If you have an acquired taste for fashion and style just like us, you must get to know Manish Mishra. For this is a man whose everyday wear will inspire you to pay a little more attention to yourself, even if you’re a girl. A man with traffic-stopping style, and quite literally so, a photoshoot on the pavement proved that he has inadvertently mastered the craft of making heads turn. He has developed a magpie’s eye for fashion — from chronicling about it on a daily basis to cultivating a closet with an aesthete’s knack for knowing how to put classic yet contemporary things together. Meet the dandy dude as he talks through his sartorial choices and what his most desirable style reveries are made up of.
WM: Walk us through your career journey…
Manish Mishra: Ever since my school years, I always had an inclination towards art and literature. During my two years of education at the International School of Business and Media, I had an internship with the Pune Times (Times of India) where I was writing on lifestyle and the night-life party scene — those days would comprise of attending college during the daytime and burning the midnight oil with a photographer covering details at a nightclub for the paper, only to return in the morning to file away the party report and then head back to my lectures — it was really gruelling and not as fun as it sounds. By then, I had the hang of ‘Page 3’ coverage and reportage, so getting a job at Society magazine straight out of college seemed quite befitting. It was an exciting period in my career, since I got to write negative stories that had a lot of bite in them, so it wasn’t like one of those regular gush-gush profiles — it was tabloid material, provocative and investigative pieces where you scratch the surface and find the “real” news without ever having to mince the words. I was with Society for 5 years before I moved onto HELLO! Magazine where I was copy editing — the content was somewhat similar to Society in terms of coverage and writing, but HELLO! was more glamour and art-oriented, not as much about gossip. After which, I transitioned towards digital media and worked with Jack in the Box for a year — there I was handling a lot of lifestyle and luxury brands like Kerastase, Forest Essentials and Louis Philippe. I really missed journalism, so I moved back and joined DNA After Hrs — 4 years later, I’m the fashion editor, writing about and dissecting the thing I love most!
WM: Did the career transition in fashion feel very natural?
MM: I was always doing it as a part of my job, earlier it was more about profiling people from all walks of life — from businessmen to art collectors, artists, socialites and party people. But, eventually, I realised that fashion excited me more than people from other genres. Beautiful things inspire me to write — it could just be a painting, flower arrangement or simply a pristine ambience. So, yes, the whole transition in fashion felt like a long time coming.
WM: How has your wardrobe and dressing sense evolved over the years?
MM: I have always enjoyed dressing up. I love observing, it intrigues me how people put together a look. You can draw a lot of anthropological references from that — where they come from, where they work and their mood. When you observe, you inculcate and cultivate a closet over the years — of course, I started off with the basics and then went through this whole phase of layering, where I’d obsess over jackets, trench coats, knee-length waistcoats, overcoats and such. Sadly, in Mumbai you can’t do much, so I really look forward to travelling, just so I can layer-up. Also, I enjoy well-tailored pieces; earlier, I would buy things off-the-rack but then I started getting things customised and saw the difference.
WM: What’s the best part about dressing up to work since you have all this freedom to wear what you love?
MM: I enjoy dressing up, I look forward to waking up in the morning and just going through my closet. The best part is the pieces I have everything goes with one another. So let’s say I’d pair a basic white tee with a gingham checkered jacket or plaid suit, I’m a firm believer of mix and match and ofcourse it depends on my mood as well. Some days I’ll just feel like putting on my baseball cap and wear a sporty bomber with sneakers and on other occasions, I’ll feel like dressing it up, so it’ll be a pair of tan brogues, tailored pants and a classic pin-tuck white shirt.
WM: Everybody has those cult wardrobe favourites that make us feel good, sometimes repeating those clothes becomes second nature to us — how do you switch up your favourites?
MM: I’m a total high-street guy, I love brands like MANGO, Scotch and Soda and Antony Morato. I own a couple of Zara blazers that you’ll see me wear quite often, so I give them to my designer friends and they spruce it up for me. Recently, I gave this 5 year old blue linen Zara blazer to Shane and Falguni Peacock and they adorned it with baroque embroidery, it looks very rock and roll — so when I wear it now, it looks completely new. There’s this grey houndstooth blazer which I gave to my friend Surily and she added a lot of brooches and medals to it. It’s good to recycle things instead of constantly shopping for new things. I like to get a lot of wear out of my clothes, even if its a last season piece, I don’t care. If I love it and it fits me well, I don’t mind reinventing and repeating it.
WM: So, do you impulse buy often or only when you really need something?
MM: I shop all the time! No wonder I’m always broke (laughs). Pretty soon, I may have to commit myself to shopping rehab.
WM: People are a lot more fashion-conscious these days, sometimes it’s really refreshing to see them take an effort, but, on other days it seems very superficial. With the rise of bloggers everywhere, it’s almost as if there’s no original sense of style anymore — everyone wants to wear what the Gigi Hadids’ of the world are wearing. Do you think as Indians we’ve lost out on a bit of our own culture along the way, or do we still have hope?
MM: I think fashion is in quite an interesting phase in India because we are in a very nascent stage — India is still very new to fashion compared to other countries and we have a long way to go. Although, what excites me about the moment we are in right now is this whole fusion between India and the west — its great to see a bomber jacket with a Rajasthani kitsch print — you have something that’s on trend, yet there is a very traditional soul to it. It could even be a Nehru jacket with a contemporary touch just so it doesn’t look dated. We’re constantly updating the classic pieces, you have your Indian roots intact yet you made it global and of-the-moment. In that sense, I credit a lot of Indian designers in the menswear space, there are very few of them who are doing this. But, as far as street style is concerned we have a long way to go — if you look at guys in Mumbai, they don’t really make an effort, plus, the weather doesn’t permit much. To be truly stylish you have to be a car-to-carpet person over here, especially if you want to wear good shoes! You cant wear a Berluti or a Jimmy Choo on our streets. I do agree that there a lot of bloggers preaching style and there’s a dearth of quality content but I’m optimistic, I think in some way we can make an impact globally.
WM: There’s an old adage, “Clothes make the man.”, what’s your take on men who just don’t care about what they put on? It’s almost as if they wear it as a badge of honour that they just couldn’t care less.
MM: I’m a fan of people who dress with a whole lot of effortlessness to it. I adore nonchalance. I’m not saying every straight guy has to read GQ, but some people are just effortlessly stylish. But then there are those men who just don’t care, the kinds who love their flip flops, whether they are at the airport or on the beach — I’m not a fan of sloppy, and it’s really off-putting.
WM: Who in your opinion is the quintessential desi boy in our country who’s sense of style embodies a great balance between Indian and western wear?
MM: Rahul Khanna. He’s always in great shape and I think he really enjoys dressing up, he’ll just take it to another level. Ranveer Singh is very interesting too, although he tends to go a little overboard sometimes but can carry off androgyny really well. He did this Filmfare cover once, decked in a gold Rohit Gandhi + Rahul Khanna pantsuit with smokey eye makeup and a fur collar. Its really incredible for a guy to wear head to toe gold and not look like Bappi Lahiri.
WM: Describe your style in 5 words
MM: Classic, contemporary, dandy, hipster and mood-driven.
WM: What’s the one fashion faux pas that you’ve seen often and never recommend wearing?
MM: I don’t like it when guys wear poorly tailored trousers that bulge around the ankles, that happens when they’re not the right length. Even if they’re cropped, they shouldn’t be bunching around the shoe, it looks very unsightly. A lot of Indian actors fall prey to this and that happens when you buy something off the rack and don’t get it customised.
WM: Your fashion obsession-du-jour
MM: So many! I’m trend-spotting all day on Instagram. I think, Balmain; I love whatever Olivier is doing right now for the men’s line and even what Hedi Slimane did with YSL, the menswear bombers were kickass. And of course Gucci! I’m swooning over what ever Alessandro Michele is doing for the brand, he’s a styling genius — the clothes are very vintage, meant for a poet who works out, it’s very dreamy, whimsical and old worldly yet very of-the-moment. I would love to own a pair of Gucci fur shoes.
WM: Who has influenced your sense of style over the years?
MM: A lot of classic Italian men. I’ve been to Pitti Uomo twice and then I went to Milan Fashion Week which was a game changer for me! Just seeing those men in Florence wear impeccably tailored suits with pops of colour with their hats and other accoutrements, its all very inspiring! What I love about Italian men is that even when they’re 60 years old, the style doesn’t go. In India, there’s a lot of ageism that way — if you’re an old man or woman you can’t wear a lot of colour. But there, I saw that as you grow old your style doesn’t fade.
WM: If you could swap your wardrobe with anyone who would it be and why?
MM: I would love to swap my wardrobe with Johannes Huebl, Olivia Palermo’s husband. He’s a very dapper guy and I think the way he put things together is just incredible — he’s a very tailored and appropriately dressed guy and since I have a penchant for tailored clothing as well, I relate to him the most. Although, if I trade closets with him, I’ll have to get a lot of clothes customised since he’s so tall.
WM sneaked a peek at Manish’s covetable wardrobe by throwing a couple of fun scenario’s his way — here’s how he answered them…
WM: What would you wear if you were to be seated front row at Paris Fashion Week, but, had to represent India in a very contemporary manner?
MM: Parisian chic is all about being individualistic and effortless while Indian fashion has always been steeped in rich prints — the classic Jodhpur breeches have been a significant insignia of India’s sartorial repertoire. I’d like to wear a white t-shirt from a high street label and pair it with my custom made Jodhpur breeches from Troy Costa and complete the look with a pair of tanned Magnani brogues. Topped off with a vibrant statement-making bomber jacket from Siddhartha Bansal, nonchalantly thrown over my shoulder. Accessorised with a pair of classic Ray-Ban aviators and my ikat print Nappa Dori leather satchel to amp up the look by several notches.
WM: If you could set up a time machine and go back to a fashionable decade, where would you go and what will be the five items you’d carry with you from your wardrobe?
MM: It’ll be the minimalistic ’90s. I’d like to layer my basics with a custom knee-length double breasted cobalt blue waistcoat and complete the look with high top sneakers (Puma x Ferrari), a Zara clutch and a fedora hat from Hermes.
WM: What’s the one sentimental item of clothing that you never wear anymore but are still holding onto and why?
MM: My Balmain x H&M tuxedo jacket because I had Instagrammed it the moment I saw it on the runway. Thankfully, I was on the press waitlist so it was easily purchased without any trouble. It’s unfortunately last season, so I can’t wear it now but I cherish it for its glam rock appeal and beautiful embroidery on the sleeves.
WM: What’s the one thing you have in your wardrobe that was an impulse buy and now regret owning?
MM: A pair of neon green Zara pants. Don’t know why I bought them!
WM: If you could throw a film-inspired theme party, which movie would you choose and what would you wear as the host?
MM: It would be Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby — I’d like to wear my double-breasted burgundy Anuj Madaan suit and complete my look with a straw trilby hat. A pair of skull Troy Costa cufflinks and Magnani tanned lace-ups would add to the dandy finish.