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My Fashion Choices: Art collector Shalini Passi on style as self-expression

‘My Fashion Choices’ is Lifestyle Asia India’s new property which aims to look at style from the lens of people who have a distinct sensibility. Through these interviews, we will seek to understand how the country’s style-setters navigate the world of fashion, how they decide to buy what they buy, the reasons behind it, and their best investments. These conversations with people, who think of fashion as a form of expression, and not fashion for fashion’s sake, will also traverse the narratives of sustainability and eco-consciousness, both buzzwords right now. For the first in this series, we speak to art collector Shalini Passi.

Shalini Passi is a name that needs no introduction in India’s art circles. Founder of the digital platform MASH, which engages with and promotes works of artists, Passi is a patron of the Kochi Muziris Biennale, an artist and also an art collector (her collection includes names like Anita Dube, Bharti Kher, Atul Dodiya, Jeff Koons, and Damien Hirst). Though art isn’t her only love. A style maven, Passi regularly melds art and style in statement-making ensembles and looks. Here’s looking at her fashion choices.

Shalini Passi

How would you describe your approach to fashion and style?

It is a mix of classic and contemporary. I like wearing a lot of vintage jewellery and traditional Indian clothes as well. Depending upon my mood, I like to mix and match various accessories from different brands.

How has this idea evolved over time?

Fashion is about expressing myself. I wear clothes that make me feel like myself and my moods dictate my fashion choices. I am most comfortable when I am dressed the way I want to dress, rather than the way I am expected to dress.

What sort of aesthetic do you bend towards?

I am not a minimalist — I bend towards maximalism. I like to accessorise, and I believe that with the right balance, you can wear beautiful costume jewellery or a statement piece with a powerful outfit. It is more about how you carry yourself.

3 style rules that have worked for you?

  1. Know your body type because your clothes should enhance you. You should wear your clothes, not the other way around.
  2. I don’t follow trends. For me style is deeply personal — it is all about me and not about anybody else.
  3. Always try to reinvent your looks, irrespective of whether you prefer traditional or western clothes.

Shalini Passi

Whose style are you most influenced by and why?

I have many style icons. At a very young age, I was most enamoured by Gayatri Devi and Audrey Hepburn. I am also influenced by Grace Kelly, Diane von Furstenberg. My mother, grandmother, and aunts have also inspired my style. My inspiration for style or how I drape a sari also comes from paintings that I love.

Brands you know you can depend upon (both Indian and international) and why you love them.

Gaurav Gupta, Manish Malhotra, Rohit Bal, Nikhil Thampi, Pallavi Jaikishan, Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna, and Shantanu Nikhil. I love them because each one of them has a different look and a lot of these are my friends who have made custom creations for me. Their fit, cuts, and embroideries are absolutely stunning. International brands that I like are Lanvin and Balmain, and Zimmerman for a more casual look.

Stores and e-commerce sites that you shop from?

Net-a-Porter, Harrods, and Selfridges.

Favourite pieces from your wardrobe?

My saris are my favourite pieces because I drape them differently. I have saris which belonged to my mother and grandmother. I love wearing them and over the years I have been accessorising them with belts, or wear them with boots.

Do you think fashion and style play an important role in today’s world?

Absolutely. I think style is everything, and of course, fashion is a huge player as it is a huge industry. Fashion is not just about how someone looks — it provides so many people with jobs. Recently, we have seen a revival of traditional textiles and embroideries, which has given many artisans a new lease of life. Also, fashion designers are using their platform to promote sustainability and other issues that are important for us to be more environmentally conscious. I really liked Stella McCartney’s collaboration with Ed Ruscha to promote cruelty-free fashion.

When it comes to fashion choices, is there something that you are looking to change or develop over time?

When I order my clothes, I keep them for a while. I also invest in customising my clothes even if I buy them off the shelf. I like to keep reinventing. I am pretty happy with my choices and with what I buy and introduce into my style.

All images: Saisha Gupta 

My Fashion Choices: Art collector Shalini Passi on style as self-expression

Preetika Mathew


Mathew has been a part of the luxury industry for over a decade now, writing on arts & culture, style, and watches for some of the leading publications in the country. When not working, she spends time tracking counter-culture trends.


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