Hema Bose at Gaurav Gupta’s Mumbai flagship
Photographs by Sarang Gupta
Fashion 27 May 2024 9 MIN

Hema Bose is Indian fashion’s fairy godmother

Meet the creative consultant who put Gaurav Gupta and Anamika Khanna on the world’s most glamorous red carpets

The first time I am supposed to meet Hema Bose, she cancels on me. It’s awards season in LA and she is working across three time zones trying to calm down several frenzied celebrity assistants. “People think my job is that of a stylist, but it’s a lot more,” she tells me when she calls later in the day to apologise for the scheduling snafu (and promises me a drink to compensate).  

It’s hard to decide whether to call Bose a stylist or a strategist. Where designers’ creative expressions end, her work begins. While financial success is any designer’s dream, seeing their creation on an iconic person of style is its own success, especially if the individual has crafted their own distinct aesthetic. The gap between that dream and turning it into reality is the space within which she operates. Her company, Maison Bose Communications, offers 360-degree image consultancy services for brand elevation. Celebrity placements are the most visible aspect of her impact: Gaurav Gupta is easily her hottest client of the moment, but she also works with other talented labels like Jean-Louise Sabaji, Lucy Choi, and Jimmy Choo. Anamika Khanna is the latest to join the Maison Bose roster. But there’s a lot more to her role. And Bose, only 35, is just getting started. 

Armed with an undergraduate degree in womenswear design from the London College of Fashion and an MBA in international business from the Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, Bose is well equipped to help designers and creatives with all aspects of their work. She sharpened her skills at Alexander McQueen, where she worked in design, and went on to become the global head of VIPs and communications at Julien MacDonald.  

The education and experience have given her the talent to spot growth potential at brands and identify how to move the needle. It’s not always an easy conversation. Successful creative marriages occur when both partners work closely to deliver a vision with complementary yet different skill sets. But, she laughs, “I can handle an Excel sheet, I was always very good at maths, and I’m not afraid to tell my clients the truth.”  

These skills are vital in a space that’s seeing massive changes. While celebrities have long worked with stylists and trusted beauty artists to hone their look and procure finery for public events, the business of image makers is on the rise. Everyone who’s anyone now has an image architect. Zendaya works with Law Roach. Kim Kardashian has Dani Lee. Greta Lee and Ayo Edebiri rely on Danielle Goldberg. Harry Lambert’s influence on Gen Z will only be measurable after a few more years, but it’s not going to be small. Be it make-up artists, designers, stylists, or publicists, they are all collaborators in crafting iconic identities with and for celebrities. There are no set rules for these pairings—just an alignment of vibes and the confidence to craft a new lexicon of style that’s both enduring and evolving.

Hema Bose got on my radar in 2023, when she was credited for one of the biggest, most unexpected celebrity placements that made eyes pop. Reels from Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour held permanent slots on Instagram feeds and the pop sensation wore not one, not two, but three Gaurav Gupta custom looks in a row. “I just knew, one day she was going to wear Gaurav,” says Bose. “The second look she wore was actually altered for Cher. It didn’t work out and came back to us. I got a message from Parkwood Entertainment [the talent management company founded by Beyoncé], asking if we had anything in silver. So, we sent it out for Beyoncé and that was it.” The moment marked the beginning of contemporary Indian design talent being platformed through a cultural sensation as phenomenal as the Renaissance tour, and finally shifted Gaurav Gupta out of the red carpet/wedding sangeet zone to the bigger stage he had always strived for.  

“Hema and I met through mutual friends and bonded over our experiences at Central Saint Martins,” says Gupta, fresh off his Met Gala debut earlier this month, with a statement gown for Mindy Kaling. “What struck me about her was not just her exceptional talent, but her unique approach to strategically positioning our brand within the global fashion landscape. Our aesthetics align towards futuristic progressive designs, and both of us are creative, hyper beings.”  

The day of our shoot finally arrives, and we are in the Gaurav Gupta flagship in Mumbai’s fashion district of Kala Ghoda. Bose walks in, her diminutive frame almost hidden by a giant Plaza Athénée bag. Out of this bag comes a Dion Lee dress with cutouts, a vintage Vivienne Westwood crinoline, a sample from her time as an assistant designer at Jaeger, vintage Lanvin, Chanel, and YSL jewellery. It’s easy to believe this is how she dresses daily. But then, it was perhaps her creative outfitting that helped her get noticed and promoted on several occasions. “Julien loved how I put myself together,” she says. Without her spelling it out, it’s clear she’s a believer in dressing for the job you want.  

And she continues to want her job. Until last year, Maison Bose Communications had one other employee besides its founder, but after the success of her last year, the team is growing. Despite the chaos of timelines and travel, she says she still enjoys her work and approaches it diligently, but does her best to keep stress out of the equation. 

Styling is a high-stakes industry. Brands compete aggressively to stay on top of the pyramid and those with deeper pockets have iron-clad contracts with ambassadors singling them out from the fray. For a relatively young business, staying relevant is not without its challenges. “Cardi happened on the day of the show,” Bose reminisces with a smile. After walking the Grammys red carpet in an electric blue Gaurav Gupta gown, the rapper attended the designer’s couture show in Paris in July 2023. She was due to fly out of Paris that morning, but stayed back. A restaurant near Palais de Tokyo was shut down and converted into a changing station for her. “She was late, there was traffic, it was mad! But I knew it would be amazing.” Bose utters a quick word of gratitude to the musician and her management, who took a leap of faith and made sure it all happened. “I could never do it without them. But it also goes to show that if you’ve maintained relationships for years…” 

Bose, who is currently being wooed by several brands in the country, is happy with the outcome of her efforts. She’s wary of committing to the biggest, boldest names as just feathers in her fascinator. “If a project doesn’t align with my morals or the brand’s aesthetics, I choose to decline it. Sustainable growth is a priority, and I’ve recognised the importance of timing in one’s journey. There have been instances where the timing wasn’t right for me, leading to a decision to say no to something. If a project won’t bring substantial benefits, I believe in being honest and stepping away.” On the other hand, she’s willing to place bets on up-and-coming talent in entertainment to collaborate with her roster of designers, like singer-songwriter Chloe Bailey and Emily In Paris cast member Ashley Park. 

 “Less is more. We don’t measure people based on their number of followers. It’s the talent that matters ultimately.” 

So is everything based on instinct? Or does she happen to be one of those people who just has a knack for calling it? Or is it all just dumb luck? “Working across various departments—design, R&D, marketing, business, and consumer relations—has equipped me with a holistic understanding of brand dynamics. It’s this fusion of tailored strategies and diverse industry exposure that has maybe set us [her company] apart,” she muses. Training a macro lens on consumer behaviour in the very niche space of couture helps her connect the dots. “When I look at something, I let the designers know what can be changed for it to move faster. It’s not that they send something on a rack and I show that to a stylist. I work on custom projects or pre-collections so I can share my inputs on the vibe of the season. It needs immense amount of trust from both ends.” And awareness goes both ways. If she can offer a critical perspective to the people she works with, she’s equally tough on herself. “There are things you just keep getting better at while you are working—like adaptability and crisis management skills, the ability to navigate tricky situations. For me, being self-critical has always worked and I think it is important in any field you are in.” 

We head to Kala Ghoda Cafe’s cosy wine room for that promised drink. I point out that when we speak of India’s global position as a market with potential for the growth of luxury houses and as one brimming with talent, we often limit the context to designers. What gets missed is the army of business strategists, stylists, and visionaries who work with design talent to help it reach its full potential. But, says Bose, “It’s important that my clients are seen, not me.” She likes to keep her head down and just work. It’s also evident that she believes in trusting the universe and not revealing every last detail of her process. “Of course, it takes a lot of nudging, but a part of it is magic—the universe somehow makes it happen. We don’t know how,” she says coyly.  

Given her hyper-awareness, both of her work and her milieu, it’s not hard to see how she has managed such an unbelievable career trajectory at a pretty young age. “What I do is a bit of a gamble. My placements are organic. You do your best, your work hard, the rest is not up to you. My clients are not my clients—they are family. I can’t go to sleep because I know they are relying on me. I represent them worldwide, it’s a lot of responsibility.”