Stylist Ambika Pillai on the art of sprucing up
Stylist Ambika Pillai on the art of sprucing up

Stylist Ambika Pillai on the art of sprucing up


Famed stylist Ambika Pillai shares a few pearls of wisdom during her recent visit to the city
At the end of the two hour workshop with Ambika Pillai, someone asks, “What is Sandhu’s number?” Suddenly, most of our phonebooks have a certain Ludhiana-based Sandhu’s number stored on it. The man is dealing with a number of calls from Chennai, even as we speak. “That’s been happening for the last two years and people from all over the country have been calling him to buy his ingredients. That’s where I get my ascorbic acid from, a vital ingredient in skin care,” laughs hair and beauty expert Pillai, as she hands out his number, along with a couple of other numbers of her other sources.
Pillai was in the city as part of Phoenix MarketCity’s Master Class session, facilitated by Arti Bagdy. She says she’s a trained hair stylist, but not a makeup artist.
The first time she was asked to do makeup, all she had was one brown kaajalthat she used to create different looks. It worked well. Her third assignment, featuring Aishwarya Rai, fetched her a National award. “That was way back in 1996. It was an advertisement for Sheetal,” she recalls.
The 54-year-old has worked with a host of actors,from Madhuri Dixit and Sushmita Sen to Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone. But she does not enjoy working on movies.
“I worked on Ash for Taal. It is boring because you create a look that stays the same for 40 days. Fashion is my passion. I work on 30 girls, the show is done and I am done. I like designers coming and saying these are my clothes, what look will go with them. I like that,” she says.
Pillai says there are a lot of kids who save pocket money to get their hair done by her. “I like to see how a girl changes the way she looks, on my chair. She opens her eyes and says ‘wow, I look stunning’.”
She’s been in the industry for 30 years, but her biggest problem until recently was that people back home in Kerala didn’t really know her. “I did a show now in Kerala and they’ve finally embraced me with open arms. Now even vegetable vendors know me. They say, ‘Ma’am you want carrots? Take them’,’’ she laughs. She’s also started Kaytra, her own line of products in collaboration with AVA. It’s available in mostof the stores in Kerala and online on Amazon, Nykaa and Flipkart.
“Self grooming is very important. A little bit of looking after yourself can do wonders. If you have beautiful skin and hair and then add a dash of lipstick, it does wonders.” Her Facebook page (with over 8,33,000 followers) doles out a bunch of do-it-yourself skincare regimens and recipes. “I do not shy away from helping people out. I tell them everything I know,” she smiles. The expert has also trained acid burn victims to become makeup artists.
In her “twilight years now” (her words, not ours), Pillai wants to slow down. She’s reduced her number of salons in Delhi from 12 to two, and has opened some in Cochin and Trivandrum.
“When you build a brand, there has to be the same quality across the board. For me, its about quality over quantity,” she says.



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