story by Sophie Milano

photos by Cupcake Productions

Weddings have always been an obsession. The location, the dress, makeup, hair, the cake, decorations – everything has to be on point when two people madly in love say YES to each other. Some of us prefer sitting in the audience and bawling quietly, while others take things way more seriously and make a living by being an image consultant. Jute Magazine talked to the one and only Meha Bhargava, who was ready to share everything about her (Indian) wedding business.

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What sparked your initial interest in image consultancy?

MB: Image Consultant, as the name suggests, is about managing your image – dressing, grooming, body language and communication skills. When you are confident that you can master the art of these four elements of image and can take it further to the masses, you can successfully master the art of Image Management and Consulting.

My journey to be an Image Management Consultant came across through my curiosity of taking my specialization in fashion styling to the masses. Gone were the days that looking good or feeling good in one’s own skin was disregarded. I felt that looking good in any shape and size did not come with gym memberships or spending the bucks on a dietitian. Similarly, the growing slack of proper and effective work wear also had my attention. With addressing both my concerns came this glorious field where I could educate myself and then try and make a difference in the lives of others.

You founded your company Styl. Inc in 2012. What have been the challenges and highs for you?

MB: Image Consulting was a very new field when I started in roughly August 2012. It’s parallel to Fashion Styling and its various elements in grooming a person physically and mentally struck a chord with me; I knew it was my calling. Following my rigorous training, I decided to establish my own company. Initially, it was a bit of a struggle educating the masses on what we actually did, but slowly the market has warmed up to us. We now help people from all walks of life, giving them a sense of confidence in the way they dress and in return how they feel, act and how others react to them. Similarly, with Wedding Styling, our new vertical is at a nascent stage, but we are making this concept known and helping brides and grooms style and dress themselves and their bridal parties better for their big day.

How would you describe your own style?

MB: Style for me is comfort with an edge. I am someone who battles with weight, so my style revolves around the extra pounds I might have gained or lost! That being said, the guard is never down. Being a self-proclaimed shoe-aholic, I tend to focus on my feet and never have a “shoe-oops” moment once I have a comfortable outfit on.

What inspired you to move into wedding styling in particular?

MB: India is a diverse land for brides of different cultures and traditions. The freethinking and open-ness to experimenting on a wedding day is a world in and of itself; brides are not scared to take their special day to another creative level and for me that was a world I wanted to delve right into. With our expertise in image and personal shopping we knew we wanted to add a vertical with weddings, as they do not fail to seize whether it is here in India or anywhere in the world. Once hired, our brides trust us blindly. Styling the bride, groom and their families for the countless ceremonies is a blast; we get to play with a variety of themes, colors, venues and more.

How do you adopt the image consultancy skills and put them to wedding styling?

MB: With a plethora of information and each bride one-upping the other, we tend to forget who we really are. Would an off the shoulder blouse, no matter how trendy it might be, look good on me, or that red that everyone keeps insisting on, might not be the color best suited for me.

This is when we step in with our armours to protect our client: analysing body shape, understanding personal colorations and of course, personal style, etc. While shopping, we never let go of these thoughts and make sure you pick up that wedding outfit and the other outfits with no iota of doubt in your mind.

Is there a specific area of interest you focus on when working with brides?

MB:  My brides and I work on a very personal level. We work on the wedding outfit, outfits for the various bridal ceremonies and the trousseau. Once outfits are selected, we work on accessories and jewelry. In a nutshell, we focus on the entire wedding wardrobe. We also offer a service in which we manage the wedding vendors brides hire. For example, makeup artist or photographer, solely because we would like the outcome of both our hard works to shine.

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Are there any other stylists you draw inspiration from/aspire to work with?

MB: My brides are my inspiration. Honestly my inspiration or imagination runs wild after our first meetings virtually or face-to-face.  Also, without our Indian-inspired designers across the globe we wouldn’t be able to achieve what we can with our bridal families.

With the recent engagement of Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, focus will be on the ceremony. What, if any, challenges could arise while combining each of their respective backgrounds?

MB: In today’s time we are seeing a lot of cross-cultural weddings and they tend to be quite a spectacle with each side trying to understand their bride and grooms’ respective customs and culture. It’s always interesting to see how couples merge their traditions and yet stay true to their own. For Priyanka and Nick’s wedding, I presume the Chopra/Jonas nuptials will be a mash up of east meets west. If they go the route of an all-out Indian wedding, I foresee a lot of ceremonies and extravaganza.

Indian weddings are all about color! Traditional color is red for the bride, but are there any other colors you suggest for the bride that wants something a bit different that still adheres to the Indian culture?

MB: Red will be instrumental in Indian wedding for years to come. However, modern brides are shunning that notion and are choosing to experiment with the color wheel outside of red. As a tradition, Indian brides are not allowed to wear deep blues, blacks or whites, so barring those, the color wheel is your ocean. White being a no-no, we are experimenting with ivory with colored embroidery or gold work.

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Have you come across any rare or lesser thought of traditions/customs?

MB: A cross-cultural wedding always stands out. As far as any Indian tradition is concerned, all weddings have similar procedures and most brides and grooms stick to those processes.

What are some of your highlights regarding Indian weddings and do you have a favorite custom?

MB: An Indian wedding is like a carnival. It lasts 3 to 5 days, all building up anticipation to the next event or ceremony. There’s delicious food, socializing, dancing and of course, incredible vibrant attire. Personally, I do not have a favorite custom or tradition. With that said, extravagant or not, a wedding is a huge celebratory event in one’s life; you ought to enjoy every bit of it.

Having studied and worked around the world, how do you feel Indian weddings compare?

MB: I’ve seen and attended countless traditional and non-traditional Indian weddings. As a professional, I do feel that cross-cultural weddings are fun and interesting. It’s very unique to see two vividly different cultures combine in harmony at one ceremony of love. Now, when I say cross-cultural weddings, it could be a North Indian marrying a South Indian, or a Gujarati marrying an American. Regardless of their countries of origin, there is nothing like seeing the beautiful blend of cultures and families.

What advice would you give to brides planning their wedding?

MB: Be organized, be yourself and speak your mind; it is your wedding day. Try not to be a version of someone else’s idea of you as a bride. Don’t get overwhelmed with a heavy lehenga, if that is not who you are. Wearing sneakers to your wedding is not frowned upon anymore and neither is letting your hair loose with minimal makeup. The most important thing is to be oneself. Cheer on and be a BrideChilla!

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