In Conversation With Nikhil Mansata: Styling Kalki Koechlin

Kalki Koechlin for Vanity Fair France

Kalki Koechlin for Vanity Fair France

Actress Kalki Koechlin’s editorial for the June issue of Vanity Fair France has received quite a bit of attention, most notably because of the significance of the publication but also because of the stunning images that accompanied the editorial. Koechlin, who was born to French parents in Pondicherry, is a much bigger star in India than in France and the editorial was an exploration of her two identities – ethnically French but culturally Indian. That duality was captured beautifully by two of India’s most talented creatives – photographer R. Burman and stylist Nikhil Mansata. While we’ve always been huge fans of Burman’s work we weren’t as familiar with Mansata and, therefore, reached out to him to learn more about his work, his creative process and working with Kalki on the Vanity Fair shoot.

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How would you describe your styling aesthetic – do you have a
specific look that is synonymous with your work?

I’m spontaneous as well as precise. I like the effortlessness that 
comes with spontaneity and the sharpness of being precise. My styling 
aesthetic is pared down. I do like to forge deeper connections with 
imagery.

When you’re given a styling assignment, how do you decide how you’re going to style the shoot – do you work from a brief?

Yes, sometimes I get a specific brief. Other times, I pick a trend or
 tendency that I feel is important to communicate for the season.

What were you told about the Vanity Fair (France) shoot with Kalki?

The brief was to portray Kalki’s versatility and her ability to transform 
from a chic French girl with strong Western influences to a Bollywood
 heroine, showing her culturally diverse roots.

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How did you decide how to style the shoot with Kalki. What was the mood, look and feel you were going for?

The photographer R. Burman and I wanted to keep it simple. We wanted to
 shoot the portraits in the studio with no frills so that Kalki’s
 natural beauty could take center stage.

The styling of the editorial blends Indian traditional and
 Western looks beautifully. How reflective is that of Kalki’s own 
style?

We wanted to communicate clearly two different sides to her 
personality – her Bollywood actress avatar and her more Western avatar.
 She is equally comfortable straddling both those sides – Kalki has an 
unique sense of style and injects her personality into what she wears.

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Did you collaborate with Kalki and the photographer on the 
looks. How involved was she in the creative process?

Yes, Kalki, the photographer and I collaborated on all aspects of the
 shoot including picking out the looks and deciding on hair and makeup.
 We were all on the same page aesthetically.

What was your favorite look from the shoot?

I love the simplicity of the white Chanel look. The picture has classic and timeless appeal.

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Who or what would be your dream styling project?

I have to say this keeps changing. But I would love to style Freida Pinto next!

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