Graceful, girl-next-doorish, and fun-loving – that’s Benaisha Kharas for you. But there’s so much more to this petite, dainty girl than just that…she’s surely a woman of steel on the inside. Interestingly, her wardrobe too, exudes that very melange of elegance and confidence. In fact, during our conversation with her, she quipped, “I’d rather be called beautiful, than sexy”. That seems to work well as her USP, as an image consultant.
Her take on fashion is backed by psychology and developed through an exceptional sense of aesthetics. Her first dive into the world of image consulting came from her personal struggles, which she has beautifully turned into motivation. From being a naïve, dyslexic, under-confident little girl, Benaisha has come a long way – at 19, she was the youngest image consultant in India, and ever since, she has been changing lives by working on people’s wardrobes, soft skills, and their overall persona. What’s touching is how she has not only emerged as an achiever, but is also helping those in need of that confidence, build their image…and their lives!
As we got chatting with Benaisha about her journey and her wardrobe, she was only too happy to share all details, while being really hospitable. Going by the few hours we spent with her, we’d most definitely ascertain, she loves and lives her work!
WM: What is the most challenging part of your job? And the best?
BK: The biggest challenge is to get people to firstly understand what I do. When I started four and a half years ago, I was asked questions like, “What is image? Is it related to photography?”. It’s only now that people understand what image really is and the connection it has with one’s persona. Today, the challenge is more to get someone to accept the fact that image consultancy can help them. The penetration of thought is most challenging.
The most exciting part is that I get to meet so many different people every day. My biggest challenge growing up was getting over this doubt, “How am I going to go out there and meet people and talk to them?”. But now, I meet at least 10 new people in a day or over two days…there are days when I meet over 200 people in a day. It does get scary to go out and talk to so many people, teach them a subject, and what’s really challenging but equally exciting is the fact that I started training people when I was 19, and these were people who are the same age group as my parents. It’s these challenges that really keep me going – there are days when I’m working on someone’s psyche, days when I’m working on someone’s clothes, days when I’m working on their body language…and then there are days when I’m doing all of it.
WM: How have your wardrobe choices changed over a period of time?
BK: When I was much younger, I wasn’t boyish, but I wasn’t this girly. Actually until age 7, I was very girly, but then because of all these struggles, I just concentrated on studies for a long time. So, during my not-so-girly phase, I used to wear a lot of dungarees – in white, yellow, denim, even white mesh. Then, in college, I once took Rs.1000, went shopping to Colaba Causeway and just bought of a lot of accessories. Not that I was into accessorizing so much back then, but just that joy of having purchased so many was something else. It’s since then that I started really experimenting with accessories.
However, my wardrobe building started at a very young age. Even during the time that I mostly wore dungarees, I did have some really nice party dresses that my mom would doll me up in.
WM: We often hear people say “I’d rather let my work do the talking”. As someone who works on people’s image, how much weightage would you give to the wardrobe?
BK: Going back to me growing up – I used to love dressing up, but back then, even I never really understood the importance of dressing a certain way for every occasion. I would dress up like a hippie one day, and sometimes, just doll up even to go down and buy something from a nearby store. But then, over a period of time, I started to understand that people respond to you the way you appear. Take it as this – you’re the product and your clothes are the packaging. Even at a store, when you’re buying rice or detergent, you’re exposed to a million different options to choose from. What you pick is based less on functionality – because that’s more or less the same for a product, across brands – you’re selection is based more on packaging.
Often, people from more serious professions are of the opinion that they need to let their work do the talking. But imagine you walk into an interview, and if someone doesn’t want to give you a job, they could possibly use the crease on your shirt as an excuse. Now you’d wonder, “What has that crease got to do with the job? I have a degree from so and so place”. But, if you have a degree from a renowned institution then you should keep in mind all of these other things as well! You are your visual résumé. Even before you have started talking as the product, you’re already talking as the packaging.
WM: Take us through your wardrobe.
BK: Today, you see, I like wearing accessories – I’m particularly fond of gold, and try to include it in almost all looks. As for colours, I have always loved pink, I’m extremely fond of whites – pearl whites especially, I like bright, fun colours, but also pastels and medium tone colours. And only lately have I really started wearing green. I love to flowy silhouettes – drapes, fluid fabrics, and dresses…I love dresses. And I’m really fond of blouses, more than formal shirts. So, you can tell, my style is very romantic.
What’s not my style? Formal shirt, white shoes, black formal jackets, or black nail polish.
WM: What is that one thing from your wardrobe that you would recommend everyone to have in theirs?
BK: One thing that I’d hope for everyone to have? (Giggles) Space. I think all of us could do with more wardrobe space.
But on a serious note, I’d recommend my shoe closet. I have been working with a lot of people and came to realize very quickly that while people spend a lot of time, effort and money on their clothes, often, the footwear is not given as much importance. Often, because of space constraints, people include neutrals in their wardrobe, that can go with any garment. You don’t need to have a huge wardrobe really, you can use makeshift furniture items to store your shoes. In fact, I’d advise everyone to have their accessories well organized, so they know at all times, what they have, and can pick an outfit accordingly. I actually decide on my looks based on my shoes and accessories – you’re sure to wear a complete look that way.
WM: The biggest challenge for women, is to look presentable when we’re not groomed – a bad hair day, or unwaxed hands. What would you suggest for days like these?
BK: Days when you haven’t waxed, and if you have to suddenly head out, firstly avoid wearing a dress or anything without sleeves. Try and use colours to your advantage. The idea is to have your outfits blend in with your skin tone rather than create a stark contrast. Coming to your face, if say, you haven’t gotten your upper lip done, avoid wearing darker or brighter shades of lipstick. Likewise, if you haven’t gotten a cleanup done or your face bleached in a while, try to avoid dabbing too much blush onto your face. Avoid highlighting any area on your skin that needs attention taken away from it. As far as your hair is concerned, it’s advisable to wash your hair before you head out. However, if that’s not possible, use talcum powder to treat a greasy scalp, and it makes sense to keep your hair tied up into interesting braids or buns, instead of leaving it open. You can also wear small patterns and prints to distract attention away from your hair or face on a bad hair or skin day. Especially if you’re heading to a meeting or an interview, try to have your content strong enough to back you up.
WM: Tell us a thing or two about good wardrobe management.
BK: Always remember three things while organizing your wardrobe – visibility, accessibility, and mix and matchability. So, when you open your wardrobe, everything you possess needs to be visible. Also, you need to be able to reach out to it – if I need something on a daily basis, and it’s put right up on the top-most shelf, even though it’s visible, I cannot access it easily.
WM: Your story’s quite an inspiration. A word of advice to every mind that thinks “I can’t”?
BK: Don’t let the “I can’t” get to you. The only thing that stops you really, is you.
At 10, I was diagnosed as dyslexic and I remember no one told me that I can do something. I was always told that I can’t. And for the longest time I really felt like I couldn’t. My childhood was not so fancy in terms of fashion and communication. In fact, it was pretty much the opposite. People had not a very clear idea of what dyslexia is, the whole idea was shunned. I was low on confidence back then. But, that’s when I decided, I cannot be stuck with “I can’t”. I decided that I’m at least going to try. And I decided to become an image consultant for dyslexic people. Today, my work has got me so far, but also, I am still associated with NGO’s. I started my journey with and am closely associated with Advitya, an NGO for the mentally challenged adults. I am also attached with Kshamta , which works for women in distress.
So, I believe that people who say they can’t do something, are only fooling themselves. At least try.