Shattering stereotypes of what works in the boardroom, these professionals let their individuality shine.
Dusty sites to formal client meets, Farah Agarwal, the interior designer behind Chestnut Storeys, has to juggle a lot on a regular 9 to 6 job. But that doesn’t translate to regimented office wear. “I like putting different things together for work because I want my personality to stand out,” says the 30-year-old, who is currently working on bungalows in Boat Club Road and Bengaluru. So you’ll find her segueing from distressed True Religion jeans and bright floral printed tops from Pankaj & Nidhi to leather skirts and A-line dresses from Diane von Fürstenberg. Summer ready with her on-trend flared bell-bottoms and culottes, she also favours sleeveless vests and light jackets—like a chequered blue and maroon one from Rohit Bal. “There will always be one piece that stands out in my ensemble, so I go couture with my accessories—like a Cartier bangle, Bulgari Serpenti watch or stunning Manish Arora neck piece,” says the mother of two, who admits her weakness is shoes. For client meets, you will find her in multi-hued heels from Louboutin or Fendi. Asymmetrical shirts from Rajesh Pratap Singh or a skull scarf from Alexander McQueen will also find its way into a meeting, she says, concluding that bright and bold makes a statement—both about her and her work.
I know for a fact that people in Chennai joke about my clothes, but that doesn’t put me off,” smiles Ranvir Shah, adding, “I like turning perceptions on its head and saying, ‘hey, I am me and I like different things at different times and I have the courage to wear it’.” And that means heading to work—be it client meetings with, say, a Tommy Hilfiger, or a tête-a-tête with a cultural head as part of Prakriti Foundation—in purple jodhpurs from Rohit Kamra or a blue button down Oxford with a killer whale print that he picked up from Urban Outfitters in Massachusetts. Mixing his labels and prints to suit his moods, you’ll find Shah as comfortable in Rohit Bal shirts and a Vivek Karunakaran jacket (a current favourite comes with a Labrador print) as he is in Zara or donning cotton espadrilles that he picks up in Spain. A personal favourite: different sets of spectacle frames that he changes with his outfits (from an Hermes orange to a Prada red or funky bamboo ones) and his collection of antique cashmere shawls. “I was always comfortable with taking risks—be it colour, design or pattern—and I have never been shy of colour. My clothes are conversation points at meetings and bring humour into my life,” concludes the 52-year-old.
Corporate wear gets revamped as some of the city’s top professionals show us that stepping out to work doesn’t mean dressing down. Be it a label fetish or a signature style—from glamorous reds to leather skirts and silk cravats to quirky prints—they push the boundaries of what is ‘acceptable’ and show us that fun, humour and a touch of OTT can make a dreary day at work just a little brighter.
A black shirt and trousers teamed with blood red suspenders and tie. Not what you’d expect a doctor to be dressed in. But then JS Rajkumar, the chief surgeon of Lifeline Hospitals, is not your run-of-the-mill medical practitioner. “I like an element of display. And attention to detail is everything—after all, a surgeon who polishes his shoes to a high shine and pays attention to his cuff links is not likely to leave a pair of scissors inside a patient,” laughs the 52-year-old. Crediting his dad with his natty sense of style, Rajkumar has a penchant for patterned silk ties and cravats, pocket squares and cuff links (like rearing stallions and champagne bottles)—most of which he picks up on his travels abroad, especially at London’s Tie Rack. An avid airport shopper (“they have fun, interesting options”), he says even his socks make a statement—from chequered and striped to bold colours, he coordinates them with his ensemble. “I love adventure and have done everything from scuba diving to bungee jumping. And I bring that passion to my clothes,” says the doctor, who swears by his Calvin Klein shirts and comfortable yet chic suits from Marks & Spencer.
DESIGNER Prabha Narasimhan can give you a masterclass on creating ‘‘absolute drama’’ with clothes and makeup. Designers are expected to write a visual story, but Narasimhan, a former travel professional who now runs the design outfit, Amrita, has been a pro at standing out from the crowd since she was little. Favouring linens and vintage fabrics, she is known for her spectacular necklaces, mostly featuring chunky beads, silver or big wooden pendants. And bold slashes of deep or peacock blue under the eye, that have set a makeup trend. ‘‘Dainty gets lost on me and colours like black, especially with kohl, are too stark,’’ she explains. Massimo Dutti shirts are a staple, and Narasimhan, a fan of pastels, also stocks up on clothes from Rajesh Pratap Singh for the workplace. “I like the simplicity of his designs. The understated brand, Cue, has brilliant cuts and I fancy the floral prints by Pankaj and Nidhi,” she adds. The 63-year-old also confesses to spending a lot of time on footwear, but stays away from stilettos.She relies on a range of Swarovski-embellished sunglasses from Bulgari for the day. And her high-necked sari blouses and well-groomed salt and pepper look—‘‘I am happy I got grey at the right time. Now people think it’s my statement’’ —complete the picture.
A faculty of KM Music Conservatory, Adam Greig stands out for his wry humour, blue eyes and up-swept blonde mane. The Scotsman loves vibrant peacock shades, particularly petrol blue. “I also wear a lot of grey and charcoal,” says the 31-year-old, whose pointy-toed collection of shoes is the talk of the town. Blue, red or purple, his high-gloss patent leathers—with interesting details like patchwork and embossed chequerboard print—often match his outfits. Even as he slips into kurtas with ease, it’s always about the fit for Greig. “I love close-fitted, clean lines and I stay away from denim,” he admits. A fan of Vivienne Westwood’s designs, especially her tartan and asymmetrical cuts (“I get bored with symmetry in my clothes”), he wears her waistcoats to work. “I prefer prints on my trousers—geometric with strong colour contrasts.” Sentimental about his silver Ace of Spades Cards cufflinks that his mother brought back from Cannes, he adds, “I just got some antique cufflinks, featuring century-old Oriental enamel with a peacock motif, which might just persuade me to wear more shirts. You can never be over-dressed for a situation. If I’m dressed well, I am more efficient and effective.”
Inspired by her nine fashionable grand aunts and her mother, Nina Reddy has always had a bold sense of style. And she doesn’t hide it under a bushel when she goes to work. You will find the joint managing director of The Savera hotel overseeing her workforce of over 800 in collared shirts in bold colours like mustard and orange, well-fitting trousers and, yes, even an animal print scarf. “I love my animal prints and you’ll find them in my scarves or as accents in my clothing. Jeans—coloured, printed, distressed—are also a weakness,” says the mother of two, who just turned a grandmother. Famous for shunning flats, Reddy steps it up in wedges, stilettos and even boots with saris. “Looking good makes you feel confident and makes the other person take you more seriously,” she explains. Not much for flaunting labels, she thinks nothing about teaming her Dolce & Gabbana jacket with a top from Zara, while carrying her essentials in her bright pink Kate Spade handbag. But let’s face it, it’s stunning saris (from Tulsi Silks to local designers like Neesha Amrish), statement blouses and head-turning neck pieces (chunky jewellery from designers like Raji Anand to raw diamonds from Amrapali) that we associate the 54-year-old with. Does she wear them to work, too? Yes, she says, boardroom meetings can find her in drapes “with a nose ring and an interesting neck piece” to pull the look together.
I come to my clinic like I’m going to a party,” says cosmetologist Bhairavi Mathu, the owner of Behanced in RA Puram. Whether it is teaming a sequined jacket with her anarkalis or a flamboyant red gown with a slit, she believes that when the doctor is dressed up, it creates a positive impact on the patients. Dramatic yet feminine, Mathu insists all her clothes have a contemporary twist. With a penchant for florals and animal prints, she often flaunts her collection of dainty dresses she picks up from Korea. “I love their long gowns with A-line cuts. The prints are fun and teamed with a great belt, they look stunning,” says the 30-year-old. The dusky beauty swears by designer Sabyasachi and says she’s picked up saris and gowns from his new floral collection, which she loved on her style icons, Deepika Padukone and Aishwarya Rai. A lover of all things bling, be it diamonds or junk, she likes them bold. “I like statement piece like the chunky pearl set (in the picture) that I wear with dresses,” she says. In the city, she picks up bespoke pieces at Rehane’s or Shilpa Vummiti on KNK Road. “I have a longer lower body so I choose something that covers my legs. I love palazzos and skirts,” says the doctor, who follows the fashion rule of brights for summer and pastels otherwise.
By Surya Praphulla Kumar