SIGNATURE STYLE
Harper's Bazaar India|December 2020
Fashion can be second skin, a poignant yet powerful form of self-expression. In an exclusive with Bazaar, fifteen trendsetters rummage through their memories, and wardrobes, to share their personal journeys of crafting their most compelling look
Radhika Bhalla

RAKESH THAKORE, DESIGNER

On investing in pieces that are timeless

“I owe my sense of style to Martand Singh (the late textile conservator and cultural historian) who was impeccable and elegant in his white, pin-tucked kurtas and aligaris. He frequently advised me on how to express my individual choice in clothing, and to invest in pieces that lasts forever.

My style evolved in my 30s; when I was younger, I enjoyed experimenting with trends. Over time, I began to gravitate towards simple, relaxed, yet stylish pieces that were timeless. I still remember my first major purchase: it was a dark charcoal suit from Jaeger, London, and it saw me through many formal evenings during my trips overseas.

I think dressing is an art, it’s about paying respect to the occasion. I tend to stick to my staples—a well-tailored suit, comfortable shoes, cufflinks, watch, and bracelets. To add some newness, I change the cravat, pocket square, and shoes.

I have also been greatly-influenced by my father’s style, as well as Hollywood classics, especially Dr Zhivago and Gone With The Wind. I’d say style doesn’t come easy, so start with the basics, and create a look that suits you in terms of colour and fit.”

KALLOL DATTA, DESIGNER

On creating a reliable army of pitch-black clothes

“My signature style is all-enveloping: layered, languid forms that make me look like a blob or an inkblot when viewed from a distance.

During my days at design school and university, it was all over the place with colours, separates, hair, and accessories. A gradual evolution was evident when I started my practice as a clothes maker, and comfort and time took precedence.

My wardrobe contains garments made by me since I dislike clothing made for my size, elsewhere. There are black cotton pieces with free-flowing, three-dimensional folds, giant bags, jewellery in mixed metal tones, eyewear, and shoes. Blending fragrances forms a key part of the way I am everyday...it’s visceral, it ties it all in for me.

I don’t have clothing or accessories specific to certain occasions—I’ll wear the same things while on a grocery run, at a funeral, during work, at the rare event I go to...the same pieces. My wardrobe is all black inside, and once your eyes adjust to the dark tones, it’ll still look like a close-up of Vantablack. Except, I am willing to share.

My family members don’t really react since they’ve seen the gradual progression in my wardrobe; they might examine a new inking or an accessory. My friends think what I wear is extremely boring. And I don’t care what strangers think about the way I look; that’s none of my business.”

UMESH JIVNANI, JEWELLERY DESIGNER

On making a dramatic statement through attention to detail

“Over the years, my look has been bold, adventurous, vintage, and larger than life. I enjoy wearing well-tailored clothes and accessories that have been custom-made for me, and I’ll often sit with a designer to personalise my shirts and jackets. I’m a fan of ‘excess’ and for me, more is usually better.

When dressing up, I prefer that one element is unique, be it my shoes, accessories, or sunglasses. I have been collecting exquisite brooches for many years, and my wardrobe boasts over 750 of them. These brooches have now become a part of my signature look. Since most men tend to dress simply, I feel that this single element adds a new dimension to my style. In fact, my ‘brooch look’ has become so distinct, that at times, when I have dressed in a plain black shirt, people have asked if I am unwell! They have come to expect a certain amount of drama in my look...

My style began to evolve when I was in my 20’s. As a child, I was more academically-inclined, but working as a film journalist, I became aware of my fashion leanings. Dressing for work takes me about five minutes; but if I am heading to an event or party, I could even take an hour.

I am heavily inspired by the history of fashion and architecture, and I’d like to think of myself as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. It’s exquisitely-detailed, timeless, and people still stare in awe at its grandeur and unmatched beauty.”

POONAM BHAGAT, DESIGNER

On her journey to discovering herself through the years

“With my teens came the ’70s—the enfant terrible of fashion with enormously-flared bell-bottoms, baggy satin shirts, mutton sleeves, psychedelic prints, and thin belts competing with our almost non-existent, semicircular eyebrows. I was so skinny, people called me ‘Twiggy’, but I had none of her qualities to pull it off! She was the iconic clotheshorse, while I was nothing but a scarecrow, which certainly did nothing for my self-esteem.

It was the early ’90s that kickstarted my fashion label, Taika, and threw me into the wonderful world of fashion. It also propelled me into finding the right style for myself, even though it took 10 more years to hit bullseye.

I love the Japanese style of dressing: minimalistic, pleated, and asymmetrical; every garment blends harmoniously with one another to create a zen effect. Issey Miyake and all of Japanese aesthetics have greatly inspired me. I also favour sustainable fashion, and like wearing linen cocoon dresses, either plain or with a signature pattern embroidered or appliquéd on the side. I accessorise this with a statement piece of costume jewellery—it could be crafted in paper, cloth, or metal. I take 10 minutes to get dressed; 20 minutes on a really bad hair day!”

NIDHI JACOB, STYLIST

On her love for ’90s styles, mininalism, and authenticity

“My signature style is low-maintenance, functional, and nostalgic. I’ve always expressed myself through the way I dress, so it goes without saying that it is constantly evolving. I used to be drawn to more maximalist fashion when I was younger, but now I prefer simpler, neutral styles, and I see that as an expression of me trying to live a simpler, more holistic life.

I enjoy clean silhouettes, comfortable fabrics, and neutral tones, occasionally accessorised with a pop of colour or print. One of my favourite activities is to obsessively pore over family photo albums; I find inspiration in them. I also enjoy the soft minimalism of ’90s cinema, especially as seen on cerebral female leads like Dimple Kapadia and Smita Patil...there’s a certain timelesness to their style, which I try to imbibe in my own outfits. While growing up, I would devour my mum’s Femina magazines.

And I adored my grandmother’s kimono robes, my mother’s garden saris that she wore to work, and my fifth grade English teacher’s vibrant colour palette, always worn with a bold lip.

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