Having been India’s second Mills and Boon writer and a journalist for fourteen years now, Aastha Atray Banan’s relentless optimism and sheer grace will leave you hooked and so will her chic-bohemian sense of style.
To Aastha, writing comes naturally and her effortless yet experimental dressing rituals are no exception. Trends, she says, should not be the factor on the basis of which one picks a certain piece of clothing, but what suits their body type should. From religiously buying ethnic attires at Fab India, successfully and unsuccessfully experimenting with vivid hair do’s, to sticking to a particular set of brands today – over the years, Aastha’s style has evolved and manifested itself to a point where it has become an epitome of sorts, an epitome of homeliness, unconventional femininity clubbed with a rather large pocketful of body confidence. In conversation with WM, Aastha talks about comfort and pride in one’s own skin and her debut single ‘Pretty Boy’ which is faring beautifully, both online and off:
WM: Can you walk us through your career journey? What led you into the journalism and publishing world?
AA: I have always wanted to write and I have been doing so since I was in school. I used to write stories similar to Enid Blyton’s then. As I moved to college, my stories started being more about love and bad boyfriends (giggles). Later, I joined Asian Age which was my first editing job. But my first writing job was with ELLE magazine. My journalism career took off from there and there was no looking back. As I was turning 30, my mind started telling me that I must write a book. Mills and Boon was having a contest at that time for which I sent in my short story and it won, which is when I got to write India’s second Mills and Boon. I further went on to write another book called ‘Games Girls Play’ and self-published one online. Currently, I am co-writing a book with Masaba Gupta which is called ‘The Masaba Print’. I am also authoring a book for Juggernaut, which is my next work in the romance genre.
WM: At what point in time did you have your first style realisation?
AA: I have always liked dressing up. But my style has definitely progressed over the years. In college, I used to wear many pieces from Fab India. One generally experiments much while in college. But I think it gets better when you turn older since you are no longer worried about trends and you want to do the best you think you can do with your body. I tend to go only by that thought, not following what’s trendy or in the stores because that may not necessarily suit my body type. For example, an off shoulder or a cold shoulder suit me while a pair of shredded jeans may not.
WM: How would you define your style?
AA: I would call it a good mix of bohemian, girly and comfortable dressing.
WM: Do you follow any routine while dressing for work?
AA: I wear whatever makes me look thinner honestly. Discounting Saturdays when I have a really long day at work, so I wear whatever I feel the most comfortable in. But on the rest of the days, I do make an effort.
WM: Is there anybody in particular, you draw your style inspiration from?
AA: I may like someone’s dressing sense but I may not want to replicate that or it may not suit my body type. But if I had to pick one, I would say Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and The City. I have been visiting this blog called The Sartorialist which focuses on street style. I think it’s nicer to see how normal people dress up all over the world.
WM: Do you think that seasons and shades play an important role in dressing up?
AA: Not so much since Mumbai does not really have seasons, so one inherently wears the same kinds of clothes all throughout. However, lipsticks can make for a great way to keep up with the seasons, especially with Indian skin where almost every kind of shade suits our complexion. When it comes to shades, I’m loving pastels currently but at the same time, I am also into black since it never goes out of style.
WM: Are you into ethnic clothing? What kind of ethnic pieces do you usually wear?
AA: I am into ethnic clothing. I usually wear salwar kameez and long kurtas. I am thinking to start wearing saris since I feel I’m at the right age to wear one.
WM: What kind of a shopper are you?
AA: I am a fast shopper but I shop a lot. I would walk around an H&M store and I would have spent 10,000 bucks in just one outing. But I am a very easy shopper, not too choosy. I shop from a few places like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara for classic pieces. Zara and H&M particularly are good for any body type since they have a vast range of collection.
WM: Edith Head once said, “You can have anything you want if you dress for it.” Does that ring true in your opinion?
AA: I think people take you seriously if you’re dressed well. The way you dress is showing who you are. I have been told that you dress up in a way we expect a romance writer to look. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am a romantic person and I do think I dress up like that. I think your style is a reflection of who you are. So, one should dress up according to what they are and what they do. I do dress like a romance author and that is my identity. So yes, dressing well does take you places.
WM: Are you keen on picking up a new trend/style this season?
AA: I am quite liking the sporty chic look that’s catching up these days. But I think that only a certain body type can carry it off. I certainly like sneakers and the fact that you can wear them with anything.
WM: How do people usually dress up in the community you hail from?
AA: I am from Delhi and that is where my ethnic streak comes from. Growing up there is very different, in the sense that you tend to wear a lot more ethnic clothes than you do in Bombay. The city also has a lot of seasons where you can dress rather appropriately for almost everything. People in Delhi, I feel are well dressed at all times, unlike Bombay where they are more relaxed and experimental. I grew up shopping in Sarojini Nagar, Janpath Market and Fab India so my dressing style has been considerably influenced by the same.
WM: Would you like to share some fashion advice with the readers?
AA: Just be yourself. If that means you’d only wear ethnic, just wear ethnic. It should never be about what looks cool or people think is cool. I remember once when I had worn a pair of ballerinas to the office and my editor told me, “You have become such an ELLE girl.” My instant reaction to that was, “I don’t want to be an ELLE girl. I just want to be Aastha.” So, find your style. If jeans are your thing, then strut the jeans and do it the best you can.
But, always dress up because it makes you feel better and also the person talking to you.
What she would wear ..
While researching on field, say a small village for your next book?Cotton kurta from Cottons, mojaris from a village in Haryana, earrings from H&M and bracelets from Forever 21.
While attending a prestigious literary festival and conducting a writing workshop.A long, white, floral printed cotton kurta from Cottons, flats from Zara and earrings from H&M.
For a girls night out.An off-shoulder top from Vero Moda, flats from Zara, jeans from Levis and earrings from H&M.
While hosting a Sunday brunch for your friends, at your place.Straight fit polka dotted dress from H&M, golden flats from Zara and earrings from H&M.