Dressing to win: A conversation with fashion designer Delna Poonawalla

Shubhangi MishraUpdated: Monday, February 24, 2020, 10:49 PM IST
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Nobody knows racecourse fashion like Delna Poonawalla. With an astute upbringing in one of the most renowned equestrian families, Delna Poonawalla’s heritage of horses and her penchant for fashion makes a potent concoction for her career as a fashion designer.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I grew up looking at my grandmother and mother dressed beautifully for the races. Everyone used to dress so well those days, it was great fun. And I think that's where the idea of fashion was born, that you need well dressed people to go with such magnificent animals as horses!

What were your initial days like as a designer in India? 

It was very different from being in college as I studied in London. When I came back to India, I got a job with Manish Malhotra, the ace Bollywood designer. That was very interesting for me as we had to do like six outfits in a day.

There was complete madness in running around all of Mumbai getting embroidery done in Andheri and all sorts of odd areas, but I learnt a lot. Manish is fabulous with his colour and styling and getting work done. I like creative, funky, edgy design, but I learned so much in terms of colour, style and embroidery which I now incorporate into my work. 

What your fashion says about you...

Fashion expresses my vivacious personality. It is symbolic of life filled with positivity, gratitude and opportunities. The bright colours, floral motifs, feather ornaments and free flowing dress cuts emphasise the journey of life that has been exciting, educative and taught me to take each day as it comes and believe in the magnanimity that our lives offer us.

A styling tip to oomph up a pair of jeans and T-shirt...

There's nothing like a jacket to oomph it up. You can also wear it with a pair of wedges that gives it a pop of colour like bright peach or pink.

Mix and match

I love to have a good branded handbag or pair of shoes, but the rest can be from anywhere. Like I put together a pair of pants that were from Theory and a jacket from a flea market and a handbag from a brand so you can have a mix of all of it. I  always like that because that is when you can see a person has true style, when they don't just take a brand from a magazine or from the catwalk and wear it as is. 

Styling to-dos 

It should suit your body type. 

It should suit your personality. 

It should be appropriate for the occasion, so you can’t wear a gown to the races!

Dos and don’ts for fashion at the races

For the women, don’t dress like you are going clubbing! 

Don’t dress in all black, you can have a dark colour like blue. Even if you wear a black then wear it with a pop of colour, whether it's fascinators, shoes or bag.

Don’t dress like a cowgirl and wear boots, keep it elegant! 

Men must always be dressed in smart casuals, either wear a jacket, a tie or a shirt. 

With a prominent fascinator, keep the rest of the outfit simple.  

Fascinator facts

As compared to hats, fascinators do not cover the entire portion of your head. It can be a hairband or even a comb. For India, I prefer fascinators, as we live in a very hot country. You can wear a fascinator and be completely hands free, walk around and have a nice day at the races.

Changing attitudes

Many girls have the fear that they will look odd or be made fun of. But once I show them how it's worn to the side of the head and not in the middle and how they could look pretty with it, then they're open to it.

People in India still look at fascinators as something alien but they are now starting to open up to the idea. We have more people willing to buy it, experiment with it, even blog with it and I don't think it's as expensive as people think for it to be.

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