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What's the well-dressed executive wearing?

Soumik Sen | March 06, 2004

The summer season is approaching and corporate India is facing a make-or-break dilemma once again. This one isn't about annual budgets or even all-important sales targets.

It's a sartorial conundrum: what should the well-dressed executive be wearing now that's summer's here and the blazing sun is melting the tar on the streets?

Once upon a time, this question was a no-brainer. Executives, both senior and junior, simply slipped on a short-sleeved bush shirt or a full-sleeved one if they were in a formal mood.

Today, that type of dressing would be almost enough to merit a pink slip in some organisations. The multinational banks, for instance, demand that even junior executives turn up in a formal suit matched with a pure silk tie -- nothing less will do.

That might seem horribly uncomfortable in India's tropical climate but the corporations insist that the air-conditioning in most modern offices is more than enough to keep people cool.

Also, there are more options available in suitings than there ever were before. In the old days, a cotton suit would have meant sporting a permanently rumpled look.

Today, there are products like Louis Philippe's Premium Wrinkle-Free cotton linen trousers prices at Rs 1,499 that are guaranteed to keep their creases through a full 12 hours of corporate firefighting.

Take a look at adman Suhel Seth, who admits that he sometimes strolls into office in shorts (remember, he owns the company). But that's on days when he doesn't have to meet key clients. When it comes to suits, his preferred fabric is linen.

Says Seth: "It might give that crumpled look, but who cares. A linen suit is the comfortable option in the heat of Delhi, especially if it happens to be from the Zegna stable."

It can be a different ballgame if you don't own the company. Take Bharti Televentures' director communications, Deepak Jolly, who discovered that relatively formal dressing was the order of the day in his company. Jolly's recipe for cool dressing is to wear a thin suit from Givo or Giovanni, with lightweight linings.

He has also found that the ITC Willsport range has plenty of choices. "While these are my two trusted names when it comes to suits, the ITC Willsport's range of formals is equally impressive," he says.

These are teamed with shirts in light summery yellows, pinks and mauves or, of course, white.

For Louis Vuitton's Indian advisor Tikka Shatrujit Singh, style is, of course, everything. He must cut a slightly different figure from the average corporate honcho and he prefers to stick to cotton or linen suits in shades of pastels.

"But I never wear a white shirt -- an assortment of stripes, checks and subtle solids," he says.

Shatrujit Singh admits that he doesn't really like turning up fully suited and  booted in the Indian summer. He like to treat both the jacket and the tie as a mere accessory that's more for carrying around than wearing. If given the choice he would rather wear a white kurta pyjama in the summer months and those are tailored by Bakul Mandalia.

Some executives insist that summer dressing is still relatively informal. Citi group's Area credit manager, Ravi P Swami, for instance, is quite comfortable without a suit. "I stick to all the usual brands and buttoned-down shirts," he says.

Earlier getting the right fit and comfortable readymade fabrics was a problem -- but not any more. Swami has been eyeing cotton suits for some time now, and hopes to pick up a couple this season.

The fact is that the clothing companies are beginning to understand their customer's needs and are flooding the market with summer materials that stay crisp.

For the big spender, one option is the 100 per cent wrinkle-free Louis Philippe Permapress range at Rs 2,299; the corresponding  three-ply cotton trousers retail at Rs 1,799.

Also from Louis Philippe are shirts in Egyptian suvin cotton, and the Gods and Kings range of shirts with mother of pearl buttons that start at Rs 1,499.

Or, if you want to present a slightly different image, there's the Allen Solly's summer collection in linen. Allan Solly also has a linen range for women.

Ebony's own label, ETC, last summer had launched linen suits and are all set to follow it up with a mid-range collection of linen shirts and pants in the Rs 595 and Rs 795 range.

For the office goer looking at summer suit options, Neeta Narula, MD, Ebony feels that a lightweight cotton and wool blazer in light pastel colours from Giovanni or Van Heusen is the best bet.

Available in the Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000 range, Narula believes these are perfectly comfortable power and style statements for a boardroom meeting.

Even the top Indian designers are getting into the office place. Under his Indipret umbrella, designer Raghavendra Rathode is all set to woo corporates with his denim collection this season. The crisp pleated pants and formal denim shirts are priced between Rs 1,000 and Rs 2,500.

Rathode challenges the functionality of a suit in summer. "Very few people know how to style themselves," he says.

"What is important is to have well-cut shirts and to dress according to the season. The jacket should be treated as an accessory and should be kept only in the back seat of the car, in a hanger," he feels.

He suggests that the perfect attire for the hot summer months should be comfortable inner wear, trousers in black, cream and navy blue and fresh cotton shirts.

Accessories like a defining belt and watch can be the perfect power statement and not necessarily a bulky suit. What is also very important is a fragrance to go with the attire because that in itself can be the "first ambassador of goodwill".

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