Dressing for work is as easy as it can get. All one needs to do is pick out one of those crisp shirts bought for a few thousands, and pair it up with bottoms worth another handful thousands. Right? Wrong. There’s more that goes into corporate dressing that one would simply assume. And that understanding was reinstated, when we met and discussed fashion with Hiren Mody. Hiren is not just your regular corporate biggie who blindly invests in big brands. Sure, he holds an impressive job title, at an equally impressive company – he manages Business Development at IMG Reliance. But, instead of letting the brands decide for him, he really gets into the psychology of dressing up – there’s a lot of insight we got out of our conversation with him. Honestly, we never thought a man could put so much thought into how he dressed. And all the reasons he gave for it, were legit!
Even his daughter has started to follow his footsteps. Well, she’s only two years old but has a much bigger closet when compared to her father’s. She has her own sense of style and often picks her own clothes. In fact, a lot of her dresses are actually custom made, to keep up with her tastes. And if we may add, she has quite a sound sense of fashion.
WM: We’ve heard you’re extremely brand-conscious. Tell us more.
HM: I am, but that’s really just my work wardrobe, or outfits and accessories for special occasions. As far as casuals are concerned, I usually chill at home in my shorts and polo tee – our entire family is into polos, we just find them really comfortable. But yes, when it comes to work, I would want to be dressed in something nice.
WM: So what are the things you would consider while making additions to your wardrobe?
HM: The fabric and fitting – especially in formals. When it comes to formals, I think it’s best to keep it classic. We see people wearing jackets that are too long or too short, I can never understand or relate to those silhouettes. I like to keep it simple and basic. You would not see me wearing too loud or experimental patterns, but I am a lot into textures.
The fabric and its texture are very important to me. (While showing us a few of his shirts and jackets) Here, feel these fabrics…you see what I’m talking about? You can tell that these are superior in quality, you would immediately feel good in such fabrics.
Another thing I really pay attention to is the customer service. (Picks up a pair of shoes) Now look at these, for example…they’re older than you’d think. But then again, I have paid a premium for them, and if I don’t get an after-sales service, I will obviously not be happy. Imagine to have spent a huge amount on a pair of shoes, and then, to have to throw them away within a year. Doesn’t make sense, right? These guys, though, they have very good after sales service, and after every few months or so, when these get a little worn out, I get them serviced and they’re refurbished to their mint condition.
WM: We see now, why you’d go in for brands. But then, strictly brands or a mix of both?
HM: Both actually, because let’s face it, while the brands offer me that promise of quality, non-branded clothes can be equally good. I get custom-made shirts for as good as 1/3rd the price of a branded one, or even lesser. And not always is there a major quality difference. In fact, a lot of my shirts and trousers are custom made – that gives me the fit I want, and I also get to choose the fabrics that I want them in. I think that when it’s not necessary, there’s no need to blow our hard earned money on big brands. I think a person should invest in whatever they are most comfortable with – if their social circle is the kind that wears only Guccis and Gabbanas, and they do earn enough to afford them, sure, they may go ahead, and indulge in that category of brands.
But, if they’re not there yet, career-wise, they do not have to forcibly wear those brands. You’re not dressing up to impress the world. Except at work, where you’re dressing up to make an impression, to support the work you do – but then that again has to be in sync with your profile.
WM: So, what’s your philosophy on fashion at work, and more specifically, personal style at work?
HM: At work, I always try to connect with the people I meet. If they’re senior to me and I’m giving them a presentation, I almost always wear a suit. I try and wear branded outfits; the quality of the fabric, trims, and moreover, the fit and cut always talk, even before I do. But, never try too hard – it’ll always, always show if I’m trying too hard.
I’ve seen people – and now, I do that as well – use different pens for different meetings. A Pierre Cardin is definitely not the same as a Mont Blanc. That too leaves an impression about you.
WM: So, have you noticed a visible difference in the way people respond to you now?
HM: Not so much, but yes, the eyeing and judging have certainly stopped. When I had just started working, I was still this South Bombay guy, dressed not so formally, had a beard, and didn’t really pay attention to dressing up for work. But then, some of my seniors suggested, and the rest, I picked up through conversations with seniors about their wardrobes, as also by noticing how people style themselves. I have noticed that people listen to you more intently when you’re more presentable. But, having said that, it’s always important to be comfortable in your own skin. You could be dressed from head to toe in brands, but if you’re uncomfortable, it’ll show.
Also, when you’re wearing brands, at least I follow this – avoid having those labels or brands be too loud. I believe in subtlety. It’s classy after all, to be subtle about the brands you’re wearing.
WM: What are your go-to brands?
HM: I love The Bombay Shirt Company, so my everyday shirts are from there. I also love Ralph Lauren. In fact, my T-shirts are either that or Lacoste. I find Tommy Hilfiger denims extremely comfortable, so that’s my go-to brand for denims. For suits, I really trust Gabbana in Khar and Just Men. I’m extremely fond of my Chopard shades and Dunhill cuffs.
WM: Since you’re so much into numbers, break down your wardrobe for us – in numbers.
HM: 70-80% of my wardrobe is formals, of which a good chunk is suits, and then shirts and trousers. The rest is casuals – 100% of my T-shirts closet is filled with polos, and I do have a lot of shorts, since that’s what I’m most comfortable in, when at home. I feel at home in my classic blue denims, so yes, I’m not going to forget those.
I pay good attention to my accessories, just as much as I do to my clothes. I have a lot of watches – some are really old and have been passed down through generations – they are of great emotional value to me.
I also really love to invest in cuff links; there again, I have ones for daily wear, and then really good ones for occasions. I have few but some extremely good belts and shoes. I really like to take my time to pick out each of them.
I don’t believe in just picking anything up. I would invest in fewer, but some really good pieces. I sometimes wait until almost a year to purchase say, a shoe. I don’t just build my wardrobe blindly, I think and plan it out over a period of time. You must have noticed, most of my watches are really old, but of very good quality. (If we may add, he does have some very interesting cuff links – clearly, he handpicks every piece for his wardrobe!)
I do wear ethnic too, of course, if the occasion so demands. I like to go a little creative sometimes, like I have a jacket customized out of a Pashmina shawl. I was unsure about it initially but it turned out to be one of the best ethnic wear in my closet. I just wear it on a solid black or blue kurta-pyjama or even dark blue shirt and trousers.
WM: Which piece of clothing is your savior?
HM: Oh, I usually carry a tie in my pocket, for every meeting that I go to. If I see that the client I meet is wearing a tie, I excuse myself and quickly head to the restroom to wear my tie. I see that being as close to how your clients are dressed, makes it easy for them to connect with you better.