INSPIRE: PRIYA SHUKLA PAVES HER OWN WAY

Priya
Priya in the Wren Dress

 

When scrolling through @PriyaDeluxe—the Instagram handle of the fashion powerhouse Priya Shukla—it’s quickly evident that the word deluxe is every bit apropos. She embodies the word, from the non-regulation robe she wore to the recent birth of her second child or her ascent up the red carpet at The Met Ball, she lives the New York fairytale a million people would proverbially die for.

Shukla got her start as Vera Wang’s assistant and over her almost 15-year tenure at the company, has worked her way up to SVP of Global Communications, where she manages the strategy of the larger-than-life brand across all touch points. She’s also a frequent fixture at celebrity fittings, serving as a direct representation of the brand to the many A-listers who wear Wang for the Oscars or Golden Globes.

As deluxe as that life sounds, she’s candid that it’s also, well, life. “I don’t believe in the notion of having it all,” she says. “Some days are good and some days are bad, and you just have to do your best.”

As a working mother of two—her firstborn, Belle, is 5, while Blaire is still a newborn—with a demanding New York City life, every day poses its own set of challenges. 

“I don’t consider motherhood easy, and juggling is hard,” says Shukla. “I’m a perfectionist and that’s actually a flaw because there’s no such thing as balance as a parent—it is what it is at any given time. I can be very Type-A and having kids is an exercise in chaos, so it goes against my nature to have a plan for everything.”

“A lot of what we post [on Instagram] are the highlights, but I do try to be honest. I’ve had a lot of challenges with fertility and I make a point to be open about it especially since a lot of women are reluctant to discuss it. We had some losses and we had to do IVF, which did not suit me at all. It was very hard for me and my body.” 

 

PRIYA 2

 

Shukla grew up in Australia with traditional Indian parents whose expectations read like a checklist:  Academic excellence, an Indian husband, and a job they understood, like a doctor or engineer. 

“It’s a duality in Indian culture. There’s so much love like the way we take care of family, the way we celebrate and the way we live, eat and dress. It’s so powerful, rich, colorful, and loving,” she explains. 

“At the same time, you’re made to feel the love of your parents is conditional. That may sound harsh to some people if you don’t understand the culture, but this is what it is. There were high expectations of me culturally and academically. My parents would have had an arranged marriage for me if they could.”

None of this worked for her personality, which she describes as somewhat nonconformist and as one in search of freedom and experimentation.

“In our culture, we’re not taught to be who we want to be, we’re taught do what our parents want us to do,” she says. 

So she broke the mold.

 

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Priya in the Bea Top

 

Shukla’s exit from Australia was an orchestrated one. She knew her parents wouldn’t support her leaving the country, since Indian culture is staunchly against single women living by themselves, let alone one flying off on their own to pursue work. So she worked two jobs in retail to save money all while networking for work in the US. 

When asked how her parents took to her plan to move stateside, she laughs and says, “Terribly.” 

“But my mother knew in her heart it was something I had to do. When push came to shove, she was going to miss me, but for other family members, it was a question of what people would say,” she says, addressing the heavy community pressure. This pressure reared its head again when Shukla brought her now-husband, who is Lebanese, home to meet her family. They were initially not thrilled about him— “They made him stay at my aunt’s house down the street,” laughs Shukla. “But they immediately fell in love with him when they spent time with him.”

When Shukla eventually made it to the U.S., she landed in California with an internship at a PR firm, a job that would pave the way for future jobs, including a stint at Ralph Lauren. When she saw the opportunity to be Wang’s assistant, she vied for it because she respected Wang's ethics and ethos, even though it wasn’t a natural career progression. The rest, as they say, is history. 

“I worked my way up,” she says of how she came to where she is. 

“The lesson for me was that we should be humble and open as we are trying to achieve things. Sometimes we have to just throw our hat in the ring, which we don’t often do because we’re scared, but there’s no harm in pursuing. What’s the worst that could happen? They say no.”

Interview by Rebecca Suhrawardi