Manish Malhotra looks back at 'memorable' Ambani pre-wedding party as he plans main event

Celebrated fashion designer was creative director for three-day celebration in Gujarat

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Five months. That's all the time celebrated Indian fashion designer Manish Malhotra had to craft the lavish pre-wedding bash of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant, now dubbed the wedding of the year.

With world leaders, business tycoons and Bollywood's top stars in attendance, the three-day celebration in Jamnagar, Gujarat, on India's west coast, made headlines around the world in March. Pop star Rihanna, who performed her first live show in eight years, was one of the highlights at the event.

The event was a precursor to the main wedding, which will also be designed by Malhotra and takes place in Mumbai on July 12.

Anant Ambani, 28, is the youngest son of Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, one of the world's richest men, and his wife Nita Ambani, while Merchant, 29, is the daughter of industrialist Viren Merchant.

Malhotra, 57, who was picked to be the creative director of the event, told The National it was all down to “doing your homework”.

“Once you have the right people and you've got planned out everything, things just fall into place. And I'm a planner,” he said.

“Also, I have such a great partner in Mrs Nita Ambani, with whom I worked closely on the event and who has such a keen eye on everything. Every mood board, every decor, whether it's the interior designer from Paris or the florist from India … she knew exactly what she wanted.”

Featuring choreographed Bollywood-style stage productions, massive fireworks and multiple themed parties, the pre-wedding event alone is rumoured to have cost more than 12 billion rupees ($144 million), according to India's Financial Express. Malhotra also designed many of the dresses worn by the Ambani family for the event including groom-to-be Anant, his sister Isha, mum Nita and bride-to-be Radhika.

Malhotra, who began his career crafting costumes for Bollywood movies in the 80s, has had a long relationship with the Ambanis, known for their love of films.

“We first worked together when I did a fashion show at their Mumbai home Antilla, and we've had a close relationship since,” he says. “They then asked me to do Isha's pre-wedding celebrations in Udaipur. It wasn't something I've done before, but they trusted me with it, and I'm honoured to consider them as friends today. They've always been there for me.”

Isha Ambani's wedding in 2018, spread across Udaipur in India, Lake Como in Italy and then at the Ambani home in Mumbai, was rumoured to have cost more than 7 billion rupees. Beyonce performed a 45-minute show in Udaipur, which also featured a number of costume changes.

In 2021, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Brands bought a 40 per cent in MM Styles, which owns Malhotra’s eponymous fashion house. Besides the high-end fashion line, the house also includes ready-to-wear line Diffuse; beauty brand Manish Malhota Beauty; Manish Malhotra Jewellery and an events company. Last year, Malhotra also launched his own film production company Stage 5 Productions.

Malhotra also opened his first flagship store outside India in December. Located in Dubai Mall, the 434 square metre space is the first step in a massive planned global expansion, he says.

“I opened my first boutique ever in 2006 in Dubai and this city always has a special place in my heart,” he says. “This is where we're going to start going truly international.”

For now though, he's looking forward to the Ambani wedding in July, while still reminiscing about the buzz he, along with the Ambani family, created with the pre-wedding party in Jamnagar.

“I was not really partying because I was tired,” he laughs. “But looking back, we were all like 'Oh my god, it went so well'. It was such a memorable experience. It's something that I will cherish all my life.”

Updated: April 29, 2024, 11:36 AM