Neeta Lulla is one of the few Indian fashion designers who has come full circle. From design student to film costumes and bridal couture to launching a fashion institute. Soft spoken and humble, she has won National Awards for costume designing in blockbuster films and is a brand to reckon with today.
A consistent endeavour to create a different look that would appeal to the bridal segment.
Choosing fashion as her vocation at the age of sixteen, Neeta Lulla graduated in Dressmaking and Apparel Construction from Premlila Vithaldas Polytechnic SNDT University, Mumbai, India in 1985 following which she worked with acclaimed fashion choreographer Jeanne Naoroji. Three years later, she diversified into costume design for Bollywood films, at times working seventy-two hours, always the picture of creativity, quiet determination and hard work. When she wasn’t designing, she was teaching at her alma mater to give back to the industry that had given her so much.
Having done costumes for over three hundred films, her fame reached Hollywood and she designed costumes for ‘One Night with the King’ and ‘Mistress of Spices’. Buoyed by her success in costume design, Neeta Lulla strengthened her brand by further diversifying into trousseau consultation for brides- to- be and launched her couture label. 2005 witnessed the launch of her flagship in Mumbai with trousseau consultancy, bridal couture and diffusion wear. By 2009, she had established a distribution network across five continents. With growing demand for her collections, she launched her second flagship in New Delhi, India in 2016. How does she change gears and design aesthetic between the two dramatically different fields of costume design and bridal couture? ”As a designer I am greedy when it comes to grasping different concepts, formats and techniques; utilising that in costuming or couture comes with experience. Also, the flexibility of vision comes when you keep your mind open and do not think of yourself as someone who has achieved it all and knows it all. You have to keep yourself appraised of current trends and think of yourself as a student who is learning something new every day — that is what gives you newness in vision.”
Reminiscing about the past, she says, ”I launched my label in 1988, and from there fashion and films happened simultaneously. I was shuffling between designing bridal couture and film costumes. The brand came to the forefront through my consistent endeavour to create a different look that would appeal to the bridal segment, which in turn created a trust factor amongst clients, and once that happens they become loyal customers and refer the brand to friends and family; this word of mouth awareness helped strengthen the brand.” Change is at the forefront; people are looking at bespoke bridal and occasion wear… they want an ensemble that nobody else has! ”This involves intricate detailing in terms of made-to-measure and made-to-fit; considering the fit and hand detailing people aspire for, it involves a lot of work in each aspect of construction be it fabric, finish, cut, embellishment or hand embroidery. Personally, the challenges involved give me an adrenaline rush because I’m pushing my boundaries of knowledge, of technicality, of garment construction beyond what I know and beyond what I’ve done so far. For me, this creates not only a challenge but a beautiful learning experience!” Neeta Lulla loyalists rhapsodise about her design, claiming it is current even after years of purchase. The secret to this, she says, is research and its application. ”A designer must be upraised of the cyclical pattern of fashion and the history of costume design — within a constant design philosophy. The way a designer applies their philosophy to a new concept or trend is what creates newness. My influence is Edwardian yet the aesthetic is Indian at heart — steeped in my design philosophy, yet taking inspiration from something millennial. It is how I keep my design aesthetic current.”
Today, Neeta Lulla is strengthening her brand equity with expansion of her label, costume designing for blockbuster films and Whistling Woods Neeta Lulla School of Fashion. “I want to give back to the industry that has given me so much by sharing my expertise with young dynamic aspirants who want to penetrate the world of fashion. The future looks bright! I’ve just finished costume designing for much-anticipated film, ‘Thalaivi,’ and there are plans to open two or three more flagships, partnered with e-commerce portals and have begun retailing in London. I am also planning to launch an affordable bridal line soon…”