It was a particularly balmy evening when we set foot inside Pranav Bhakta’s upscale, yet quintessentially cosy abode. The subdued, benign yellow lights gleamed deeply on the diverse range of furniture and upholstery, creating an environment which was picturesque and vividly vibrant, just like Pranav’s personality. Having donned a plethora of hats during his career and being a safe pair of hands between the East and the West, Pranav’s wardrobe has metamorphosed tremendously and reached a juncture where there is no room for hesitation to embrace his sui generis, authentic self. Associating himself with a rather zippy catchword ‘BOOM’ and having tasted waters from across countries, the global inhabitant opens up to WM about fashion, aesthetics and all things dapper.
WM : What has your career journey been like, till date?
PB: “I am the founding partner of InCa Growth Partners where we co-execute innovative concepts and design-centric strategies. I graduated from University of California, Berkeley, after which I went on to do commercial real estate in the States, hence being well acquainted with institutional private equity investments in real estate, hospitality and hotels. When India was hot, I had the opportunity to open an investment banking office in Mumbai. Later, I went back to New York to start my own consulting company and one of my first major clients has been the Rockwell Group. After working with my family company in Austin, Texas for a while, I moved back to India, bringing in the Trump brand.
WM : Leaving aside the corporate edge to Pranav Bhakta, how is he otherwise?
PB: “Well, I am a big foodie. I love cooking and sourcing my own ingredients from all around the world. I am not a trained chef, I just sense my palate and use what I own, having a fair idea about flavors and ingredients. I love design-thinking and creating engaging lifestyle experiences, so I lay out my ingredients rather artistically, giving great attention to details. I am also a big coffee connoisseur, so I collect varieties of coffee from around the world. I use coffee from American Press, AeroPress, espresso, cold brews. Apart from that, I am much into gymming and getting in touch with my spiritual self.”
WM: Can you recall your first fashion realization?
PB: “I have always been into fashion because my mother took a lot of interest in it, from dressing me when I was in school to always buying me new, interesting clothes. I was born in Zambia, South Africa where they have always been fashion conscious with trendy boutiques and designer brands coming in quite quickly. I have also acquired some amount of style from my elder brothers who were equally fashionable. In a way, my sense of style has also evolved based on the kind of music genres I have been exposed to over the years.”
WM: According to you, how important is finding your own style and owning it?
PB: “Our style is an extension of who we are — in a way, we are our own brands. Humans have an exterior canvas per se, be it the body tattoos or the kind of clothes we wear. There are sub-cultures like the hipsters, the breakdancers or the rappers who have emerged in the society and their style has always extenuated through their clothing. I firmly believe that there is a story behind everything. Hence, it is great when you attach a place to a piece of clothing and vice versa.
WM: Hailing from a corporate background which is considered rather monotonous, how do you still manage being in the know -how’s of fashion?
PB: “It has been an evolution for me. After having given up my corporate life ten years ago and having embarked on a consulting journey, I am at a point where my dressing has become more relaxed, where people get to see the real me, having my own, unique sense of style. I am almost always in shorts during my meetings with investors or venture capitalists, which they prefer anytime over a stuffy boardroom, wearing a suit. Just today, I did a meeting in my gym clothes, to be honest!”
WM: Are you a swift shopper or do you like it unrushed?
PB: “I am more of an intuitive shopper. If I see something I like, I will buy it. My mind starts working and I would know exactly what I am going to do with a particular piece, knowing what it can go with or not go with. Or if I come across a new designer or a brand, I would definitely take note or a picture of it and come home and do my research on the same. So if something catches my eye, I go ahead and dive deeper into it.”
WM: There is this large section of fashion conscious men from every discipline globally, which is gradually playing catch-up with women’s fashion. Does this ring true for Indian men as well?
PB: “I see that Indian men in general are more of mass followers, having inculcated circular thinking rather than linear thinking — it’s quite monotonous in some way. But that also depends on how much exposure they have to the world. For example, have they travelled or studied abroad, what type of music they listen to, their peers, professional and personal background, weather conditions and more. In my opinion, Indians in general, should look within and embrace their own sense of style. I am surprised why not many Indians are wearing Ikat, what with it being a cool fabric, it is sustainable and more importantly, it is Indian, a part of us.”
WM: What is your take on the men’s fashion scene in Mumbai as compared to any other city in India or the world?
PB: “I have gone around quite a few countries but what I find the most intriguing about Mumbai men is that they are more edgy and trendy in terms of fashion, which is highly opposite to Delhi where I find fashion highly stereotypical. It is more relaxed and men here are open and willing to experiment.”
WM: Do you believe that the kind of colour you wear determines your mood?
PB: “Psychologically, yes. But it differs contextually. For example: I would feel classy and authoritative wearing a white shirt but a kurta of the same colour would make me feel more pure and spiritual.”
WM: Lately, there have been a plethora of applications and web-based services like WODROB (a closet digitization and managing app) itself that are slowly bridging the gap between fashion and technology. Have you experienced the same first hand?
PB: “I had never experienced it until I was introduced to WODROB. I can now see the connect that can happen between the community, technology and your wardrobe as well. Also, technology has made fashion accessible to everyone. And this is a major reason why people today are trying to be more open, realising their own style. I myself have gotten more into experimenting with different styles, patterns and designs because technology has enabled that. It has helped in discovery and created a bond between the enablers and the end consumers. I would also love it if we could click a picture of something we saw someone wear and trace the exact piece on the internet.”
WM: How have different cultures around the world influenced your sense of style?
PB: “I always tend to pick up something from whichever place I am at. For example, I am very much connected to Ikat, not just because it is sustainable but because I was introduced to it when I was in Hyderabad, and that reminds me of my time there. I also did pick up a few styles during my time in Lausanne, I have some suber cool Sri Lankan shirts and a pair of shoes from a newly launched sneakers company called Greats, based out of Brooklyn, New York.”
WM: Which apparel brands do you swear by?
PB: “I am not a brand-centric person. I have all the brands you could think of, but I also own a large range of pieces that are not really branded but I buy them because I like the cut or the style or the colour. I like to mix and match and play around with what I have. I believe more in buying what is visually appealing to me. But I really like the brand Seven, the jean company from USA. So, more than swearing by a brand, I would suggest swearing by what one’s body shape/type is.”
WM: If you had to name any five wardrobe essentials for men, what would they be?
PB: “A crisp white shirt, a comfortable, well fitted pair of jeans, a pair of loafers, a sports jacket and a high quality t-shirt”.
WM: Any advice that you would like to share with young, college boys stepping into the corporate world?
PB: “Do not wear athletic white socks with your work attire, because it stands out and looks off.”
WM: If there is one thing from your wardrobe you would want to discard, what would it be?
PB: “My oversized t-shirt because it does not fit well”.
WM: Something from your wardrobe you would never let go of? Something that is priceless or brings back emotions?
PB: Vintage TAG Heuer Autavia watch from 1973 , father’s Cecil Gee white shirt from the 1970s , uncle’s black Versace shirt and Jean-Paul Gaultier aviator sunglasses.”
WM placed a few hypothetical situations in front of Pranav to see what his ideal attire in each situation would be like:
WM : What would you wear if you were to be the Presidential nominee?
PB: “A dark blue Armani suit, white Thomas Pink shirt, a red Salvatore Ferragamo tie, Prada shoes, Salvatore Ferragamo belt, blue wooden Oliver Peoples glasses and a watch from Cartier.
WM: What would your attire be like if you were to be a representative from India at the Trump Tower, New York?
PB: “I would put on a custom stitched Nehru suit, custom stitched pink and white Chinese collared shirt from Bombay Shirt Co., a Bally scarf, a Green Bezel Submariner from Rolex, Mont Blanc belt, tortoise shell glasses and handmade leather shoes from Santoni.
WM: What would you wear if you were vacationing in Phuket or Santorini?
PB: “A cotton Paisley block print shirt from Jaipur, white pants from Thailand, Kolhapuri sandals from Chappers, sunglasses from Mango Pickles and a Torgoen Swiss Polo watch.”