Emperors New Clothes
dont want to touch them, claiming India Inc is already
well dressed. But we got them to style some of our top billionaires
by Kishore Singh &
Indias work uniform could well be the navy/grey/black
Armani classic fit. But for a tie here or a shirt there,
Indias billionaires are as cliched as Wall Streets
bankers, impeccably outfitted, but the more boring for their
lack of experimentation.
Suit, navy blue with stripes
Suit, navy blue without
Blazers, navy blue
Shirt, powder blue
Shirt, baby pink
(still in its original
|1 doz pairs
their wardrobes and chances are this is what youll
then, if you will, Azim Premji or, for that matter,
Mukesh Ambani, strolling across to their favourite
haberdashery on Bond Street, to be outfitted, measured
out and tut-tutted over (Would you mind taking
a deep breath and holding it, Sir?), to return
some weeks later for a fitting, and yet again for
delivery of a custom-tailored suit.
simpler, really, to pick an Emporio Armani off the
rack before signing a cheque en route to a meeting.
does make for a limited choice though an Armani is
safe, a Hugo Boss (they might have it for mandatory sake
in their wardrobe but would rather wear worsted than linen)
the height of boldness, but the hand-stitched (somewhat
crudely at that) lapel and hemming details that are the
rage in the fashion world (and cost a pretty penny at that)
would be impossibly out of place in the gentlemans
cupboard in India.
designer India doesnt interface too closely
with corporate India. Ravi Bajaj might have young
executives pick out his pinstriped suits, but the
more seniority they claim on the ladder, the further
they distance themselves from his style of ties
worn impossibly short.
choice of colours, though, might distinguish them,
but for most part the most you can expect are ice-candy
colours (Sunil Mittal), stripes (Azim Premji), or
daringly red (Kumaramanglam Birla , Naresh Goyal).
think we should let them be, says designer Ranna
Gill whose clients, not surprisingly, do not include
our list of Indias top billionaires.
But then, its impossible to think of any of
them actually giving a sitting to a designer. For
most part, theyre rooted and down to earth (okay,
as down to earth as you can be in an Armani jacket).
Rathore, whose line of dressing tends towards the
austere, says these are not people who should be following
the flip-flops of fashion anyway.
Shiv Nadar in a Rohit Bal outfit and youll know
what he probably means.
speak to designers and theyll tell you that
despite it not being really necessary,
as in any other walk of life, individuality does count.
Therefore, Sunil Mittals lemon, pink and glacial
blue ties have become his hallmark, just as Rahul
Bajajs sartorial style (or lack of it) marks
found his perfect styling in the seventies when what
passed for an apology by way of formalwear became
the norm for a short while the inelegant (and
quite out of place in the board room) safari suit.
dude in the IT business thats crowded with more
talent than you had thought was possible.
PREMJI LOOK: Full sleeve shirts, plain
and stripes, understated ties, dark trousers, often
Azim Premji has the slimness and height to carry off
a more casual look. His hair too calls for a trendier
makeover of clothes. Therefore, we suggest short,
fitted shirts with short sleeves, worn over his trousers
(in khaki, beige and cream) a Florida look
for the workplace in keeping with the tenor of his
work. Fitted club shirts (diagonal stripes in dark
colours) are best for the evening. For formal meetings,
Azim Premji should stick with Western suits (paired
with thick striped shirts and solid colour ties) as
Indian clothes will not suit him.
undisputed business leader in the country should dress
like a second-generation whizkid.
Dark suits, undistinguished ties.
WE RECOMMEND: Definitely more dash. To
compensate for his height, Mukesh Ambani should wear
longer jackets that create the illusion of height.
Colours should tend towards the paler greys
and creams, in particular. The cuts should be less
classic, more flamboyant, with hand-stitching along
the lapels and hems. The fabric should definitely
be lighter. In India, he should favour open collars
with his jackets; overseas, he should blend long scarfs
with his jacket and tie, and a camel coloured long
coat would look good on him.
adopted it as his own, and wore it almost without exception
to work, for meetings and for conferences and large international
events (long sleeves in winter, short sleeves for summer
and in Mumbai and Pune). Its the one thing all designers
though, Bajaj has made himself comfortable in something
else corporate India is still to come to terms with
ethnicwear, or more aptly, the kurta pyjama.
Here, again, Bajaj has forsaken the trimmings of designer
fashion for fairly practical plain, striped and checked
kurtas teamed with either churidars, aligarhis or straight
Bajaj has made a statement in bucking the Armani trend,
the only others who have occasionally been spotted in ethnic
clothes and decidedly designer ones at that
are brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh though
for most part theyre part of the suited-booted
then, is a style list that works well for most CEOs whore
not part of the top 10 countdown (or count up, in this case).
For, its time we showed the world that just as were
equally at home in a globalised scenario, so are with our
Indian heritage. Therefore, it would be interesting if the
next time we sneak-peeked into an Ambani or a Nilekani or
a Naresh Goyal cupboard, it would be to find some of these
more uber style statements:
Armani is safe, a Hugo Boss the height of boldness,
but the hand-stitched lapel and hemming details that
are a rage in the fashion world would be impossibly
out of place in the gentlemans cupboard in India
Theres nothing more formal, and more distinctive,
than a bundgulla, the uniquely Indian tunic coat thats
now hot on the Western ramps. Even though it can be teamed
with shirts and worn casually open, its best recommended
buttoned up, in a slim, long silhouette, so it hides the
time our billionaires havent found to spend in the
gym. Can be teamed with a show kerchief and/or a pocket
watch. Never to be worn with sandals please, as some are
wont to do: the bundgulla is too formal for that. Can be
in linen and heavier fabrics, in a range of corporate colours,
though pales (white, cream, beige) do very well too.
suits: When you need to be as inscrutable as
the Chinese in a board room, the Armani/Boss suit is your
best bet. But you must feel free to indulge yourself a bit
too, and a little individuality is good for the soul. Therefore,
look for and dont be embarrassed by
the linen suits of your Western peers (everyone but Donald
Trump wears them): theyre comfortable, though they
do crush easily, but its okay to wear them without
creases as sharp as a knifes edge. The trendier Italian
streetwear suit can be adapted for less formal functions,
especially in the evenings. But if you must make the count,
then your measurements must be logged with a Bond Street
tailor (right Laksmi Mittal?), and your suits should be
custom-stitched (upturned hems and all) to stand the snobbish
scrutiny of those who are to the manor born.
There isnt another garment thats as important
as the tie and no, the cravat or scarf arent
worth the airing (unless you plan to spend an afternoon
at the races). Ties have their own fashions, so you can
have plains and solids, stripes (always popular), motifs
(birds, elephants, even Mickey Mouse) you could,
probably should, have an extensive selection that includes
them all. School or regimental ties are great for bonding.
Use ties to make a statement: add a little colour (or humour)
to meetings, but always retain your dignity. And, loosened
just a little at the neck, they make the perfect statement
for the billionaire boss at work.
Always use belts, and a distinctive buckle attracts attention.
Cufflinks spell old-world class always wear them,
preferably with your intitials/emblem on them. A tie-pin
is redundant. Cummerbunds have been consigned to history,
no matter what designers say about attempting to revive
Own several pairs. Wear for casual get-togethers, or on
Saturdays. Ralph Lauren, naturally.
Short-sleeve shirts please, for the summer (let the juniors
wear Ts): bold stripes are currently trendy; Hawaiian shirts
are good but hardly bosswear...
though: it is true that industrialists and entrepreneurs
cant be treated like actors and dont need makeovers.
Their confidence and style is part of their attitude, earned
on the job. Why would they want to change that?
the telecom king extends his business, he could consider
extending his wardrobe too.
MITTAL LOOK: Shirtsleeves rolled back suggest
a working man, but mostly dressed in suits with light
WE RECOMMEND: A total change. Mittal has
a lot of flair and has a range of suits of which the
lighter ones (tan, khaki, olive green) suit him better.
However, Mittal could power dress a little less. He
could carry of lightly floral shirts under his jacket.
He should pair his shirt and tie with sleeveless waistcoats
to create a style that is uniquely his.
techie look could work well for him instead of his
usually more conventional choice
NADAR LOOK: Typically corporate, with pinstriped
shirts with long sleeves.
WE RECOMMEND Change to light and solid
colour plain shirts, worn under suspenders for a look
thats both formal and casual. Trousers should
be loose girthed, with a good fall, and should be
in dark colours with stripes to break the body. Should
switch to nifty reading glasses half glasses
or pince nez would look droll on him.
pharma industry look is too industrious.
SHANGHVI LOOK: Blink, and you could miss
him, Shanghvi is so conventionally dressed.
WE RECOMMEND: The researcher-meets-entrepreneur
look small, polka-dotted skirts (wed
love to pair them with a bow-tie, if Dilip Shangvi
would only carry it off), cuffs rolled back, a casually
worn jacket or waistcoat. Or, totally breaking with
tradition and settling for formal long kurtas with
churidaars could be a great highlight.
airline boss always dresses like a gentleman
now he should take a break.
GOYAL LOOK: Always formally dressed, in
dark suits, solid ties.
WE RECOMMEND: While we arent suggesting
that he ape Richard Branson/Vijay Mallaya, Naresh
Goyal definitely has the pizzazz to carry off the
nattier suits that are a rage in all of Europe
a hand-stitched white suit with dark blue stripes,
for instance. Get the picture? Something that sets
him apart in the crowded civil aviation and hospitality
dash of flamboyance for
chose to design a new look for Mukesh Ambani,
but now when I wonder why I picked him, the
answer to that is quite evident:
is a hardcore corporate guy and giving him a
makeover would be challenging and, hence, fun.
As far as I have studied Mr Ambani, he is quite
a conservative dresser and someone who will
not want to shift from his ideas of clothes.
I find him quite serious, a to the point
there have been a couple of occasions that I
have seen him relax on television, and he has
his moments of flamboyance.
Designer Sayon Mitra suggests a makeover where
the look is in the details
I want to capture that flamboyance in him and enhance
that part of his personality with the right kind of
this purpose I have designed two outfits. The first
sketch is an outfit that Mr Ambani should wear to
work. Its a tailored suit worn with a shirt
and a tie. The jacket has a distinct Italian look.
The lapels are sharp and the shoulders are padded,
broadening the shoulders and, hence, visually giving
the wearer the feeling of authority and power.
Mr Ambani has both in abundance and doesnt have
to wear a jacket to indicate it, a jacket tailored
like that gives leaves that impression. There is a
bit of shape around the waistline, enhancing the shoulders
even more. The lapel of the jacket is not only cut
sharply, its long as well, showing quite a bit
of the shirt and tie. The wider the structure of ones
body, the more invincible, confident and authoritative
one feels. The pair of trousers are classic with turned-up
hems. I want the whole ensemble to have a classic
look with dashes of surprise here and there. I would
want to give Mr Ambani a shirt in the same colour
as the suit.
dark suits do well for officewear. So black, navy
blue, charcoal grey are some of the colours that I
would recommend for him, with his shirts in the same
colour. With this, the tie can be absolutely bizarre,
such as a golden yellow! Or, it could be the other
way round the tie and the shirt of the same
colour and the suit in a contrasting shade. A pair
of Italian shoes would go very well with the entire
socialising in the evenings I have decided to give
him something classic and oriental. I feel that he
would be able to carry a bundgala/Jodhpuri very well.
The garment would have a textured yoke in the front.
The jacket could be a woollen blended fabric in a
dark shade. The yoke will have parallel slot seams
with strips of raw silk. These strips would be in
flamboyant and contrast colours.
The seams would be narrow so that very little of the
contrasting silks can be seen and will not scream
for attention. The same thing will be around the cuffs.
I want to work on this garment with a lot of detailing.
The shirt to wear underneath the bundgala will be
of the same colour as the silk in the slot seams.
The pair of trousers will have a classic look. No
experiments needed here.
I am highlighting Mr Ambanis personality with
the flamboyant jacket.
far as the shoes are concerned, one can never go wrong
with a pair of classic, handcrafted, narrow, yet chisel-toed
shoes to complete the look.
both ensembles I have tried to highlight his personality
not drastically, but subtly yet effectively.
& Shivinder Singh
brothers should do a fashion jugalbandi.
SINGH LOOK: They dress reasonably young,
as far as formal suits go, and have been known to
slip into traditional Indian clothes on occasion.
WE RECOMMEND: Since they have the style,
they should definitely make the bundgulla their speciality,
and because they have age on their side, they shouldnt
be averse to getting a bit of work done on the chest
and sleeves for evening wear. They could also team
their bundgullas with breeches in the off-hours, though
they should definitely stick with trousers during
reorganised his companies, now he should do it for
his wardrobe too.
BIRLA LOOK: Boring shirts, conventional
suits. Never seen in relaxwear.
WE RECOMMEND: A complete makeover that
represents his diverse interests. Therefore, he should
look at Western suits (greys in particular), bundgullas
and even achkans for formal wear. He should avoid
kurtas since he cannot carry them off. Nor is the
short-sleeve look good for him. Wed suggest
playful, fun ties to team with his suits everything
else is so terrifyingly corporate about him.
colours should be his forte
AGARWAL LOOK: Staid, boring suits and shirts.
WE RECOMMEND: To marry with his interests
in minerals/metals, Agarwal should redesign his wardrobe
to a minimal, stark style, with metallic colour, new
generation, fitted shirts and jackets. He should wear
polos or Ts under his jacket, and the bright glint
of colour should distinguish his clothing. Accessories
should include chunky belt buckles and watches.
swadeshi man must look the role.
BAJAJ LOOK: Loose kurtas,bush-shirts and
his one-time favourite safari suits.
WE RECOMMEND: Junk his wardrobe completely,
and turn it in for a fully Indian wardrobe. He would
look best in long, fitted kurtas with formal collars
(otherwise described as Mandarin collars), in natural
materials. Always churidaars, since loose pyjamas
look clumsy. He should team them with smart sandals
for the office, and jootis for the evening. For formal
wear, he should definitely switch to achkans and,
when travelling overseas, to the bundgulla with trousers
DRESS JUST FINE
really hard to give makeovers to hard core businessmen.
I think theyre absolutely fine with their respective
dressing styles. I cant dress Azim Premji in
a Hawaiian print, can I? I mean, who can expect him
to go to attend business meetings dressed like that?
If you wouldve asked me to do a makeover for
actors like Saif Ali Khan, I could still manage that.
Actors play different characters in so many films
that its justified to do their makeovers. But
this sounds really bizarre. These top businessmen
dress their part, look just fine and I really think
we should just let them be.
for corporate honchos like those featured as the top
10 billionaires in the magazine should ooze style
that also implies comfort at all times. The manner
in which these individuals dress up reflects not only
the image of the respective companies but is also
a benchmark for those who aspire to reach the same
level as these icons. I would personally suggest a
well-cut business suit for starters. A suit that fits
well so that one is not constantly tugging at the
tie or the collars of the shirt. The shirts should
reflect a designer statement too. This doesnt
mean were looking at loud colours or bold patterns.
Not at all, but itll be interesting to see these
honchos dressed in shirts which have a hint of colour
and some element of threadwork. It doesnt have
to be embroidered heavily but just simple thread work
would look wonderful. On a white silk shirt for instance,
a hint of thread work in white will make a lot of
be interesting to try out newer colours as against
the usual dark blue suit teamed with a maroon tie.
Id give black a thumbs down and, instead, advice
a business suit in charcoal grey. Monotones of grey
look very good, and for fabrics Italian blends will
be a good option.
OUT IN A CROWD
the individuals were talking about are billionaires,
they obviously have no dearth of options. They can
choose from a range of designer wear but I think its
important for them to identify and find out what kind
of a personal style statement they wish to make. Azim
Premji, for instance, looks so dignified and extremely
confident at the same time. If I was given a chance
to do a makeover for him, Id make sure he stands
out in the crowd without really going over the top.
Ill go in for a softer palette of colours like
a formal shirt in dull salmon colour that can be teamed
with a well-cut business suit. By virtue of his position,
I think it would be inappropriate to see him wearing
loud colours but Id definitely like to see him
sport pastel and very pale shades of yellow, blue
and green. Id like him to team up a smart, black
business suit with an aqua colour shirt with a hint
of tonal embroidery. Id make sure everything
would blend stylishly and aesthetically for Azim Premji.
change is not something that is welcomed by this stratum
of people and it would not make them what they are
if they seemed like many others who flip flop between
the volatile world of business, the man who is comfortable
most is king! Personal character has more
to do with this then mode. Also, when
you have access to almost every kind of vulgarity
of luxury at will, what then becomes important clearly
is the art of expurgation. Patronising national spirit
by endorsing Indian products, design etc, is seen
Anand Mahindras discussions with me each time
lends me to see him as a good ambassador of Indian
style. Two good reasons are that he is, in many ways,
to India what a Briton is to England and an Italian
to Italy. The innate Indianness is what makes him
look elegant in the bundgala ensemble. Humble and
gracefully witty, he in dark colours and classic
cuts may actually never need a fashion designers