Get 15% off on your 1st App Order, Use Code: APP15 T&C apply.
The Empowered Woman
Diipa Büller-Khosla puts the power in empowerment. In this tête-à-tête with Aza, the global fashion and beauty icon discusses leveraging her ‘influence’ to support gender parity, promote mind-body-skin positivity, and increase South Asian representation across the world.
Photographs by Shivam Gupta; Styled by Richa Mehta; Styling assistance by Sailee Ingle; Makeup by Anu Mariya Jose; Hairstyling by Siddhesh Shinde; Coordinated by Nadia Malik; Artist Publicity Dream N Hustle Media; Creative Direction by Arthi Medithi; Words by Sreemita Bhattacharya
It has taken thousands of rotations around the sun and countless sacrifices by the powers that couldn’t be for the narrative to shift from “women’s rights” to “woman’s right”. While there are still too many wrongs to right, to rewrite, today people across geographies and generations understand “the fair sex” to mean “the kind that doesn’t discriminate.” Significantly, under its year-long G20 presidency in 2023, India has pledged to move the focus from women’s development to women-led development. In the backdrop of such advancement, Aza raises a toast to The Empowered Woman.
For this one-of-a-kind Cover Story, we curated show-stopping styles created exclusively by female designers, capturing the mastery of six Indian luxury labels: Seema Gujral, Ridhi Mehra, Payal Singhal, Aisha Rao, Gauri & Nainika, and Ariyana Couture. Of course, picking our muse was a no-brainer. Multi-hyphenate Diipa Büller-Khosla’s journey as a digital content creator began with a €300 investment from her mother, a practicing Ayurvedic doctor and dermatologist. In conversation with Aza, the law student-turned-model-cum-entrepreneur-cum-activist tells us she used that money to “buy some new clothes and basic equipment” to create a career out of social media at a time when digital literacy/acceptance was non-existent. The self-made global star with 1.9 million followers on Instagram chased a dream with eyes wide open, and she has never looked back since. Besides leveraging her ‘influence’ to support gender parity and strip down stigmas, with her conscious beauty brand indē wild, Diipa has been empowering women to be confident in their own skin. When she’s not jet-setting across the globe on her business tours, red carpet appearances and brand collaborations, the co-founder of Post for Change – an NGO that utilizes the power of digital influencers to achieve social change – can be seen putting in efforts to enhance South Asian representation and relevance on the global stage. Not surprisingly, the excitement is palpable when Diipa breezes into the Aza studio channelling minimalistic chic in a strappy black dress with nude heels. She gets right down to business, collaborating with all members of the creative team to weave an impactful sartorial saga.
Between sips of coconut water, Diipa deliberates on the theme of our shoot and tells me, “I think empowerment is a fluid and evolving concept. The way we perceive it changes with experience and manifests itself in our daily lives. Whether it is through mentorship or education, or by ensuring a strong support system, we all have the ability to empower ourselves and others. My family and my community are my biggest source of motivation and empowerment – without them, I wouldn't be where I am.” Elaborating on the €300 investment anecdote, Diipa says, “My journey as an influencer started out quite randomly – it wasn’t planned. When I began creating content, people considered it a hobby, especially since I was studying law. With so much doubt surrounding me, it was difficult to dedicate my life to this passion of mine. Building a career out of social media was unheard of. It was not easy to connect with people; there were fewer mediums to reach out and engage. But with time, I learnt how to communicate with my audience. A lot of trial and error led to the sustainable platform that my team and I have built today.” But growing up, what did she really aspire to be? “A happy person,” Diipa says with a nod and her trademark smile.
I remember my first Cannes invitation like it was yesterday! I couldn't stop gushing over it. I read and re-read that invite till I reached the French Riviera. I had to fight for my place back then and now, after years of attending the event, I’m glad I did.
She Cannes. She did.
The toast of the international fashion stage is just back from the 76th Cannes Film Festival, where she made her stylish presence felt for the sixth consecutive year. Does she recall receiving her first invitation from Cannes, I ask Diipa. With an infectious smile she replies, “I remember my first Cannes invitation like it was yesterday! I couldn't stop gushing over it. I read and re-read that invite till I reached the French Riviera. I had to fight for my place back then and now, after years of attending the event, I’m glad I did. Looking back as a Cannes veteran, I think it’s so important to use such a global platform to voice your opinions and what you stand for. This year, as the founder of indē wild, I hosted a red carpet for two other global South Asian women to further our community’s representation at Cannes.”
Earlier this year, Diipa attended Dior’s historic showcase of its 2023 pre-fall collection at the Gateway of India, Mumbai. She then served as one of the celebrity hosts for the NMACC (Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre) red carpet fashion gala, interviewing global icons such as Zendaya, Tom Holland, Gigi Hadid, Law Roach, Natasha Poonawalla, and more. About that night, Diipa says, “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. The exhibition was a landmark moment for Indian fashion, and I’m blessed to have been a part of it. I had the amazing chance to connect with global icons. Watching them embrace and appreciate our heritage was heart-warming. And yes, the red carpet was super fun. Everyone was dressed to perfection and so kind. It was a night to remember!”
My personal style evolved to mirror my growth as an individual. At the beginning of my career, I was exploring new ideas, and my style was marked by a sense of experimentation and creativity. As I gained more experience, my confidence paved the way for my style to become more intentional.
Owning her style
Years spent wooing a globally situated digital audience has taught Diipa exactly what works for her. In front of the camera, she effortlessly uses the play of light and shadows on her features to create drama. Between look changes, Diipa tells me, “The other day I was talking to a friend about life, change and all that. I realized my style evolution throughout my career is probably my most cherished memory yet. Looking back, I can see that my personal style evolved to mirror my growth as an individual. At the beginning of my career, I was exploring new ideas, and my style was marked by a sense of experimentation and creativity. As I gained more experience, my confidence paved the way for my style to become more intentional. I believe change is continuous, and it is imperative to celebrate it!”
Designer, Ariyana Couture;Earrings, Itee by Neha Goel;Rings, Gehna Jewellery
One for working moms
Her words take me back to the time Diipa returned to the Cannes red carpet three months after delivering her daughter, Dua, in 2021. In a celebration of motherhood and with a focus on alleviating scrutiny reserved for working new moms, Diipa added breast pumps to her gown. Her Instagram post resonated with women worldwide who hailed her stance as powerful and necessary. Diipa has since been utilizing the global fashion stage and social media to normalize breastfeeding choices, eradicate gender-based expectations in parenthood, and drive more respect for mothers with professional aspirations/ambitions. The successful entrepreneur shares, “From the beginning of my journey, I have tried to champion a more inclusive, diverse, and accepting community and culture. It all started with my blog about my acne struggles. My honesty and the candid images I shared with my audience resonated with many. Till date I strive to provide information and content that promotes self-acceptance and positive mental health.”
Social media has allowed an increasing number of mothers to share their experiences and perspectives. It helps raise awareness of the challenges and stigmas we face. There is a lack of support and understanding towards working mothers. But I think with greater awareness, we can change this.
So, do you feel the world is a little more accepting of a working mother’s choices today, I ask Diipa. “I would like to think so!” she says immediately. “But even with all the progress and acceptance, I do believe we have a long way to go. Social media has allowed an increasing number of mothers to share their experiences and perspectives. It helps raise awareness of the challenges and stigmas we face. There is a lack of support and understanding towards working mothers. But I think with greater awareness, we can change this.”
Designer, Seema Gujral;Rings, Gehna Jewellers;Maangtikka, House of Shikha;Earrings, Isharya
Her skincare philosophy
Around this time, Diipa requests the stylist for a change in accessories for the Seema Gujral look to make a more minimalistic fashion statement. She turns to me and explains, “I equate minimalism with timelessness. As I mentioned earlier, my style is intentional – it reflects how I’m feeling. With a minimalistic approach to my personal care, I find that I’ve become more mindful, open, and relaxed. That's why one of the pillars of the philosophy behind indē wild was a minimal skincare routine – we want to build something that is simple, easy and doable.”
While I can't deny I did have a strong community that motivated me to break the barriers, trust me it's not easy to get people to put something new on their skin.
It’s with this segue that I ask Diipa if her ‘influence’ in the global fashion space somehow made it easier to establish and drive acceptance of her brand in the beauty sector. She muses for a bit before saying, “See, skincare is a deeply personal part of a person’s life. Initially, I thought my influence might help. But when it comes to skincare, people are loyal to brands that work for them and hesitant to try out others, let alone accept new a brand in the market. While I can't deny I did have a strong community that motivated me to break the barriers, trust me it's not easy to get people to put something new on their skin. Luckily with our strong innovative product and dedicated team we performed much better than I ever expected.”
Designer, Payal Singhal;Earrings and kadas, Ishhaara;Ring, Itee by Neha Goel & Golden Window
Tapping into Ayurveda
Interestingly, Diipa’s beauty brand is based on the tenets of “Ayurvedistry” that she states, “blends ancient Indian heritage and contemporary dermatology”. Taking Aza through the brand’s conception, the influencer turned entrepreneur says, “Growing up, in my family we religiously followed desi skincare tips and tricks. With my mom being a practicing Ayurvedic doctor and dermatologist, we were able to combine both to create a holistic product especially for South Asians.”
I want to be able to set an example for Dua as a woman, as an entrepreneur, as a leader. Even on the toughest days, she gives me the strength to keep moving forward. So, I feel like I have so much to do!
Naturally, my next question is if she might consider coming up with her own fashion line someday. Diipa laughs out loud before sharing, “I’m open to everything! indē wild is at a nascent stage right now – there’s this massive untapped potential that we plan to explore. Someday I’d love to consider more options in personal care and even fashion. Never say never, right?” With that she puffs up the exaggerated ruffles of the Gauri & Nainika jumpsuit and steps in front of the camera.
Designer, Aisha Rao;Earrings, Golden Window;Bracelet, Mahesh Notandass Fine Jewellery
We are on the last leg of the shoot when I ask the globetrotter to share one of her unique travel experiences. She giggles a bit before saying, “Not to sound like a cliché, but every place I have been to is unique in its own way. I think that’s the most fascinating part about travelling. Every place you visit, be it a bustling city or a quaint village, has its own charming little details – finding them is the best part of any trip.”
Woman on the rise
At the end of one our fastest cover shoots ever (we shot 6 looks in 4 hours!), Diipa emerges from the changing room in her black dress and warmly obliges some crew members with selfies. As Diipa’s car pulls up, I voice a question that’s been on my mind: given that she’s already accomplished so much, what’s the foremost aspiration on the multi-hyphenate’s vision board at this point in time? Her response is immediate. “I want to be able to set an example for Dua as a woman, as an entrepreneur, as a leader. Even on the toughest days, she gives me the strength to keep moving forward. I feel like I have so much to do! I also want to focus more on encouraging South Asian representation and upliftment. It’s important to actively engage in initiatives that empower and amplify the voices, cultures, and achievements of South Asian individuals across various fields,” Diipa signs off. As she retreats into her car, an inspiring statement from one of the global influencer’s recent Instagram vlogs flits through my mind – at the end of the day, what matters is “you show up, no matter what curveballs life throws at you.”