Shop Talk: Suhani Pittie
Shopping is an art. While some love the process, it can be a real chore for others. For a lot of women it’s a social experience, and for some, it’s a very personal one. Regardless of how one shops, though, personal style can never be identical for two people. The way they shop, the way they style their purchases, how they decide what they need, how they store them… these are the kind of questions we often have when we think about some of the most fashionable people in the industry.
And that’s why we’ve launched the column SHOP TALK, where we identify industry influencers with a unique sense of style and ask them to spill the beans on how they think about their personal style, where they shop, what they splurge on, and their fashion weaknesses and confessions!
Suhani Pittie’s jewellery is the stuff celebrities swear by. And that’s no surprise given how pretty her creations are (#HauteLoves). From chokers and necklaces to earrings and cuffs, Suhani’s jewellery is versatile — take it effortlessly from work to the bar to a traditional gathering. Plus, it’s all very accessible and wearable by the real Indian woman. What’s not to love? Today, we turn the tables and shine the spotlight on this ace designer. The Hyderabad-based creator tells us all about her favourite shopping haunts, her innate love for all things vintage, and how her size hasn’t changed in years (jelly).
How would you describe your personal style?
Style to me is a state of mind. It’s what you are feeling at that moment. And I’m emotionally very attached to my work. So my collections also dominate my dressing mood. Currently I’m in an extremely focused space, so it’s all about clean, neat and crisp — a lot of Indian mixed with crisp high-street staples. This is after adventuring into the anti-fit, bohemian and grunge space!
Tell us about your earliest fashion memory. Who was your style inspiration growing up?
Growing up, fashion was never on my mind. I was always a soccer player. Vests, shorts, sneakers, and two plaits, and I was out of the house. For me, the only person who was synonymous with the word ‘fashion’ at the time was Madonna, because she just looked different in every MTV video!
How did your choice of work inform and influence your style in the early years? And now?
My first business was a Bollywood dance class at the age of 14, and it ran parallel to my soccer obsession. So it was always about shorts and the one pleated short skirt I owned back then. The second business, however, was a Gemology training school. I was 19. My youngest student was 15 and the oldest was 83. I also conducted training sessions for jewellery firms all across the country. Needless to say, I had to look all commanding and grown-up. So it was well-tailored pants and formal shirts, and that phase continued for a while. After that, there was a bit of Madonna obsession for a year and then, I realised my love for old Indian textiles and fabrics, and that was it.
Thrifting and vintage shopping — is this something you do a lot of? What are some of your favourite vintage haunts and tips for finding things you like?
I’m a bit impulsive but I don’t buy a lot of stuff. I have my loves and phases. Like last year, it was boots. The year before that it was only jackets. But I like vintage over modern, or something that’s a one-off from the Charminar bylane in Hyderabad. I don’t follow trends and I think my love for all things old has instilled that in me. I have textiles, saris, and lehengas, which are over 300 years old and I wear them with vests, boots, and jackets. And I love accessories. My only tip is to buy what you love, not what’s trending.
Tell us about some favourite thrifted/vintage pieces you’ve found over the years.
Over the years, I’ve collected quite a few things. Recently, though, I got an old Pichwai piece that’s too beautiful to convert into anything, so I’m just framing it. Also, there’s one old Tanchoi fabric that I converted into a long jacket. I also collect brooches and watches.
Do you do a lot of thrift/vintage shopping online?
No. Vintage for me is the musty smell of the item. The conversation with the seller. I can’t buy these online except for the one time I bought an extremely old HMT watch — I collect old watches and have over 70 of them.
Suahni’s Vintage HMT Watch
Do you like shopping to be a social thing with friends or is it something you like to do alone?
I prefer shopping alone because I’m very fast — unless, of course, you leave me in an old wares shop, where I get all doe-eyed. With friends, I love shopping for them!
What are your favourite online shopping stores?
Shopping online is pretty easy for me since I’m very clear about what I like (although, lately I’ve been trying out new things like wearing pink!) and I’ve been one size for as long as I can remember. I love shoes and I’m a bit embarrassed about how many I have. Generally, I just type ‘golden boots’ oor ‘mad printed peacock jacket’ on Google and see where it takes me. To tell you the truth, my biggest online splurges are on books.
Suhani’s Golden Boots
How do you go about shopping online? Do you look for specific things by brand or trend?
Like I said, I just type what I’m looking for on Google — ‘old watch with denim strap’ or ‘neoprene knapsack’ — and if I like something, I’m done in 2 minutes, unless it’s books. With books, one thing leads to another, and the next thing I know, I have 30 in my cart. I’m an avid reader.
Which are your favourite high street brands?
Zara and Forever 21. You can find both staples as well as a few offbeat, oddball pieces. But I always prefer the unnamed stores in unknown bylanes. Chances are they have cooler things.
Do you like shopping for them online or in store?
I buy my Mango basics online because my size hasn’t changed in years, and it’s a lovely, clean, easy-to-shop site.
What are the particular items of clothing you prefer to invest in?
Jackets from anywhere. I think they are the most underrated clothing item. There are times when I wear identical looks to the office for months, only changing up my jacket. I usually wear classics but now I’m also experimenting. So I’m trying metallics, bright colours, and prints. Even with designer brands, jackets are the first thing I look for.
If you look inside your closet, what are the items you have the most of?
Jackets of all sorts, shoes — from simple to mad — because I think shoes can really change your mood. There are also white shirts and a lot of jewellery. And I’m currently obsessing over bindis.
How often do you shop?
Maybe once in two months or so, unless I’m in a mall and it’s impulse.
The thrill of the hunt — is that something you enjoy or are you the sort of person who knows exactly what you want and where to get it from?
For anything vintage, I’d go to any length to hunt out something that will cause my heart to flutter. Otherwise, it’s 15 minutes and I’m out!
Do you set a budget for yourself for shopping each month?
I don’t shop often and I’m not brand-conscious. If I like it, if it’s speaking to me, and if I can afford it, I’ll get it.
Do you have any default outfits — pieces you keep going back to over and over again?
There’s this 200-year-old silver grey lehenga I have that I must have worn over 500 times in 500 different permutations and combinations. I have not seen anything like that ever. Or this vest from Abraham & Thakore that I’ve had for 14 years now.
Are you a high heels or flats kinda woman?
High heels, sneakers, and boots. And I love white Bata sneakers.
Pants or skirts?
Both. Equally. And from Zara, as they fit me the best.
What is the size of your closet? And how do you store expensive items like sarees, evening dresses, etc?
I have 2 closets for clothes, out of which 1 is for jackets, half for bags, 2 for my accessories, and 2 for shoes. My special items, which are 90:10 vintage to new, are all mull-wrapped, labelled, and stored in trunks.
Do you plan your fashion week wardrobe/outfits? What is your thought process when selecting outfits?
No, I don’t pre-plan. I just find the most comfortable pair of sneakers or flat boots, and pick whatever works with them. I just carry 4-5 things that I’m loving at that moment, and go along with it.
Sanjay Garg Sherwani Jacket (Photo: Viral Bhayani)
Do you tend to wear a lot of Indian designer brands?
There are quite a few I like — they have such strong voices of their own. Love Birds, Sanjay Garg, Rahul Mishra, Bodice, Pankaj & Nidhi, to name a few.
Do you get things tailored to fit or prefer to buy off the racks? Who do you go to for getting things fitted to your measurements?
I wear a lot of sherwanis, even on a regular day, with a churidar or denims. For this, the masterji at Raymond is my go-to man. For other things like pants etc., I buy off the rack. My Indian wear is generally always vintage that’s been modified and remade.
How do you plan your daily outfits? Is there a method to the madness?
I start with the jewellery I want to wear for the day, find the shoes to go with it, then I pick out the clothes in 2 minutes, and I’m out of the house in a jiffy. I step out of my house in my heels, then slip on a pair of comfortable shoes while driving, and then get back into my heels once I reach office.
What was your most recent purchase?
I just bought a Kashmiri shawl from a gentleman who has been visiting my house for years now, and a Phulkari skirt from a trader.