Designers / Industry

How I Got Here: Manish Malhotra on Film, Fashion, and Jewelry as Statement


India’s foremost couture designer Manish Malhotra (pictured) has a résumé that spans multiple industries, including film, fashion, beauty, and, most recently, jewelry. As an entrepreneur, Malhotra possesses influence in Hollywood, Bollywood, New York, and beyond.

But his prolific career of more than three decades started in Mumbai, where Malhotra says he was heavily influenced by Indian films: the songs, the colors, the costumes, the actors, and the storytelling. He noticed every detail, soaking in the images, people, and performances.

“I made it a point to watch any movie that was released every Friday. Sometimes, I would watch three in one day,” Malhotra says.

Manish Malhotra jewelry
Adding extravagance and a sense of luxury to any outfit, jewelry is the finishing touch on the kind of mood and attitude Manish Malhotra says he wants to create through his fashion (price on request).

That fascination turned into something more when Malhotra was in the 10th grade. That is when his older brother enrolled him in an art class, and his love for sketching began.

“From watching films, sketching, being surrounded by my mother’s clothing, re-creating her saris, and being strongly opinionated about my family’s sartorial choices, my love for fashion, styling, and cinema grew,” Malhotra says.

His first foray from paper into the fashion world came as a model, something he did while studying arts at Elphinstone College in Mumbai. He did campaigns for brands including Fu’s, Weekender, Frooti, and Goldspot.

“With the money I made, I started traveling, [and] I was exposed to the world and saw how fashion was so different in different places. That inspired me to follow my passion further, and I knew then that I wanted to do something in fashion,” Malhotra says.

Later, he took a job in a boutique that paid little but turned out to be another key moment in his creative career.

Manish Malhotra necklace
In this Manish Malhotra necklace, each stone is specially selected to add the perfect touch of drama (price on request).

“I loved it because I was surrounded by clothes and would hone my skills by sketching different outfits and styling the mannequins,” Malhotra says. “At first, my mother didn’t approve, but, later, when my parents observed my passion for design, they accepted my career choices.”

His design career took off in 1990 when he designed costumes for Swarg, which became one of the highest grossing films that year. Malhotra’s work gained attention because of how well he designed for individual characters, like he did in the 1993 film Gumrah. By 1996, he had earned his first costume design award for his work on the film Rangeela.

From there, Malhotra started doing store design, and, later in 2004, he launched his own label, Manish Malhotra. His first flagship store in Dubai introduced people to his exquisite attention to how clothing fit, its minute details, and his styling. Two years later, he opened his second location in Mumbai, a true homecoming. A couture store followed in 2013 in Delhi.

Malhotra started working in menswear around this time, launching collaborations, and, in 2018, his own makeup line. The next natural step? Fine and high jewelry with Manish Malhotra Jewellery. He focused on time-honored stones, including emeralds, tanzanite, diamonds, and more.

“Jewelry has always been integral to creating a completed look,” Malhotra says. “The journey has been great and the responses even better.”

Manish Malhotra diamonds
Fashion isn’t just about what you wear, says Malhotra, it’s about the energy you exude, something he learned when he first got started in making film costumes (price on request).

From heritage to contemporary, he says every stone narrates its own story.

“For some, jewelry is a form of art for self-expression, and some are a symbol of status. Then, some wear jewelry as a representation of their tradition and culture,” Malhotra says. “For me, jewelry goes beyond ornamentation. It is an essential part of my integrated look.”

Despite a life filled with success, Malhotra says he never forgets his home, his culture, and how important artists are to making this world more beautiful.

“Our constant quest is to promote the artisans of India through every possible business I venture into, whether it’s couture, jewelry, or movies,” Malhotra says. “We [connected] with the Mijwan Welfare Society a decade ago for the women of the region to find a sense of purpose, a reason to wake up every day and have a stable employment opportunity that pays far more than minimum wage. Over the years, the number multiplied, and the community grew.

“The vigor, drive, and enthusiasm these artisans bring to the center daily is a testament to the fact that women in India and anywhere only need a small window of opportunity to show the world the magic they can create,” Malhotra says. “These artisans are the breadwinners of their families now while they fulfill wishes of their own.”

Top: Manish Malhotra turned a youthful love of fashion and film into a wide-ranging career that has made him an influencer and a celebrity in his own right. He recently began making fine jewelry as well to complement his apparel and accessories (photos courtesy of Manish Malhotra). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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