Born and raised in a Christian protestant family in Jhansi, U.P., Anugrah Samuel Phillips always excelled at academics and “ruled almost all extra curricular activities straight out”, by his own admission. “Dancing, singing, acting, debates, elocutions – you name it, I’d won it! I've always been a performer – I love the stage – probably because everyone in my family was either a professor, teacher or a principal, so I had a lot of people to learn from. I was always inclined towards glamour and fashion though,” says the freelance stylist who’s worked on campaigns for Myntra, The Collective, Splash, Megamart and a slew of other brands.
Fashion always figured in the life plan from an early age, according to Anu. “Even as a child, I was always really picky about stuff. The only thing that could brighten up my day was shopping. I started designing clothes for myself and others at 14. I remember, after tuition classes I used to hunt down these tailors and shoe-makers in their little nooks – they’re the best, I’d discovered a bunch of them! I bought the materials and leather for the shoes from dingy little shops, then printed out reference pictures for them to recreate. I then sat with them for hours on end to direct them with design, structures and patterns. One question I heard a lot from them and always got me in splits was – “Kiske liye banwa rahe ho, ladka ya ladki?" (Translation: “Who are you making these for, a boy or a girl?”),” he recounts, laughing.
Which is another topic Anu has a strong opinion about: “I’ve always been extremely comfortable with my sexuality, and for me, fashion is extremely gender fluid – I think it’s also going to be the way trends go from here on.”
But coming from a small town made the big dream of becoming a stylist a far-fetched idea. “Most people in my hometown don’t really know there’s a vocation known as styling! So I moved to Bangalore, got a degree in Media Studies from Christ University and started working as a stylist post that. I’ve also acted in a number of short films and I recently played a tiny role in a feature film called ‘Candyflip’, made by a Bombay based crew. It should be out and screening at film festivals soon,” says Anu.
When it comes to fashion and taste, his sartorial sensibilities seem to have evolved over the years, as he puts it. “I like to fuse different tangents, contrasting aspects and various mentalities in my clothing. Life is too short to stick to basics! My personal style at the moment revolves around different themes – I dress like a rebel, a hipster, sometimes bohemian and there’s hints of chic, but my one rule is that less is more! As I said, fashion is gender fluid, so I don’t exactly cross-dress – I’ll wear the tiniest shorts but not skirts. It all depends on whether you think what you’re wearing suits you and if it makes you comfortable,” he explains. “Currently, I’m obsessed with jumpsuits, nudes and block-heeled boots. I also find print-on-print interesting.”
We’re always curious about what a typical day in the life of a stylist looks like, and Anu gives a pretty on-point description. “Sleepy if I’m not working, and really chaotic when I am. But it’s great meeting new, creative and interesting people on a regular basis – it teaches you so much about life and how everyone is so different yet so similar,” he peruses. The most satisfaction derived when on the job? “I love it the when the models understand the vibe of the outfit and kill it in front of the camera!,” he giggles.
But on a more serious note, the stylist is all for encouraging newcomers to explore the industry. “If you think you have a knack for clothes and you know how to make things look good, this is for you. Don’t take it lightly though, it’s not an easy job – it can get creatively exhausting and stressful,” he warns. “But it pays well – well, sometimes!,” he adds playfully.
“Fashion is something that can never go out of fashion. In the digital space, it’ll only grow leaps and bounds which we are seeing with the e-commerce boom,” he says. “Zapyle is a very interesting and new age concept, especially in India – it has great potential,” he signs off.
* Fave fashion film?
“The Devil Wears Prada, Sex And The City, Fashion, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Race.”
* Go-to outfit?
“Jumpsuits, boots and a jacket maybe.”
* Worst/funny tantrum thrown by a model on shoot?
“My models love me. I’ve never faced a tantrum, but I’ve been guilty of throwing some myself along with the models! (laughs) But I have seen a lot of models lose their patience during makeup and hair.”
* 3 things you never forget to carry in your styling kit?
“A pair of jeans, basic tube tops for girls, socks for boys and clips/clamps.”
* 3 sources of fashion inspiration?
“I observe people a lot, music and movies.”