Exclusive: Suneet Varma on dressing bride Anu Mahtani
Designer Anu Mahtani’s (sister to Nandita Mahtani) wedding to UK-based billionaire Sanjay Hinduja took over the internet not just for its opulence and star-studded guest list. The bride’s trousseau earned special attention from women all over India too. Predominantly designed by couturier (and long-time friend) Suneet Varma, this was a collection of noteworthy saris and lehengas.
Back from the Hinduja wedding, and already prepping for his next bride, the couturier chats with Vogue between breaks from the ever-rising mountain of lehengas at his studio.
Tell us about the designs you created for Anu Mahtani
I’ve known the Mahtani family for several years, Anu and Nandita are very close friends of mine. So for this wedding, they flew down to my Delhi store and Anu ordered her cutwork lehenga, the anarkali, two saris, something crystal… it was a large order! And we developed some swatches for them in terms of colour, texture, details. But I must say, Anu is very very unfussy, because she knows what she wants and she trusts me. I knew she wanted something sexy, something very lightweight, because she wanted to be comfortable, she wanted to have a good time, she didn’t want to be weighed down by hundreds of kilos; it’s not her style.
It’s been really fun dressing these beautiful girls – I had no idea the wedding would go viral, it’s crazy, this whole internet thing. I’ve got Nicole Scherzinger following me on Instagram now!
For her engagement in London, Anu chose a rose, old-world zardozi anarkali with peacock artwork. It was so funny, when she wore it, she called me and said, “by the way, everyone thinks this is my wedding outfit!”
What’s one wardrobe essential every bride should invest in?
I love women in anything red or gold. And by that I mean that matte, dull, champagne gold, not the very bright yellow-gold. With Anu, it was beautiful thread embroidery in dull gold, patra work on the pink lehenga. For Nandita, it was the mirror-work, but dull mirrors. I think that’s essential. Something gold-on-gold, or if you have the personality and right skintone, maybe a very bright coral or lime green with gold. Gold is a must.
How much is too much at a wedding?
Look for things that look heavy, dressy, opulent, but doesn’t necessarily add to the weight. I remember this bizarre incident from many years ago: I was doing a reception lehenga for a bride, and the night before her wedding, she’d worn a very heavy zardozi lehenga. It was so heavy she couldn’t wear it at her waist, so the designer attached suspenders to the lehenga for her to put on under her blouse. And because of the weight of the lehenga, on the reception night she had bruises and cuts on her shoulder! Nobody wants to do that anymore.
Brides today are not shy wallflowers; they want to enjoy their weddings. They want to wear their stilettos, they want to wear their outfit, they want to carry their Judith Leiber bag and they want to enjoy a glass of champagne too! And they want to dance! It’s important to make clothes that are spectacular looking, yet extrememly comfortable. That was a very important factor in designing clothes for the Mahtani sisters.
What are your fashion dos and fashion don’ts for Indian brides?
It’s not great business sense for me, but I always advise brides, “don’t be in a hurry to buy a lot at once”. Buy what you need to take immediately, what you’ll wear in the next six months or year. Don’t buy blindly. Even if you have a favourite designer, don’t buy 25 things from them there and then. Instead, buy something from them every season and update your wardrobe with something from the new collection. Most designers never tell a bride that. Why would I want my loyal customers to wear outdated designs by me? There’s no point being short-sighted.
Secondly, buy things that you enjoy, it’s not necessary to outdo your girlfriend who got married last year. And don’t worry about things like, ‘my friend wore pink at her wedding, so I cant wear it to mine’.
If you’ve always wanted to wear something in particular, wear it. Because every bride looks different and every bride should feel special.