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Going back to our roots to discover the beauty of Indian fashion and how you can style simple elements to make one killer look

Words Riaan Jacob George

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If I look at my style journey over the years, I would say that there has been such a positive evolution in favour of Indian attire. A simple example: when I was in college, wearing Indian attire — usually a khadi or silk kurta — would be limited to traditional days or for special festive occasion. Being the average, style-conscious Mumbai college goer, I did not really incorporate Indian attire into my wardrobe. Cut to today, I scroll through my Instagram feed, and I notice that I am wearing Indian silhouettes on my sleeve, quite literally, with nonchalance and pride. 

What, then, has prompted me, like many other Indian gentlemen across this country, to adopt indigenous silhouettes in daily looks? 

Who knew that sneakers would end up looking so cool on an asymmetric kurta, paired with ankle pants or even when paired with shorts and a kurta

For starters, let’s look at how brilliantly Indian menswear has managed to modernise itself. So many designers and high street brands are going all out to make desi clothes chic and dapper. A far cry from the shapeless long line khadi kurtas we were accustomed to wearing years ago. 

The humble bandi jacket is, in my opinion, the flagbearer of modern Indian men’s fashion. It has been accepted so well into the Indian fashion narrative. The immense (and ncreasing) popularity of the ubiquitous bandi jacket can be attributed to the fact that it combines the east and west so effortlessly. A well designed bandi can easily replace a blazer or a sports jacket in many contexts. So much so that it is increasingly popular to see Indian corporate men ditching their blazers in favour of a bandi. Moreover, it is possibly one of the most versatile pieces of clothing out there. I, personally, am quite proud of my collection of bandis. You will see me wearing one with a crisp shirt, or on jeans, or with sneakers and sometimes even with shorts. Its so easy to dress up and down a look with a cool bandi. I’ve worn it to international events and even business meetings where foreigners have complimented me on just how chic and practical it can be (light and easy to keep in your suitcase). Mumbai-based bespoke label SVA by Sonam and Paras Modi consistently ups the bandi jacket game, at every season of Lakme Fashion Week, playing around with a host of motifs, textures and fabrics. Possibly my go-to brand for bandis. 

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Moving on to the kurta. What a massive revolution we are seeing these days in terms of kurta offerings. I have taken a personal interest in the kurta market in India, which has, in recent times, seen a host of homegrown designers adding their personal, reinterpretations of the kurta. Far from the dowdy silhouettes of yore, today’s kurta designers are going all out to make the modern Indian kurta more acceptable in mainstream attire. One look at the Lakme Fashion Week runway is enough to show you this menswear evolution. Take Kunal Rawal, for instance, who infuses his kurtas with a sporty-biker vibe and makes them look awesome. Then there is Ujjawal Dubey’s whose brand Antar-Agni produces a very avant-garde version of the kurta with his signature asymmetric cuts, and gorgeous monochrome pieces, which lend themselves perfectly to street style. Mumbai-based designer menswear brand TISA adopts a more classic approach to Indianwear and showcases a host of clean, ultra-refined looks, with minimal detailing and embellishment. Also leading the pack of modern Indian attire is Mumbai-based bespoke specialists Sarah & Sandeep. While Western staples like suits, tuxedos and travel blazers fly of the couple’s store shelves, they have been resolutely active in blending their minimalist Western aesthetic with Indian silhouettes, catering to some of the most dapper men in the country. As a result, we see simple bandhgalas, sherwanis and achkans, tailored to perfection, with subtle embellishment, using the best quality fabrics. In the very same vein, I absolutely love how Mumbai-based twin sisters Aanchal and Sanjana whose label Bubber Couture does a beautiful range of super chic kurtas and bandis, very often featuring a quirky selection of geometric prints and traditional motifs expressed in kurtas and bandis. 

Far from the dowdy silhouettes of yore, today’s kurta designers are going all out to make the modern Indian kurta more acceptable in mainstream attire

Another menswear player, Kunal Anil Tanna, does some excellent work in making Indian menswear more mainstream. I recently wore a fitted long kurta, which was made in quilted jersey and I found it to be such an edgy piece. Similarly Tanna also specialises in modern kurtas, tunics and long jackets, infused with fun elements. 

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I cannot talk about modern Indian attire without addressing the sartorial elephant in the room - sneakers. Who knew that sneakers would end up looking so cool on an asymmetric kurta, paired with ankle pants or even when paired with shorts and a kurta. I have noticed this huge trend of people using fun sneakers (or even classic white kicks) paired with bandis and short or long kurtas. 
Be that as it may, I think Indian attire is now cooler than ever before and we are looking forward to a major revolution. After all, desi style rocks!