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Alia Bhatt on wearing many hats — entrepreneur, mother, actor: ‘They all bring out different qualities about me’

A training session followed by a patchy internet connection ensured I logged in a few minutes late for my virtual interaction with Alia Bhatt. But, despite the delay, I was greeted with the warmest dimpled smile — Alia trademark, I can perhaps say — as the Brahmastra actor patiently waited for me to ask her questions about the things she feels most passionate about. So, after a round of quick apologies, began a stupendous conversation with Alia about all things under the sun — motherhood, pregnancy, skincare (you should see her face glow at the mention of that), fitness, and of course, entrepreneurship — something she jumped into right in the middle of the pandemic.

Time flew by in a flash, and the nearly 25-minute conversation was all about insightful details, laughter, candid anecdotes, honest confessions and so much more without anything, like Alia rightly pointed out, seeming boring. That’s exactly the intention here, to take you through this lovely tête-à-tête without boring you with extra jibber-jabber. Read the edited excerpts below:

Congratulations on your new journey, Alia. How exciting is it to be a new mother?

Exciting, thrilling, blissful, and joyful, are the words I can think of.

That’s lovely! But, for many women, pregnancy can feel extremely overwhelming, especially the first time around. How did you manage to take care of your physical as well as mental health at that time, all while having a positive outlook?

Positivity is overrated. I think you have to first try and just live each day to the fullest, whatever that day may be. Good days or bad ones, it’s all part and parcel of the journey as your body is going through the most life-changing experience. The only thing that I learned during this time is that you have to always just try and focus on giving yourself and your body all that love and respect for taking you through that time safely. But everybody’s journey is different; and one of the things that helped me a lot was just doing what I regularly do — work, sleep, have great healthy food, workout safely and stay active, watch amazing movies. Basically, doing the things that feed your soul.

Before pregnancy, however, you took another journey for the first time — that of becoming an entrepreneur. What inspired you to launch a kidswear brand, and what makes it different?

So, Ed-a-Mamma launched in 2020 — in the middle of the pandemic — which was quite a challenge for a bootstrapped startup. Many people may not know this, but for me, it is not just something I put my name on; it’s my investment, my venture, and my capital. I really wanted to start something of my own and see where it goes and how it grows. The reason I decided to go with a kidswear brand is that after doing a couple of months of research, I discovered that there is a dearth of homegrown Indian kidswear clothing brands. So, while we started with ages four to 12, the intention and the endeavour were to always create a world that is not limited to that particular age group, and go on to teens, and also infant clothing (something I was most involved in). However, maternity, I have to say, was a bit of a surprise that came from me trying to fill a gap in my wardrobe because I was finding it difficult to find cool, stylish, comfortable and sustainable clothes I could wear on a daily basis. So, maternity was pretty much me just saying ‘we need this, we need that, I want one of this, one of that’.

But what makes it different is the fact that the fabrics we use are soft, and the dyes are Azo-free. We don’t use plastic in our clothes or in our packaging. It’s a sustainable clothing brand that meets all standards of certification. That’s how the journey began and now, I find myself way more personally involved. While I was always involved in the creative journey of the brand, now I am also involved in the product journey. Now, I’m a mother putting out a world for moms and babies — to make Ed-a-Mamma a one-stop reliable shop for all things related to yourself, from the time you find out you’re pregnant, to the time your child is a teenager.

Are you also involved in the designing process — what print goes on what, and what colours are used? Also, how would you describe this journey and your latest line for infants?

I have a lovely team of ninjas, as I call them, who are the ones who drive the design. But everything is always done by me in terms of the fabrics, textures, fabric fields, patterns, campaign ideas, the way we pair clothes on kids, the campaign strategy, and the marketing strategy. I get deeply involved in it all because I wouldn’t like to see something out there I don’t connect with or understand. Having said that, I also let the experts do the talking. For example, if there’s something that I believe in, but Iffat (business head) strongly feel the colour, a pattern or a style that will do very well, then I will let her take the lead because she understands the market, maybe more than I do.

With regards to infants, for me, the fabric was extremely important though. As such, we actually wash our clothes a couple of times so that we can get a softness to the fabric — something I was extremely particular about. I wanted a certain style, and cuteness — you know, those little one-liners, the palettes, I didn’t want the clothes to be too pink, or too blue; I wanted that merge of yellow, mint green, and red, strong colours, but also unisex. For me, colours were very important in this collection, because it’s all about dressing up your little one and feeling that excitement when they wear a new colour. We have it all — onesies, T-shirts, pants, sleepsuits, gift bundles, and this lovely homecoming bundle for when you’re bringing your baby home from the hospital — it’s one of the most poignant moments in the parents’ lives.

Moving on from your entrepreneurship journey, but staying within the realm of stainability — are you equally conscious when it comes to your fashion?

Of course, I try to be extremely mindful of my fashion choices. But more than anything, one of the things we don’t realise is that every season we want new clothes, new fashion, new style, but we don’t pay attention to what’s happening with our clothes when they are discarded — like, where are the clothes going? So, the things I’m constantly trying to put out there, through another initiative of mine called ‘Mi Wardrobe is Su Wardrobe’, is that I do bulk garage sales of my clothes at cut-down costs. So, you’re giving a longer shelf life to your clothes and by doing so are minimising the dumping of clothes in landfills, which is the second largest cause of carbon footprints in the world. I think that our aim should constantly be to bring the world’s and the ecosystem’s carbon footprints down. So that’s one thing that I think people should be very, very mindful of and about.

Another thing is also just basic, sustainable practices at home like making sure your water is not constantly running, being aware of where’s your waste going — whether it’s medical waste or food scraps — that you are segregating it properly. A couple of years ago, I got into waste segregation in my house. We try not to use plastic at all at home. But sometimes, when you end up with some packaging, some paper, you just basically make sure that you’re aware of where things are going because they just don’t vanish into thin air. You have to be a little bit responsible towards that. If you just be mindful of these practices, sustainability will follow.

Do these sustainable practices also seep into your skincare ritual? Are you mindful of the products you use?

Okay, so I have a lot to say about skincare and I will continue to say because my education in skincare is always ongoing. I’ve spent so much time learning, reading and watching skincare videos that I get very passionate when people ask me these questions.

There are two ways by which you can maintain sustainable practices through your skincare. But first, the idea of clean beauty doesn’t exist. What do you mean by clean? Are you saying it’s chemical-free? That’s not possible because every ingredient you put on your face is a chemical — water is a chemical, okay? That doesn’t mean it’s bad for your skin. What you need to focus on are the practices adopted whilst making those products. How those products were made and where and how they were tested and if animals were involved. That’s one of the most important things I look out for.

Another thing is packaging — what is it? what is it made of? is it made of glass? is it recyclable plastic? And if it is made with regular plastic, what are the practices that are taken into making that product? These will ensure you’re not just buying product after product. So also have to store it and maybe reuse it in a particular jar and try and store it. Now a lot of brands are offering products that you don’t need to dump after it is over, you can refill that same product in the same container.

Also, when you’re washing your face, how long is your water running for? Are you conscious of the sound of the water? These are the couple of things that I can, at the top of my mind, suggest. Finding minimal, simple, basic products for your routine and not making it too complicated, I say, would be my go-to.

In a similar vein, you also seem to be extremely conscious of your fitness routine. Did it change in any way change during or after your pregnancy? Also, by doing 108 Surya Namaskars recently, you really set the bar high.

[Laughs] Over the years, for me, fitness has changed a lot. You have to understand that I’m a film actor. Being a part of the visual medium means I have to take care of my generic body health, it’s just part and parcel of the job profile. So, I’m also doing it for the camera, for the job. But over the last couple of years, my understanding towards fitness has changed massively because it’s not about losing those four kilos, and then, binging away, or doing 75 minutes of cardio and then not training for four days. For me, a daily workout is to keep my cardiovascular strength intact, keep my muscle bone density up, and keep my energy and blood flowing. That was also something I realised while I was pregnant; I didn’t get any swollen feet and stuff like that. That was my journey. But it was because I was constantly active. But on days I couldn’t do anything out of exhaustion, just going for a simple walk sometimes did the trick, and it also releases endorphins, so your hormones are in check, which makes your mood better.

There are so many different things that contribute to basic health and fitness. Like, doing 108 Surya namaskar — which I did for the first time was a big thing for me because I really pushed myself. But very often people cannot do it, especially after having a baby. But you have to listen to your body. Like, for six weeks (about 40 days), I didn’t do anything. I sat at home and just took care of myself; I was also nursing. You just cannot end up doing everything, you have to give yourself that time, that break.

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So again, fitness is also another conversation that I can have on and on because I’m so passionate about it and I’ve learned so much about it. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that I have to tell young girls to not be hard on themselves when it comes to fitness. Just be healthy but have the occasional French fry, which is my favourite thing. So have the occasional pizza, have the occasional French fries because you have one life, and you have to enjoy it to the fullest.

Alia, you don many hats, but what role do you enjoy the most, and which, you feel, describes you the best? And, if you’d like to share your learnings as a new mum?

I think learnings are continuous. I can’t sum up my learnings so far, genuinely cannot. Which role describes me the best — I think all of them describe me equally in different measures. They all bring out different qualities about me and within me as a personality that I have worked very hard to cultivate, and will continue to do so. About which role I enjoy the most – I don’t know; I think it’s no comparison that I think being a mom is number one. But being a very passionate actor, being a very focused entrepreneur, being a very dedicated friend, being a passionate and creative dreamer, these are parts of my personality that I can’t just compartmentalise and say that there’s one thing that describes me more than the other.

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