Spending four hours looking for the perfect pair of reading glasses, carting back two trunks of jewellery from Hong Kong and designing seven gowns in just four days – who said the life of a stylist was easy? Hyderabad-based stylist Ashwin Mawle, who has 50 films to his credit, is behind Mahesh Babu‘s rockstar look in Nenokkadine and Kajal Aggarwal’s 70 costume changes in Darling. Having modeled in Zurich for eight years, he took up styling actors as a hobby during his summer vacation. It eventually became a full-time career, thanks to actor Allu Arjun, who spotted his talents and asked him to style his Arya 2 character.

(From left) Ashwin Mawle with actor Allu Arjun.

Mawle has a busy year ahead of him, with six films starring leading actors. He tells us about five major stars he has worked with, the challenges of working with them and what their personal style is like:

Jr NTR:

I’ve worked with him on seven films, the most challenging of which was Jai Lava KusaHe had a triple role, playing a street-smart villain, a village chief and a nerd.  Each look had to be distinct and credible. I travelled to London and Dubai extensively to get the right formal clothes for the nerdy character. For another character, I gave him kohl-rimmed eyes, well-groomed hair and earrings. We did a lot of research before deciding on the final looks. He shot for 10 days, playing all three characters on each day. This was challenging since we had to do all three looks in a single day.

I also shopped for him from London when he was doing Nanuko Prematho, in which he plays a Londoner. We worked on giving him a makeover and an uber cool look. There was lots of scope for experimentation.

His personal style is simple and classy. He prefers comfortable clothes and has a good collection of shirts. He loves watches and has a large collection of international limited edition classic watches that he enjoys wearing. Off screen, he mostly wears jeans, light blue or white shirts and either cardigans or blazers depending on the season. He also wears matching chinos, sneakers or loafers. He has a keen eye for fashion and keeps track of the latest collections from the Milan, London and Paris fashion weeks. He is always updated and gives valuable inputs when we are working together.

MAHESH BABU:

One of my most challenging projects was Nenokkadine, in which his role was very different from his previous ones. I had to style him as a rockstar and I wanted to do something other than the usual metal and bling. I zeroed in on Justin Timberlake’s style, keeping it simple and contemporary. So I got him layered t-shirts, hoodies and fitted pants, staying away from anything leathery and bulky. Since the film had a dark tone, I styled him in a darker colour palette – burgundy, deep maroon, navy blue and olive green.

Director Sukumar has a passion for clothes and Mahesh has a keen eye for costumes. I was initially apprehensive about styling such a big star but his wife Namrathaji was very helpful, telling me what he liked. The brief I worked on was that his clothing had to reflect his state of mind.

Usually look tests take time and as he was quite busy, I was apprehensive about asking him to keep trying on different looks. We had to choose the right sunglasses for him. It was necessary for him to try on different pairs since the final one had to look good on him. So he spent a few hours trying on each pair patiently. We spent almost four hours trying to choose the perfect reading glasses, which were an important part of the film. We took several photos. It took the director a day to choose the perfect brand of Chrome Hearth, which I bought in Hong Kong.

Mahesh Babu’s personal style is comfortable, classy and simple. He has a good taste and prefers jeans and shirts.

KAJAL AGGARWAL:

I have worked with her on six films. We have an excellent rapport, chatting for hours and playing pranks on each other. She’s become a dear friend who always stays in touch no matter which part of the world she’s shooting in.

One of my most interesting projects with her was Darling, in which I had to make around 70 costumes for her, from elaborate gowns and saris to casuals. I had a large canvas to work on.

The toughest part of that shoot was designing seven Victorian gowns for her. She had to fly to Switzerland and I was given only four days to complete a job that would normally take 20, that too with four workers helping me. But I had no choice and so employed 20 workers. We worked night and day and completed the elaborate gowns. The worst part was we couldn’t do any fittings since she was already in Switzerland! I had to rely on my instincts and skills to complete the task.

Kajal looks good in the simplest of attires like a classic t-shirt and jeans. She doesn’t like anything heavy and prefers flowery prints, mulls, cotton, chiffon and Georgettes. She neither likes heavy or thick fabric nor sequins, glitter or shiny clothes.

ALLU ARJUN:

He’s very special to me. I became a stylist and found my vocation in life because of him. I have worked with him on eight films.

He is a stylist’s dream. He commits wholeheartedly to the project and never compromises. For him, the look of the character matters more than comfort. If it looks good onscreen, then he will wear it, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him. For example, he will consent to wearing woolen clothes even in peak summer if the role demands it. He doesn’t complain.

He accompanied me on many shopping trips to Hong Kong and its night street markets for his look in Idharu Ammaila Tho, in which he played a street singer from Spain. We brought back two trunks full of junk jewelley – rings, chains, bracelets, neck pieces, waist chains and brooches since the look involved lots of detailing. He wore 90 of the 100 costumes we bought, and 50 pairs of shoes. We had shopped at Bangkok and China and ordered items from Korea as well. He is totally hands-on and takes a week to try on all the costumes, shoes and accessories. He takes photos and then chooses the best looks from an album. There are times he has tried on over 30 costumes in a day. He’s extremely patient and gives me valuable inputs. He never tires of telling people that I am the best stylist he’s worked with. He’s my dearest friend.

SAMANTHA:

I worked with her in Ramaiyya Vastavaiyya and Atharintiki  Dharedi. We clicked from the word ‘go’. She’s very down-to-earth and sweet. She has a fascination for handlooms and loves cottons, ikats and anything non-synthetic.

I had to dress her in western wear, for which she did more than 40 costume changes per movie. She was patient during the trials and gave me a full day each time, trying on all the clothes, taking photos and then deciding the right look.

She does justice to whatever she wears. She likes to avoid bright, neon colours and prefers subtle pastel shades and rich, deep colours. Beige and maroon are among her favourites.  She’s a dream to work with because monochrome or printed – anything she wears suits her. She makes the costumes look fabulous. Few people are like that.

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