,2013.

You’ve tied up with a film school. So,is it a given that film styling will be part of the curriculum?


Yes,film styling is an important aspect of the business today. The added advantage of this arrangement is that an exchange of facilities will become more convenient. Courses such as fashion photography and hair and make-up will lead to synergy between both the schools.

In the past 28 years,how has film styling changed?

In my time,we had stalwarts such as Mani Rabadi,Shaliniji,Xerxes Bhathena and Hemant Trivedi. I was among the new breed of designers who brought technical knowledge to costuming. Every costume we made was tailored,every photo shoot we did we had to create the entire look. Today,you can walk into a Jimmy Choo or Dolce & Gabbana store and source clothes. Also,artistes today have fantastic bodies. We had to stitch the garment to fit the artist and make them look slim and beautiful. At that point,if you did films,it was considered derogatory. We were called ‘filmis’. Today,styling for films is a great medium for gaining credibility and popularity. Back then,our job became our branding; today brands want to do the job to become bigger brands.

Is the Cannes outing with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (2003) firmly in the past?

One year prior to the so-called Cannes debacle,I’d dressed Aishwarya in a sari for the Devdas premiere. That look was really appreciated. In those days,stylists never travelled with artistes,nor were there any big brands to lend clothes and certain things were beyond your control. The flip side of that incident is that now,every year whenever an actress goes to Cannes,the media calls me to find out my point of view.