The Indian businessman’s bespoke wardrobe

The Indian businessman’s bespoke wardrobe

Traditional Indian menswear modernized by four fashion designers whose business is made-to-measure
Abraham & Thakore
Abraham & Thakore at Van Heusen India Men's Week, September 2011.

The country’s third men’s fashion week wrapped up in New Delhi earlier this month and GQ India magazine's 50 Best-Dressed Men issue is a party every dapper Indian urbanite wants to be a part of.

So stow away your custom-made Paul Smith suits and ties -- it’s too hot for them here anyway -- and look at what the haute Indian entrepreneur is wearing to work and play.

Look 1: Long kurtas by Abraham & Thakore

Abraham and ThakoreLong kurta by Abraham & Thakore.Traditional tailoring: The calf-grazing long cotton kurta is the staple of traditional Indian menswear, as ubiquitous as the shirt is to the West.

It's loose and airy and perfect for the Indian climate.

Most Indian women secretly swear by the sex appeal of the crisp white kurta on their men. 

Seen at: White cotton kurtas are worn to prayer ceremonies, casual dinners and even to bed. Also the politicians garb, as a matching white or cream kurta pyjama.

Designer speak: A favorite at Van Heusen India Men's Week in September 2011, New Delhi-based designer duo Abraham & Thakore displayed clean-cut kurtas in block neutral colors, detailed with subtle textures and prints and worn by  lanky models.

"Young school boys with clean tight hair and uni brows," is how designer David Abraham explains the look.

Wear it with: Over a pair of jeans and kohlapuri chappals to casual meetings or a weekend lunch.

Abraham & Thakore, The Courtyard, Minoo Desai Marg, Colaba, +91 (0)22 6638 5486; Also at DLF Emporio, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi; +91 (0)11 4606 0995;

Look 2: Bandhgala in brocade silk by Narendra Kumar

Narendra Kumar Bandhgala by Narendra Kumar. Traditional tailoring: The bandhgala is India’s answer to the tuxedo. Way before Armani drew inspiration from it, Nehru popularized it, but its antecedents can be traced back to the royal courts of India in the mid-19th century when a blend of European and Indian styles took place -- via the achkan –- a long, streamlined collared jacket with buttons down the middle, worn with long trousers or pajamas.

Seen at: The bandhgala is most often worn for evening occasions, weddings, receptions and formal dinners.

Designer speak: Not only does its cream and gray color depart from the classic black version, but the buttons styled like cuff links are an eye-catching detail. Narendra describes it as “modern, sharp, neat and clean, and the buttons are central to its look. Normally, a bandhgala means it's totally closed from the front, but I wanted something fluid and light, without too many creases. So it’s comfortable without altering the basic shape of the jacket. Regal and yet light.” Narendra’s so happy with it that he’s taken the unusual step of copyrighting the design.

Wear it with: A lighter colored shoe, either in gray, beige or a light tan, eschewing black. That would “kill the effect.”

Bespoke tailoring and an exclusive men’s Indian wedding line at Narendra Kumar, G/F, Dhairya Apartments, 13th Road, Madhu Park, Khar (W), +91 (0)22 6522 4843

Look 3: Tunics and tailored pants by Zubair Kirmani

Zubair Kirmani Tunic by Zubair Kirmani. Traditional tailoring: An upcoming, critically acclaimed Delhi designer, Zubair Kirmani says his outfit “takes its inspiration from traditional India, but is very much in keeping with an urban Indian look. The kurta (shirt) is multifunctional, formal, as well as casual. If you pair it with jeans, it’s a more relaxed look.”

Designer speak: “I make clothes I can wear myself,” says Zubair. Made out of a special cotton, it drapes and falls well. He says the idea is to be comfortable. The pants are also cotton, with a satin weave, so they’re soft.

Seen at: While it's not formal enough for a traditional business meeting, Zubair feels this outfit is ideal for people in media, fashion or PR. “It can be carried off by someone in these industries, who needs to look good but doesn’t need to follow the typical business look. It can be worn from day to evening, and is appropriate even for casual, relaxed evenings.”

Wear it with: Sandals are better than shoes in this case.

Available at AZA Men, 3 Cornelian, 104 August Kranti Marg, opposite Cumballa Hill Hospital, Kemps Corner, +91 (0)22 2382 1161. For bespoke tailoring,, +91 (0) 120 423 2153

Look 4: 21st century safari suits by Raghavendra Rathore

Raghavendra RathoreSafari suit by Raghavendra Rathore. Traditional tailoring: A colonial derivative created by the Brits and popularized in the West by Yves St Laurent, even Roger Moore, as supercool agent James Bond, wore it in a few of the 007 flicks.

Seen at: In India, the safari doesn’t have that wow factor -- it's considered pretty mundane actually; garb of the bureaucrats.

Designer speak: Yet Rajasthan based Raghavendra Rathore chooses black over tan, and creates a retro chic novelty. Raghu, as he’s known, tells us that his ensembles “are designed to have a touch of India, and Jodhpur specifically, as that’s the only USP that sets my looks apart from the rest. I’ve given this safari a distinct appeal that is significantly in keeping with my brand’s imagery and vision.”

Wear it with: A well-fitted T-shirt, shown here in black. White's also recommended, as is a good pair of black loafers.

Studio appointments and bespoke tailoring, +91 (0) 92125 01217; custom orders available at DLF Emporio Mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi,  +91 (0)11 4604 0709


Gayatri is a Columbia Journalism School graduate who has written on fashion, art and lifestyle for the International Herald Tribune, VOGUE, Conde Nast Traveller, Harper's Bazaar, HELLO!, CNNGo, The Book Review, ELLE, and The Hindu.

Read more about Gayatri R Shah