A fashion entrepreneur who dons many hats, Oyindrila Ray Ghosh is an award winning fashion designer, stylist, creative director, influencer, marketer, and social media and branding expert. She is also a frequently featured columnist in India’s leading national dailies and a two time TEDx speaker.
A graduate of India’s premier fashion institute National Institute of Fashion Technology, Oyindrila is best known as India’s leading lingerie designer. With a decade’s experience working as a celebrity, advertising and personal stylist, Oyindrila has styled A-list Bollywood actresses, ads for some of the world’s biggest retail brands and India’s top entrepreneurs and CEOs. In an exclusive interview with The Legitimate, she talks to Rameez Makhdoomi.
Let us know about you?
I grew up in a typical middle class Indian family. My parents moved to Delhi from Bengal, in the 1980s with nothing to their name, not knowing anyone, not speaking the language and from a vastly different socio- economic and cultural background. All of which exposed them to severe hardships on both the professional and personal front.
Because of these experiences, all their energy and resources were pooled together to ensure that their child should not be in the same spot as them and should be able to create and utilise all opportunities at her doorstop. Language, education, socio-economic background should not be a hindrance for me to achieve my dreams and goals. And for my parents, the means to ensure that was education. I have seen them make massive sacrifices so that I could have the best education, opportunities, options and exposure. They have really brought home the point that education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change your life and world.
What was academic life like?
I have always been a meritorious student in school with an excellent academic and an even better extracurricular record. I was mostly a 90 percent scorer and won accolades in dance, arts, theatre, debating at the inter-school, state and national level. I was awarded the Junior Science Talent Search Scholarship by the Directorate of Education, Delhi and the Cultural Talent Search Scholarship by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India for excellence in the field of Bharatnatyam while in school. I was also offered admission into Delhi University through ECA because of my achievements in Dance
My good academic record and being an academically endowed student with Sciences in 11th and 12th was also a reason why a lot of people were shocked when I chose to pursue fashion, as it is wrongly perceived as a stream chosen by people with no better prospects (aka traditional routes like medicine or engineering). As a 17 year old I did have to fight quite a few regressive opinions to justify my career choice.
I had an excellent academic life as a fashion design student at NIFT. I had an All India Rank 2 in 2011 and 2012.Contrary to popular belief, NIFT demands rigorous hard work, with countless sleepless nights doing assignments and juggling multiple things at the same time. I moved to a different city at the polar opposite end of the country for college, which was an enriching experience that allowed me to expand my viewpoint and made me appreciate diversity in culture, ideas, mindset and become more adaptive.
Along with academics also working as a freelance journalist with The Times of India and freelance fashion stylist.
I was involved in heading city operations, at a youth led organisation aimed at bridging the gap between mainstream education and extracurricular activities to provide holistic development to students in low income group schools.
I also accidentally landed up modeling while at college and won many pageants like Chennai Times Miss Fresh Face, Cadbury Radio Mirchi Miss Fresher and IIT Madras Miss Saarang. My designs were awarded at national level competitions organised by leading brands like Enamor, Wills Lifestyle, Elle magazine, Max Fashion. It was through one such competition organised by Enamor, that the COO of the company liked my work and offered me a job on the spot. That’s how I got my first full time job as a lingerie designer at India’s premier lingerie brand, whilst in college.
And since then there has been no looking back.
Fashion stylist, how did that happen?
As a child I was quite drawn towards fashion, particularly the ability to use it to transform women’s confidence, personality and lives.
From an early age I would fill countless notebooks with sketches of women in different outfits, binged on trend reports and red carpet round ups in the fashion magazines I could access at the local library, and was glued to TV shows which transformed women’s life and gave them confidence through a fashion transformation. By the age of 14, I knew this was what I wanted to do- I wanted to elevate women’s confidence, personality and lives through the power of fashion.
As a high school student with limited access to information, and no one in the family even remotely associated with the fashion industry, the only way I knew of working in fashion was as a designer. I didn’t even know that there was a role of fashion stylist that existed back then. So in 10th grade I decided to pursue fashion design and secured a seat at India’s top fashion institute, National Institute of Fashion Technology. While I was at NIFT, I started modelling. While I was on these shoots, some of the photographers started approaching me to style their shoots as well seeing my fashion acumen. That is how I started styling. I would plan and do pre production work during the weekdays post college hours and shoot during the weekends. As time progressed and my work got noticed, I kept doing more projects. By the time I finished college, I had already styled fashion calendars, runway shows, editorials and ad campaigns.
Although my first full time job post college was for the role of a designer, I was heavily involved in styling the campaigns and lookbooks. I also kept getting offered styling jobs alongside. Eventually when I decided to quit my full time design role and start my own venture, I already had a vast body of work in styling.
What draws and keeps me in styling is the ability to work with people from different walks of life- actors, entrepreneurs, CEOs, brides, new moms and transform not only their wardrobes, style and image but also their personality, confidence, lives through my work.
Your current projects?
I am a fashion designer, stylist, columnist, model, influencer, marketer, social media and branding expert.
As a fashion designer I work with brands to create beautiful garments that meet the aspirations and goals of our clients. As a celebrity and fashion stylist, I style with celebrities, individual clients like entrepreneurs, CEOs and brides to create looks that best represent them. My current celebrity clients include Bollywood and Tollywood actors and actresses. I also continue to work with brands on their ads as a stylist, influencer and a model.
I have always been extremely passionate about fashion marketing, brand management, PR and social media. My current role as the Creative Head at Krate, India’s first men’s clothing subscription box and Kuddle, India’s premier wholesome parenting app, has been a step towards delving deeper into my passion for marketing and branding and helping create iconic and impactful 21st century Indian brands.
When I started I knew no one in the fashion industry.I had no one in my family who had worked in fashion, neither did I have any connections because of which sometimes one can be going around in circles without making any progress. It could take months to understand just who to approach for work, who is the right decision maker and the ropes of the trade. I wish to provide the future generation of fashion professionals guidance and support to navigate this exciting yet complex industry. I want to be the guiding shoulder that I wish I had when charting my journey in the fashion industry.
I also love working with clients like celebrities, entrepreneurs and individuals and helping them transform their confidence, personality and life with the power of fashion. I absolutely love the impact that you can create in someone’s life with fashion and I wish to continue to do so on a much larger scale.
There are so many. There is so much to learn from everyone.
The first person that comes to my mind is my father. I didn’t grow up with much. Despite that, one of the biggest lessons that I learnt from my father was that of kindness, compassion, empathy and being charitable. Once he went to buy fish for us. At the same shop was another man, who didn’t have the means to buy any fish but wanted some for himself and his family and asked the shopkeeper to give him discarded pieces that were considered inedible and waste. My father, who has himself grown up in a poor household, could empathise with this man’s situation and asked the shopkeeper to give some pieces to the man from our purchase, which was barely enough for us to begin with. While my father never explicitly said anything about this to me, his actions spoke a million words. It was a lesson for me in being kind, compassionate, empathic and the need to give back to the ones in need wherever and whenever you can.
I also really admire Oprah Winfrey. Despite all odds being stacked up against her, with a challenging childhood and initial setbacks, she rose up to become a successful woman with a media empire and charitable work that touches the lives of many.
Favourite fashion personalities?
Tom Ford. I have been a devout fan of Tom Ford and his work for nearly two decades.
With no background in fashion, just sheer determination, he scaled the heights of the fashion industry which most only dream of. He was responsible for overturning the nearly bankrupt Gucci, into a brand worth billions with his creative direction and marketing prowess.
At the height of his career he left an established brand like Gucci to chase his passion of making films and starting his own now incredibly successful luxury label, a feat considered nearly impossible, given luxury brands and their synonymy with heritage spanning several decades.
Tom Ford taught me 2 very important lessons in the fashion business and life- that your degree or background shouldn’t stop you from achieving your goals, sometimes all you need is passion, determination, zeal and hard work. And don’t let anyone intimidate you with fancy jargon and charts while venturing into new territory. Most skills, like marketing, predominantly require the use of only a little common sense.
You live only once so make the most of it. Do things that you are passionate about and spark joy. Dream big, chase your dreams, fight for your dreams, and make your dreams your reality. Take chances, take the road not taken, make mistakes, and stand up for what you believe in. Give back, build not only things but lives and don’t forget to enjoy every moment of the journey. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it in the end.
You have only one life, live it to the fullest.