Meet the actor-turned-designer whose sartorial choices have lately been the talk of the town. From draping a mundu to a red carpet event, to embellishing a lehenga with actual seeds of flowers, Poornima Indrajith believes in representing culture through fashion. We catch up with her to decode what went into styling three leading ladies for the international red carpet and more.
“What you wear is a part of your identity,” says Poornima. “This time, I got an opportunity to style three women who were going to represent Kerala to the world. I decided that the clothes that they wear should represent who they are and where they come from,” she adds.
Three Malayalam films that went to the international film festival this year, at both Toronto and Venice, had Poornima style the leading ladies. Two actresses: Nimisha Sajayan from Chola, Santhy Balachandran, lead actress from the movie Jallikattu, and the director of Moothon, Geetu Mohandas.
Nimisha Sajayan for Venice International Film Festival
The 22-year-old Malayalam actress graced the red carpet at Venice film festival with a weave of gold Mundum-Neriyathum, a native traditional saree from Kerala. Sporting a Mundu to an international red carpet, the look turned viral overnight and made headlines across the country.
“I knew Nimisha was very comfortable in Indian clothes. And when she came to me, she told me that her co-stars were going for a traditional look. I wanted to give a very contemporary look for her. I decided to do something very different,” reveals Poornima.
The traditional Mundum-Neriyathum was given a modern-day fashionable tweak just by the way it was draped so differently. The pallu went around the waist and the lower saree was a straight-cut and not a flare. The saree was paired with a sheer power-shoulder blouse. Not to let the outfit overwhelm the frame of the young actress, Poornima decided to keep away from flowers, typical jhumkas, and gold accessories.
Geetu Mohandas for Toronto International Film Festival
Geetu Mohandas attended the Toronto Film Fest for the screening of her third film Moothon starring Nivin Pauly and Sobitha Dulipala. She wore a hand-embroidered, pearl-beaded and sequin-embellished saree with a handcrafted pearl-embedded blouse from Poornima’s brand Pranaah. “Her screening was a night event and her cast and crew who accompanied her on the red carpet were also dressed in tuxedos and flowy gowns,” recalls Poornima. The director looked graceful, dressy and powerful that evening with her off-white fully beaded saree.
Santhy Balachandran for Toronto International Film Festival
The female lead of the movie Jallikattu, sported an elegant Kerala traditional hand-woven lehenga from Pranaah’s latest collection. The garment was paired to perfection with handmade contemporary jewellery, and manjadikuru ear cuff that was made from the red seeds of the flower Manjari and 18 karats gold.
Styling the stars
“When it comes to styling or designing for celebrities I keep in mind that it involves public appearance. So comfort is the key.”
With an A-list of clientele that involves names such as Manju Warrier, Keerthi Suresh, Madonna Sebastian just to name a few, Prannah is one of Kerala’s beloved fashion labels. Since Poornima herself is no stranger to film industry, most of these stars who adorn her label look to her more as a friend than a designer. This helps her understand their needs better. Manju Warrier recently sported a saree from Prannah’s latest collection. “She is very confident and graceful as a person and I think she looks most beautiful in saree. My garments sit well with the aura she carries,” believes Poornima.
On their latest collection
Prannah is a contemporary brand that caters to occasional and bridal wear. Every Onam, it launches a new collection that encompasses the essence of Kerala. Their latest collection titled “Chethi Manjadi” uses the actual seeds of the Chethi flowers (Jungle Geranium) that are woven into the saree as embellishment. The concept is all about the Chethi flowers which have an immediate connect to the season of Onam and the monsoon. “A Kerala style saree has today become a staple in the bride’s wardrobe. But the same overpowering gold is a little too mainstream,” says the designer. So today, she incorporates different elements from the state to create a new meaning to the Kerala style.
Mission: Sustainability through conscious choice
“It’s that alarm that has already started ringing. It’s high time we realise the importance of conscious living.”
Poornima has an exclusive line in her store that intensively focuses only on the handloom. A vision of hers that has been in force for quite some time now is to promote traditional handlooms and artisans. “At that point of time, say 4 years back, it was very difficult for me to sell handloom sarees, because to people it was just generic, locally sourced garments. They did not understand the value of it,” she remembers. But that did not stop her from pressing on with her efforts. With a little tweak of traditional outfits and innovative designs and cuts, she also encourages the youth to interpret handlooms creatively. “I always like to push Indian handlooms to international platforms and celebrities,” she says. “If celebrities wear it, it becomes a trend. More people become aware of the trend and start experimenting,” she adds, on advocating responsible fashion.