Ash Kumar is a Mehendi artiste par excellence. The young designer has applied the ancient art of decoration to Bollywood and Hollywood personalities going from popular to immensely popular. And its not just the actresses that Kumar is adorning. The likes of Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan have fallen victim to his unique and quick Henna designs. Being based in the U.K. wasn’t easy for the artiste who found himself having to explain the mechanics behind mehendi to his foreign clients after which not only did they love the idea behind a temporary tattoo but questioned the history too. His success in the Mehendi was the reason behind the formation of his school, The Ash Kumar Academy in the U.K. Students attend the courses for various reasons. While some come to learn the trade and make money, others attend out of sheer curiosity. Read on to find out more about the ancient art which has taken the world by storm, his clientele list and the inspiration behind his designs.
How did you get started in this field? What first attracted you to becoming a Mehndi artist?
There was no one for me to go to for answers and I found that there were a lot of gaps in answers from so called professionals which prompted me to become a professional and share the best of the best to aspiring artists. My vision is simple, to provide and support artists and professionals with tools that will allow them to deliver an elevated beauty experience every time — all the time.
What was your first big break?
First big break was Julia Roberts for a private function after I was spotted on BBC.
Who was the first celebrity you did makeup for?
Very recently, Shilpa Shetty in India whilst I was on holiday.
Tell us about your incredible work in Bollywood.
Incredible for others to say, I think it has definitely expanded my creativity and I have been at my creative peak on productions such as Devdas, Umrao Jaan, Jodha Akhbar, Hum Tum and many more and sincerely enjoyed every single one with some interesting celebrity clients.
You have worked with some of the biggest names in Bollywood. Any fun stories you can tell us?
There are a few, one which comes to mind is my first henna designs on Rani Mukherjee and her incredible yet funny response as she stood up in excitement once I had finished her henna in 3 minutes flat. I still remember that laugh.
What has been your best work so far do you think?
My best work so far is yet in production, I am always testing my creative limits to keep eyes focussed and mesmerised with my creations.
Who has been the best star to work with?
Each star has been a different experience but some of the best I have worked with are Kareena Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Aishwariya Rai and Madhuri Dixit. Every experience til date has been better then the last.
What are some of the other highlights of your career?
I am always pushing my creative limits which are in production, such as Ash Kumar candles, chocolate boxes, greeting cards and cakes. One of my all time favourite highlights is teaching in my studios and sharing my knowledge with make up and henna especially when we have students that go on to make a career out of it, and I love travelling.
You trained with henna artist Joshiv who later went on to win a place in the Book of Guinness World Records. You later beat her record. How did it feel to break your guru’s record?
There are many that claim to be my teacher…Joshiv is definitely not one of them. I did, however, beat the previous record which was a milestone for me as records are there to be broken. My teacher is Gulshan Latiwala. But speed is not everything, you can be fast but not necessarily do a good job, I am quality driven.
What is your philosophy about makeup?
A canvas for an artist must be right to create a quality painting. As is skincare for makeup which enhances the skin for an even more flawless finish in makeup.
Is there a philosophy behind henna designs?
Yes, structure, knowing what you are doing before you do it, planning and sketching is vital. Having henna done is now an individual personal statement…also now a fashion accessory.
Where do you draw your inspirations from for your mehndi designs?
For my bridal clients – celebrity personal bookings, ancient art, embroidery, and things that are personal to my clients. For production brief or projects I am directed by the art director or production management.
What is one thing about henna that not many people know?
Henna is healthy and can be used as therapy for wellbeing for example, reducing the amount of reoccurring pimples, lowering blood pressure and temperature. We also have extract of it in paracetamol and many other medicines. Black henna is a myth, it is not natural, it is hair dye.
What are the latest trends in henna?
The Ash Kumar transfers with the Ash Kumar Swarovski crystal gems and Ash Kumar glitter gels which are working up a storm in the Asian fashion arena.
You are known for your imaginative creations with additional materials such as crystals and creating a wider fusion of henna with other beauty forms such as hair, makeup and fashion – how far do you feel you can push this fusion – what are your next ideas?
As mentioned before we are working on many collaborations, just a recent few we have finished are Emirates project for the A380, Runway Rocks world tour with Swarovski, Universal Studios CD covers, designing candles and currently designing chocolate boxes.
How long does the application of one of your designs take?
Depending on the intricacy but I am recorded on my speed of 18 seconds for an Indian henna strip.
What is the hardest thing about your job?
Trying to make make up artists see that there is more than meets the eye and being the leader is harder than being the follower, but I pride myself as being the creative answer to aspiring make up and henna artists.
What are the differences in designs for men and women?
Men like more tribal and more bold, statement designs, i.e straight to the point like symbols, signs, pictures. Women like a more individual statement intertwined with design and something more personal, more sentimental.
Do you feel women (and men) wearing henna will become an everyday sight on our streets?
Definitely because that is where we are moving to rapidly. People without henna or a henna tattoo are frankly not fashion savvy. It is painless, its natural, its chemical free, its therapeutic and it is temporary, above all, henna is good for you. Why would you not wear it and change it according to your outfits. Decorating the body small or large has been an ancient fashion for a thousand years, now everyone needs to tap into this fashion.
Tell us about your School.
The Ash Kumar training academy is specific in teaching Asian bridal make up, looks, trends and starting up careers for aspiring make up artists for the Asian wedding industry, catwalk shows, film productions and for those wanting to join the Ash Kumar agency. Leading is something we focus on but my vision is simple, to provide and support artists and professionals with tools that will allow them to deliver an elevated beauty experience every time — all the time.
How long is the training and what does it involve?
Our courses range from 2 day courses, 3 day, 5 day, 8 day courses in make-up and henna, giving students the option to pick and chose the subjects they would like to from the Ash Kumar experiences and syllabus to kick start their career.
What are your upcoming projects?
We are working with Swarovski Crystallized Elements, candles, cards, cakes, fashion design, jewellery…I am designing for a lot of elite brands. I think you will have to keep an eye on me to keep up to speed.
You are still very young and have achieved so much, what do you see for yourself in the future?
Keep a close eye on me and you will know!
Can you give our readers 3 pieces of advice for doing henna make-up at home?
1. Skin care is extremely important. Cleanse, tone and moisturize is key for daily skincare. Product tip: 8 hour Elizabeth Arden moisturizing cream is a must have for all ladies. Trust me it will change your life.
2. Make up advice — start using brushes for foundation applications. Avoid sponges, they are a thing of the past. Applying foundation with sponges, 50% of product is soaked on sponge and 50% on the skin is a waste of product and you will end up looking like a cake because you feel you have not put enough on. Using a stipulating brush from Mac, apply foundation on to the skin in circular motions, this will give you a flawless finish and an even spread with no product wastage.
3.Henna at home — use Ash Kumar products, avoid the low in quality henna you can buy on the streets. Using the Ash Kumar henna will stop those bumpy wiggly lines, guarantee colour and they come in professional henna applicators.
While Mehendi has been around for eons now, it is only much more recently that it has gone on to become a fashion statement and this is exactly what Ash Kumar stands for. His defined designs and passion for Henna is exactly what keeps him designing more and more. Clearly, he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and will only stick around to design the best hands on both sides of the hemisphere. BollySpice wishes Ash Kumar the best for his future and for his commendable institute.