Suneet Varma is an eminent Indian fashion and costume designer, who is widely recognised for styling costumes in Bollywood movies and for bagging an Oscar nomination for the film ‘Monsoon Wedding.’ Known to be one of India’s best-known couturiers, Varma’s name has been synonymous with femininity, style, and drama in the world of fashion since 1987, and he retails his work under his company ‘Suneet Varma Design Pvt. Ltd.’ The veteran designer shot to fame in the West through successful collaborations with international brands like Judith Leiber. A founding member of the Fashion Design Council Of India (FDCI), Suneet is also felicitated with several accolades in his fashion career spanning over three decades.
Suneet Varma was born on Friday, 1 May 1964 (age 57 years; as of 2021) in Delhi with the zodiac sign Taurus. He holds a masters degree in Design and Costume History from the London School of Fashion. India Today
Height (approx.): 5′ 7″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
His father, Baldev Varma, was a businessman and his mother, Indira Varma, is a writer, poet, and owner of a software and technology service.
Suneet has a brother named Vineet Varma and a sister named Geetika Seth.
Husband & Children
Suneet is gay and married to Rahul Arora. The two got legally married in 2013 in a City Hall wedding in New York. Arora is almost 20 years younger than Varma, and he is a marketing executive who works as the brand manager of Suneet’s fashion label. The couple has no children. Vogue Suneet said in an interview,
For us, we’re just living our lives, we haven’t done anything brave. I married my lover, that’s all.”
Soon after completing his education in 1986, Suneet started working as an intern under the popular French designers, Nicole Farhi and Yves Saint Laurent. He presented his collection on his first runway show in 1987, and his first collection of hand-painted saris was showcased in 1992. Next year on 11 May, the Indian designer launched his own namesake label and incorporated his company, Suneet Varma Design Pvt. Ltd. Suneet and his mother, Indira Varma, are the directors and owners of the company. Suneet’s fashion label currently houses a design studio facility and manufacturing operations, and it employs over 200 artisans. He was also appointed to co-host the Indian launch of Omega watches in 1999, alongside American supermodel Cindy Crawford. In 2001, and again in 2005, Suneet was invited to The World Economic Forum to showcase his collection. In 2003, Suneet Varma launched his first-ever prêt collection, Le SPICE, at the India Fashion Week, Mumbai. In 2005, the designer also got a chance to showcase his collection at the Milan and Rome Fashion week for the first time. Following this, Varma took his collections worldwide to fashion shows in London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Hong Kong, and Indonesia. Suneet – official website
The Indian designer is popular for his close association with the Bollywood film industry, and he has worked with A-list Bollywood celebrities. He is well-known for styling costumes for the actors, and one of his projects for the movie “Monsoon Wedding” was nominated for the Oscars. Suneet’s work was also highly recognised in the movie “Kites” in which he styled actors Hrithik Roshan and Barbara Mori. Suneet – official website
Since 2007, Suneet has remained the face of BMW motors in India, who also hosts all BMW events, car launches, and BMW foundation projects. Varma is also amongst one of the few global designers who was invited to design the interiors of the BMW 7- series in 2013 and BMW 5- series.
This experience of working Arttd’inox and one of the hardest material in the world – stainless steel, has been a very exciting and enriching journey for me. From working with textiles and embroideries over the decades to now creating modern home products, my design philosophy has come full circle – good design is universal and transcends time.”
In 2009, Suneet became the first Indian designer to collaborate with the luxury brand Judith Leiber to create the “Suneet Varma for Judith Leiber” minaudière collection that retails worldwide at the Judith Leiber boutiques in Paris, Los Angeles, Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Miami, Harrods in London, and Tokyo. The signature bags are often featured on the International and Indian red carpet. Also, every season, his collection for the brand is unveiled at the Vandome Fair in Paris. Suneet – official website
The designer collaborated with an Indian men’s wear label, Tuscan Verve, in 2015 and created his signature collection. The collection went on for retailing at the stand-alone Tuscan Verve stores and also its multi-brand stores all across the country. The collaboration fetched Varma great appreciation and established him in the Indian menswear industry.
Mr Varma presented his first western couture line in association with Swarovski on 21 November 2015 at DLF Emporio, and since then he has been working with the brand on clothing and interior projects. Also, a book titled ‘Unbridled’ was launched in 2009 in Paris, which featured Suneet’s complete wedding projects with Swarovski. Suneet – official website
Suneet is also one of the favourite designers of some top Indian companies such as Airtel, Raymonds, The Oberoi Group of Hotels, and various high-end jewellery brands. These have invited the designer on several occasions to style advertising campaigns for them. Suneet has also remained the brand ambassador for Moet & Chandon between 2000-2005. In 2013, Mr Varma showcased his collection at the famous Hammer Museum in Beverly Hills, in the presence of renowned Hollywood actors, directors, and producers. He has also been hired for costume styling and designing in two Hollywood films. Varma’s other collaborations with major brands include Elephant Parade India, Hewlett Packard, DiaColor, Celebrity, Lotus Greens, Faces by the Sartorialist, Azva by World Gold Council, etc. Suneet – official website Suneet is also one of the only Indian designers to have been associated with several luxury labels such as Armani Junior, Donna Karan, Carolina Herrera, and Dusit Devarana, which is a luxury hotel chain. India Today
In 1997, Suneet Varma appeared in an international fashion and style weekly television program, ‘Suneet Varma – Style Guru,’ which was aired on Star World all across South East Asia. In India’s first and only show of such genre, which was conceptualized and hosted by Varma, he interviewed industry stalwarts like Tom Ford, Oscar De La Renta, Yves Saint Laurent, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Damien Hirst, Metropolitan Museum New York, and V&A in London. The designer also serves as the Creative Director for Dusit Devarana hotels in India and designs special textiles, carpets, lighting, mood, and ambience for the high-end luxury hotel. In 2020, Suneet, in partnership with some of India’s renowned designers – Manish Arora, JJ Valaya, and Ashish Soni created an affordable brand, “RIVER,” which is sold by DBS lifestyle. Suneet – official website
In 2005, Suneet accused another well-known Indian designer, Aki Narula, of copying a creation from his 2003 Fall/Winter collection. Varma alleged that Narula styled Rani Mukerji for the Yashraj film, Bunty Aur Babli, in the “copied” dress. The infuriated designer proceeded to file a defamation case against Aki, the movie, its producers, and Rani Mukerjee; however, the FDCI couldn’t take his complaint forward legally, reportedly, due to lack of enough proof to substantiate his claim. Suneet said in an interview, Rediff
It is shameless… When I woke up this morning, I was bitter. But then I called up a journalist friend to check whether they [the newspaper] had sourced the picture right. He confirmed it. I called Aki [Narula] because I think he has a right to clarify his stand. He was vague. He said he did not know it was my design, and that he had picked it off a store called Options [in Mumbai] because there was a sudden requirement for a poncho the next morning. He said there was no label on it; that is not possible.”
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 2016, Suneet was named the ‘Designer of the Year’ at EDIDA.
- He won the FDCI Couture Hall of Fame award in July 2019.
- In September 2021, Varma was again named the ‘Designer of the Year’ by India Fashion Awards.
- He has also been awarded the Designer of the Year award several times by the Bollywood Fashion council in New York City.
- He has also been awarded ‘Designer of the Year’ by MTV.
- Suneet enjoys drinking alcoholic beverages.
- He is an ardent lover of sculptures and painting. He is also a talented sketch artist.
- The Government of India has commissioned the Indian fashion designer several times to work with the textile industry of India and help revive the handlooms of Varanasi and South India. It wanted Varma to assist in selling the collections at the Hiem textile fair in Frankfurt. Suneet – official website
- In September 2010, Suneet entered the Limca Book of Records by creating the world’s longest embroidered sari for Vogue’s global event, Fashion Night Out. Varma and his team created a 55 metre long and 45-inch wide work of art, which, according to Varma, was inspired by the mythological character Draupadi’s chirharan. Hindustan Times
- On 1 January 2013, Suneet Varma released his debut book named after himself, which was published by Niyogi Books and unveiled by French Ambassador Francois Richier at French Embassy, New Delhi. The book provides an insight into the veteran designer’s 25-year-long journey, design process, inspiration, and vision for the future. The book contains 350 images by some of India’s top photographers like Prabuddha Dasgupta, Farrokh Chothia, and Vibhash Tiwari. Varma has also interviewed 25 fashion industry stalwarts for the book. Facebook – Suneet
- The Indian designer’s collections retail exclusively in flagship stores of Delhi and Mumbai, in addition to being available in different multi-designer stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Chennai, and Dubai.
- His collaboration collection with Judith Leiber was carried by Hollywood stars like Sarah Jessica Parker, Jenifer Lopez, and Mariah Carey. Suneet’s designs are also loved by the leading Bollywood divas including Priyanka Chopra, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, and Preity Zinta. Suneet – official website
- Suneet also continues to regularly participate in Delhi’s fashion calendars, and he showcases his collection each year in the HDIL Couture Week in Mumbai and Delhi Couture Week. Suneet – official website