On the evening of Tuesday, 23 August, Kangana Ranaut kicked off the Lakme Fashion Week's Winter/Festive edition in Mumbai, walking as the show opener for couture czar Tarun Tahiliani.
She made for a gorgeous and dramatic figure, coming down the ramp in a black lehenga-skirt, a tunic top that was slashed to her wait, in earthy yet fiery tones that complemented her perfectly.
The outfit was a mix of the modern and the traditional, edgy and rustic, yet sophisticated — words that could be used to describe Ranaut's persona as well.
In the run-up to the show, Tahiliani had explained why he sought out Ranaut as his show opener:
"She is truly India's fashion chameleon and has a unique fashion perspective. She does not let fashion take over but changes it. She gets fashion. It's instinctive."
Tahiliani was putting into words what most fashion observers have felt about the Queen actress' style.
From the time she made her debut in Gangster to the time she won her first National Award for Fashion (in which she played a supermodel, a case of real life imitating reel art) and made her way to being one of the most sought-after actresses in the Hindi film industry, Ranaut's life and career have undergone several changes, well chronicled in the press.
From relationships to failures and success, being laughed at for her accent and shaky histrionics to being acknowledged as a powerhouse performer, Ranaut's undergone quite the transformation.
But if there's one thing that's remained unchanged through all these years, it her undisputed status as a style icon — despite stiff competition from peers like Sonam Kapoor.
This year alone, she has been the muse to three leading designers — Tahiliani of course, but also Manish Malhotra and Manav Gangwani.
Ranaut made for a beautiful model for Malhotra's latest bridalwear line, which was dedicated to the "dark, edgy bride".
"Kangana is talented, beautiful, hard working, confident, speaks her mind and has achieved so much and for me that is my bride," Malhotra had said when he unveiled the print campaign for his collection, explaining why it was Ranaut who was the perfect fit.
At the India Couture Week earlier this year, Ranaut made for a resplendent bride yet again, this time for Manav Gangwani, whose show stopper she was. "Kangana is a very versatile person and it is easy working with her. She exudes a certain charm and a classic-yet-modern vibe that sets perfectly with my collection this year," the designer was quoted as saying.
It isn't just Indian designers that Kangana has made an impression on. Last year, she was a front row presence at the Autumn/Winter show for Dior at Paris Fashion Week — and she wore a customised dress from the label to suit the occasion. A Dior spokesperson had said that Ranaut was the first Bollywood celebrity to have worn a haute couture dress from the fashion house.
Ranaut herself hasn't been content to be a clothes rack for other designers; she's flexed her sartorial muscles and helped create a line for ready-to-wear apparel brand Vero Moda.
Describing how she came up with the line, Ranaut said: "(We) decided to have themes. Whenever a girl goes to a store, she’s always asked what occasion she’s dressing up for. So, from outfits designed for dates and brunches to work meetings and parties, there’s something for every woman." She went on to describe her own style as "chic and retro".
Realms have been written about Ranaut's flawless style — be it her Audrey Hepburn-esque dresses, or power pantsuits, or her laidback off-duty look.
But this ode by Vogue summed it up best:
"One minute dominatrix diva, the next flirtatiously feminine, followed by a quick stop in androgyny-ville. We can safely conclude that Kangana Ranaut is a style chameleon of the best sort. Here’s a lady who owns everything she sports — be it avant-garde couture creations or breezy high street numbers."
As for what Ranaut herself thinks of the ringing endorsements of her fashion sense, there is that no-holds-barred interview she had with Anupama Chopra that explained her mastery of style in the most disarming, honest way:
“There is a strong sense of overcompensating," Kangana said. "The fact that I come from a small town, and I’ve been made to feel like somebody who doesn’t belong here helped me grow into a person who’s very stylish versus other girls who are Miss Worlds, or supermodels, or some celebrity daughter, who do not feel as much pressure. It helped me be somebody who deserves to be here and not just somebody who happened to be here.”