The Enchanted Life of Sonam Kapoor

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The movie star and fashion icon enjoys couture shows and rooting around in vintage stores, and is building what sounds like an enviable collection of jewellery and art. She talks to Sandipan Dalal about a childhood spent around personal style icons and the experiences that have defined her tastes. Photographs by Jatin Kampani

The two individuals perhaps most responsible for introducing Sonam Kapoor, 28, to a world of luxury during her childhood days were mum Sunita Kapoor and aunt Kavita Singh. The former is an entrepreneur and luxury jewellery designer who has been collecting antique clothes and real gold zari for her daughters, over two decades. The latter is an interior designer and art curator, who is well known for her amalgamation of traditional Indian design with contemporary European home decor items and recently launched her first design and art store in Mumbai. “I have been hugely influenced by my mum and her family’s sense of aesthetics. Growing up, I have worn some of the antique clothes that my mum collected—and I credit her for my love of vintage luxury,” Sonam tells Femina from Nashik where she has been taping for Abhishek Dogra’s Dolly Ki Doli with Rajkumar Rao, Arbaaz Khan and Pulkit Samrat. When she is not collecting art for her den, she invests her time and money in traditional Indian jewellery. The fashion princess and tastemaker talks about her favourite couture designers, shopping at luxury vintage stores, most memorable holidays and what’s most precious to her today. Edited excerpts from our conversation:

What does luxury mean to you today?
In fashion, luxury is anything of good quality, cut and shape that makes me feel like I’m on top of the world. It doesn’t necessarily have to be embellished or OTT. It has to be beautifully made and have the best quality. It can be reflected in anything from the simplest of bed sheets to gourmet food.

What are your earliest memories of appreciating luxury?
I have seen my mother collect old antique and real zari outfits for Rhea and me for as long as I can remember. These garments gave us a sense of the decadent lifestyle people knew in that era. The zari was spun out of real gold and silver, and every outfit was handmade with tremendous attention to detail and care. You can see the incredible craftsmanship when you look at these pieces, which is a rarity these days because everything is machine-made. I have fond memories of wearing some of these outfits that mum had collected for us. She also bought outfits for us from Anuradha Vakil who uses real zari in her clothes. My first expensive buy, however, was a gold sequinned, embroidered angrakha from Abu-Sandeep, which I had worn to the music release of Saawariya [in 2007]. It will always be a special outfit because it was the first time I wore a designer garment publicly. If I remember correctly, I took less than 10 minutes to decide on the outfit. I have worn it three- four times after that already.

What was your one big purchase after you received your first pay cheque?
I bought a painting of a woman’s face by Manjit Bawa. It’s currently in my den.

Were you a fashion novice then?
I have always appreciated nice things. My sister and I have been hugely influenced by our mother’s fine tastes. My maasi Kavita Singh has also had a keen eye for luxury. My mum’s side of the family has always had a strong sense of aesthetics evident in everything, from the flowers they picked for the house to the clothes they wore.

Your wardrobe boasts of all the luxury brands under the sun. How do you use them to enhance your personal style?
I must say I’m not as meticulous as I may seem to be. I pick outfits I feel like wearing at that moment. To elaborate on that, in a way I’m purely an actor. Every day I feel like a different character—and I tend to dress up to that effect.

What are the designer labels every woman should have in her closet?
Definitely look at Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs and Jeremy Scott for Moschino. From the Indian designers, I feel Abu-Sandeep, Anamika Khanna, Anuradha Vakil and Rohit Bal are the designers to grab.

What was your last big purchase?
I bought pieces from spring-summer Christian Dior and spring-summer Azzedine Alaïa. I buy a lot of Anamika Khanna and Anuradha Vakil clothes. I’d like to start collecting more pieces from Abu-Sandeep and Azzedine Alaïa.

Do you ever get torn between high street and designer togs when you are not making a public appearance?
I don’t take the label too seriously. Sometimes high street brands make the most amazing clothes—and sometimes they even last longer.

You also collect vintage luxury pieces. How did that interest develop?
I credit my love for vintage to my mother who always collected antique clothes. I was in college in Singapore and my sister was studying in New York, and back then we couldn’t afford to buy new luxury items. So, we started buying museum pieces. These pieces have a nice history to them, and have different textures altogether, which is beautiful. Resurrection in Los Angeles, Frock in New York and William Vintage in London are my favourite vintage stores.

You have attended couture shows at fashion weeks in Paris, Milan and London. What has been the most memorable show?
Jean Paul Gaultier’s show in Paris [in January 2012] is the most beautiful show I have attended in my life. Soon after I attended Elie Saab’s show and that was a spectacular show as well. You are set to stage an appearance at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in May. What is uppermost on your mind when you dress for the red carpet? I have to be comfortable when I sit in it at a film screening [laughs]. But what matters the most is I have to feel good in it. Once that is achieved, I make sure I look tall and elegant. I’m going to wear a mix of Indian and international designers this year, too.

Your love for French designers is well known. Have you started going through catalogues and sample pieces already? Is it a lot of hard work to pull off these outfits at the festival?
Not really because I have been primarily filming Dolly Ki Doli in Nashik. However, I’m working out twice a day with my personal trainer Radhika Karle and following a special diet [see box]. I have to lose a wee bit of weight so that I can fit into a French size 36 and an Italian size 38 at Cannes.

Have you walked away from a fashion show with a luxury item?
I’m not an impulse buyer. I wear almost everything I buy, so it takes a little more than just a glance of it on the runway for me to purchase it. What was your first luxury holiday? We used to go to Switzerland every year till I was about 15. I have been to every part of Switzerland, but never learnt how to ski. My mum was very paranoid about us hurting ourselves. So even though we lived in these beautiful ski hotels and chalets we were not allowed to ski [laughs].

And where have you visited recently?
I brought in my 28th birthday with a champagne dinner at Four Seasons Hotel George V last year. It was the best birthday ever! My sister Rhea and my closest friends Samyukta Nair, Shehlaa Khan and Pernia Qureshi were with me.

Do you like to gift luxury holidays to your family and friends?
I recently gifted my mum a stay at Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad on her birthday. However, she couldn’t make it, as she was in Dubai with my father who was taping for Welcome Back. So, it looks like I’m going end up using the package as soon as I get some free time [laughs].

HOW SONAM PREPARED FOR HER CANNES APPEARANCE

Just days ahead of Sonam Kapoor’s appearance at the 67th Cannes Film festival, her personal trainer Radhika Karle shares the actor’s exercise regimen and her “clean Cannes” diet.

WORKOUT

Sonam combined 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercises or Pilates three times a week in the morning with hour-long heavy weight training, for three to four times a week in the evening. “She just needed to tone up her body. So we tried to up her muscle mass, which improves shape, endurance and strength she needs for her hectic schedule at the Cannes Film Festival,” says Radhika. Closer to the festival, Sonam started swimming three to four times a week.

DIET

The key to her diet is eating every two hours so that her energy levels are high through the day, that includes fruits and water upon waking up and Whey protein shake post workout twice a day.

Breakfast is dosa or upma or poha or 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk omelette with sauteed broccoli, spinach and mushroom with a multigrain toast.

Two hours later, she snacks on watermelon and pomegranate.
Lunch is large portion of vegetable steamed, grilled or stir-fried, 100 gms of chicken or fish, and yoghurt.

Two hours later, she eats melon and apple.

Evening snack is quinoa salad or poha with vegetables. Dinner is clear vegetable or spinach or mushroom soup, grilled vegetables and tandoori chicken.

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