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Dildeep Kalra: I am an obsessive, compulsive collector of shoes

Director of Massive Restaurants, Dildeep Kalra on dressing her age and love for luxurious accessories

Dildeep Kalra in a Missoni dress. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Dildeep Kalra in a Missoni dress. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Dildeep Kalra is as particular about her Chanel shoes as she is about the ceviches and soups that go out to the tables in her restaurants. Kalra, 36, is the wife of restaurateur Zorawar Kalra and director at Massive Restaurants Pvt. Ltd, which runs brands such as Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra, Farzi Café, Pa Pa Ya, and the recently launched Bo Tai.

Kalra says she was never a foodie. Born into a family of builders, she grew up in Chandigarh, a city that had a “pathetic eating out scene". Everything was made at home. So when she got married into a family of chefs at 24, she found it quite overwhelming. “They would talk about cheeses and God knows what, and I hadn’t even tasted Amul butter," she says. “But I remember pretending like I knew whatever they were talking about."

Today, she tastes every dish before it is put on the menu. She also looks at the audits, food safety and hygiene, communication and public relations, and sales and marketing for the company.

Apart from supervising the day-to-day operations of the restaurants, she is planning to relaunch her fashion app Stylehorn, where users upload images of outfits and get ratings from other users on their sense of style.

The app, says Kalra, is a “logical extension of the need we all have for external validation". It all started after the birth of her first child, a boy, six years ago. “After childbirth, like many women, my body changed too. I was thinner before, and there was a bit of low self-esteem," says Kalra. “I used to ask my friends and no one gave any negative opinion. But I wasn’t looking nice. So, I thought, what if I got a third person to rate my looks?"

Dressed in Missoni, her go-to Birkin by the side, Kalra settles down with a soda to talk about her sense of style. Edited excerpts:

How would you describe your style?

I don’t like to follow trends. I should be able to go to my closet and take something out five years later, and it should still look new and stylish. I wear a lot of white, different shades of it. I like to be comfortable in my own skin, especially as a mother in my 30s who works in a corporate set-up. I like to be a little modest in my dressing.

Bracelets from Fendi and Bulgari. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Is there one thing in your closet that you could wear anywhere, work or party?

I wear a lot of pants. Wide-leg pants are easy to tone down and wear to work, or accessorize and wear with heels for a party in the night. They are very versatile.

How has your sense of style evolved in the last decade?

I have become more aware of what I wear. When you’re a teenager, you like loud colours and go with the trends. Once you start working or attain motherhood, you become more aware of your body type. I don’t know if it is true for everyone but it happened to me.

Brooch, Quilted bag and heels from Chanel. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Do you have a favourite label?

I am totally a Chanel girl. I wear a Chanel pearl every day, be it an earring or a brooch. No matter what I pick up from the label, it is an investment piece.

How much space do you devote to accessories in your closet?

I am running short of space, actually. My husband has one cupboard in the house and I have five. Out of those, one is completely dedicated to shoes. I’m an obsessive, compulsive collector of shoes. I haven’t counted, but I might have about 80-90 pairs. The irony is, every time I have to go out for a party, I can never find the right pair for the occasion. I am also a big fan of Hermes bags.

Are there any rules you swear by when you buy clothes or accessories?

Only one, and that is that the product should fit well. You need to know your body type and what suits you. It is more important than following trends.

Have food and style ever come in the way of each other?

I think they complement each other, food and style. A stylish plate of food looks more appetizing than just a blob of food on a plate. Food styling is a thing now. And it is the same with fashion. Style doesn’t mean wearing big brands, but attention to symmetry and detail.

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