Desi on Duty

, Fashion

Suits are so passe – it is the age of Indianwear for men at work, says RJ George

So saris at work are hot, and sherwanis not? I have often pondered the unfairness of it. Why should girls have all the fun, after all. But thanks to some enterprising Indian designers, that trend seems about to change. More and more men are breaking boardroom norms and incorporating elements of Indianwear into their formal work attire. Curious how?

The bandi bubbles over The humble bandi jacket is right at the epicentre of this sartorial wave. “The bandi jacket is now recognised as a viable replacement for a blazer at the workplace,” says Mumbai-based menswear designer Kunal Anil Tanna. Sure, the ubiquitous sleeveless jacket, immortalised by Jawaharlal Nehru, popularised in Jodhpur and glamorised by designer Raghavendra Rathore, has been around for a while, but no longer is it worn solely by “politicians and activists”. It is a universal wardrobe staple with a high dapper quotient. If the number of brands producing bandi jackets is anything to go by, the trend seems to have caught every man’s fancy. So much so that Italian luxury giant Canali’s India-exclusive Nawab jacket has become a signature offering of its annual Nawab collection. Even the US brand Tommy Hilfiger released a limited edition of bandi jackets for the Indian market. What works is its sheer versatility. It can be paired with almost anything – from a kurta pyjama to a pair of denims and even chinos, with a T-shirt, a polo or an Oxford shirt.

Desi Direction

Take Andamen, a trendy online start-up brand based in Delhi, that plays on making India’s heritage more relevant to the 21st century. Andamen’s co-founder, Satvika Saboo, says, “We have shirts with designs inspired from India’s culture. The current collection, for instance, has designs inspired from two festivals – the desert festival of Jaisalmer and the Hemis festival of Ladakh.” Saboo’s creations feature Indian motifs placed at strategic points, such as inner cuffs, plackets, collar linings or a pocket.

(Clockwise from above) Flaunt your Indianness in the versatile bandi jacket, a shirt with subtle Indiainspired prints, pocket squares and an embroidered jacket

However, designers say that Indian influences have existed at the workplace for ages. Trends such as the classic Mandarin collar and Dobby shirts are not new to us, whereas paisley motifs and jacquard fabrics have been seen often. All these have some sort of India connect, say designers.

Popular menswear designer Kunal Rawal has an interesting interpretation. “Hems are getting longer on shirt-kurtas, and mojris are being used in both formal and semi-formal looks. Tone-on-tone embroidery on shirts and jackets is a nice way to incorporate an Indian element, while traditional mother-of-pearl buttons could be replaced with more ornate ones,” he says. Rawal’s menswear line last season was met with rave reviews, with short kurtas replacing shirts, worn over pants. Bandis and bandhgalas were worn open, like a Western-style jacket.

Progress slow but steady

The Western suit continues to be the pillar of business attire but tweaking the codes to suit their taste is what Indian men are finding interesting. Saboo says, “We see Indian elements in more relaxed corporate industries such as advertising and the media. There is a definite shift in perspective, where Indians are proud of homegrown labels. The challenge is there are few brands offering Indian elements in a contemporary and premium way.” The way forward, then, is perhaps to adapt Indian textiles such as cotton, linen and khadi, traditionally used for Indian pieces, to create Western silhouettes. But you have to agree – going desi has never been more fashionable!

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