Dressing The Divas
Meet a girl who has everything a girl could ever want: a lush, plush home at South Mumbai’s Grand Paradi, with indulgent parents who encourage her to do her own thing; a rocking career in fashion that comprises A-list clients, styling for television, magazine covers and the movies; a buzzing social hive that offers intoxicating nectar, although she pouts that she’s put off by high voltage partying; and a coveted boyfriend she’s snug-as-a-bug with (but, hush, you aren’t supposed to know!) Still, Surily Goel’s refreshingly grounded and graceful. She knows where she’s going, and that explains how she’s come this far. Successful journeys are accomplished by skillfully steering fortune’s wheel, and Surily has steady hands with a level head.
“I’m a simple, basic person, who’s very excited by small things,” she reveals, pensively playing with her honey-highlighted hair. “I believe I must do my best, or not do it at all. It could be anything – but I go all out. I think you could safely say that I am not my own priority at all.”
Then what is, you wonder, but not for long, as the phone trills often and Goel snatches moments away from our conversation to catch up on work. Her career is no whim. She is very serious when she stresses it is “the reason I wake up every morning.”
Her father, a shipping tycoon, although ensconcing her in luxury, believed she should be independent. So there was no insistence on her getting married by 22 (as is the norm in her UP-ite fraternity – she’s 28 today), and Goel concedes, “I really appreciate the freedom my parents have given me. Even when I was making what appeared to be wrong decisions, they let me learn from my mistakes. They have put so much trust in me that, I guess, at every stage I have tried to live up to it.”
Post-LA, Goel was still not sure what to do. She came back and partied in Goa (come on, it was New Year’s!), and then she met her mentor. “Manish (Malhotra) gave me a whole new life,” she recalls. She joined the designer at Reverie, his venture with Avanti Birla and Kaajal Anand at Mumbai’s Napean Sea Road. When he fell out with them, Surily, while not burning her bridges with the Birlas socially, decided to anchor herself with Malhotra professionally for another year and a half, during which time they worked out of his suburban home. When she began getting restless and wondered what to do next, Malhotra stepped in and told her she should go solo. “He’s a very good friend,” she maintains. “I was not confident initially. In fact, I took my first collection to him after I had worked on it, and only after he approved, did I have the nerve to venture forth.”