VP, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, IHCL
As a 20-year-old management trainee with the Taj Group, Lalvani was a bit of a rebel. The dress code then was strictly saris, which had to be pleated and pinned very neatly, but Lalvani was the
first one to wear her pallu down. Despite being told off numerous times, she soon started a trend at the company—of wearing a sari like a gown. Now, after more than two decades in corporate communications, she says that she can run a marathon in the drape. Having moved from the hotel space to a corporate office, her workwear has expanded to include Massimo Dutti dresses and Neemrana kurtas with palazzos. “Since a young age, I’ve felt that fashion is about your state of mind,” Lalvani says. “If you feel good about what you’re wearing, it reflects in your appearance, mood and work. You can wear a simple dress or a cotton sari, but if you carry it with panache, you’ll be the best-dressed person in the room.” Lalvani looks to street style for fashion inspiration. It could be a young college student in androgynous clothing or an older lady looking exquisite in a handloom sari. Her favourite designers are Ritu Kumar, Savio Jon, Manish Malhotra and Anushka Khanna, but she also likes to collect pieces such as tribal jewellery, street market finds and apparel from local designers from her travels.
Wardrobe MVP: “A nice dress. I’ll add earrings, a clutch and a darker shade of lipstick for the evening.”
VP, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS, THE OBEROI GROUP
For Sehgal, who has been with the Oberoi Group for over 15 years, less is more when it comes to style and grooming. “No amount of makeup can make you look as good as a solid skincare routine and drinking 15 glasses of water daily will,” she says. “My clothing choices are not bold at all, but I’m a fitness junkie and I work out four or five times a week. It helps me look and feel good.” Sehgal’s sari collection spans the length and breadth of the country and includes cotton dhakas from Kolkata, georgette chikankari from Lucknow, south silks from Chennai, tanchois from Benares and woven chanderis from Madhya Pradesh. She’s also inherited pastel- toned French chiffons from her mother, which she wears often. “As a young professional, I wore pantsuits to the office, but the hospitality industry introduced me to saris. The garment gave me confidence as I grew in my career and is now a staple in my wardrobe.” On weekends and on her travels, you’ll find her in dresses and jeans, while her go-to for celebrations is a pre-stitched Mandira Wirk sari.
Wardrobe MVP: “A chiffon sari. I’ll add a single piece of jewellery at night, either earrings or a necklace or a bracelet.”
FORMER SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT – GLOBAL SALES & MARKETING, IHCL
“I’m proud of our Indian cultural heritage and you’ll find that sentiment reflected in my wardrobe,” says Basu. “I used to be quite a shopaholic on my travels, so I have managed to procure a sari from every state of India except Manipur.” Basu started wearing saris at the age of 13, and her extensive collection has been complimented by the likes of Sabyasachi and Tarun Tahiliani. “I love supporting women entrepreneurs and I’m a regular at the annual Paramparik and Khazana exhibitions,” she says. “Knowing the creator immediately makes the sari that much more special to me.” Pre-pandemic, when work-related travel was a given, she would consciously incorporate Indian crafts, such as a statement Raw Mango jacket teamed with tailored trousers, into her look. Off duty, you’ll find her in athleisure or Anokhi kaftans. A game changer has been to ditch high heels and embrace Amritsari juttis, which she says are elegant but more importantly, comfortable.
Wardrobe MVP: “A thread Benarasi, Kanjeevaram or ikat sari in a dark colour. I carry chunky tribal jewellery to put on later.”
SENIOR AREA DIRECTOR, MARKETING, SOUTH ASIA, MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL INC
Kapadia spent her twenties buried in academia and didn’t really pay attention to style or grooming. It’s only after she started working with the Marriott group, travelling for work and gaining exposure by meeting people from all over the world, did she realise the value of presenting herself well. “I grew up in a middle-class household, so my resources and exposure were limited,” she says. “My transformation after I started working was akin to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. But I would like to point out that looking presentable takes effort, not necessarily affluence.” Instead of drab suits, Kapadia pairs skirts with bodysuits and jackets, dresses with statement accessories, and isn’t afraid of bold colours like red and olive green.
She loves a hybrid sari or statement dress for events and makes sure to get hair and makeup done professionally for celebrations. Her favourite labels include Gavin Miguel, Arpita Mehta, Nikhil Thampi, Dior and Armani. 2020 brought her back to her roots and Kapadia has resolved to buy only what she needs and use more of what she already has. “I used to constantly want to acquire new clothing and accessories, but the pandemic has taught me minimalism. I’ve developed an appreciation for sustainable living.”
Wardrobe MVP: “A bodysuit with a structured skirt. I ditch the jacket and add a silk scarf.”
Gauri Kitchlu Nayar
MANAGING PARTNER, TWAIN COMMUNICATIONS
Kitchlu Nayar started her PR career in Manhattan and then moved back to India to handle communications for the Oberoi Group. With the move, naturally, came an evolution in her style. At 26, in a ballsy move, she requested a meeting with the group’s chairman PRS Oberoi to tell him that she wasn’t comfortable wearing a sari to work every day. When he saw her dressed in a formal suit, he simply smiled, said fine and offered her a cup of coffee. Now, running her boutique communications firm, she has more flexibility. “I’m tall and lean, so I could technically
carry off a lot of things, but I choose to stick to sophisticated silhouettes,” she says. “I love dresses because they’re easy to style. I’m honestly more comfortable being slightly overdressed than underdressed.” She loves big, bold accessories like Isharya cuffs and Christian Louboutin footwear. A fun fact about her wardrobe? When she got pregnant, her husband bought her a flat version of every single shoe she owned so she could be comfortable and still look stylish. Her favourite labels include Studio Verandah, Hemant & Nandita and Payal Singhal alongside international brands like Saloni, Mary Katrantzou, Self-Portrait and DVF.
Wardrobe MVP: “A form-fitted dress with diamonds. I swap out the bag and shoes just before going out.”
DIRECTOR, MASSIVE RESTAURANTS
“I was only 24 when I founded Massive, the restaurant group that includes BO-TAI, Switch and Swan, and I wore suits exclusively as opposed to semi-formal clothing so people would take me seriously,” says Kalra. “A well-tailored piece immediately gives one authority and demands attention. I typically accessorise it with a brooch or a string of pearls.” A sharp suit is still Kalra’s go-to for work-related black-tie events. Even off duty, she pays attention to styling and grooming—she would never be seen in PJs or athleisure. She sticks to leggings, jumpers and sneakers for hectic days but won’t hesitate to sport a full-on gown when the occasion calls for it. “The most important thing is dressing appropriately for your age and shape,” she says. “I love neutral-toned apparel from Chanel, Rahul Mishra and Self-Portrait, with statement diamond jewellery, Judith Leiber bags and Christian Louboutin heels.”
Wardrobe MVP: “It’s hard to choose one, but I’d say my wedding ring, which I wear all the time, whether at the office or at a party.”
Helme went to culinary school in Ireland and was taught by the famous chef Darina Allen, who is known for her rigorous training as much as for her eclectic style that often includes bright Converse sneakers and poppy vegetable-shaped earrings. Inspired by the power her mentor commanded, Helme also turned into a sneakerhead. She enjoys shopping at Vegnonveg in India and often styles her entire outfit around a cool pair of kicks. “I started out in PR for food brands,
so I wore suits and skirts in that corporate environment,” she says. “But now I’m more casual. You’ll catch me multitasking in the kitchen in Sézane jeans and COS shirts. I like quality fabric, straight lines and bright colours.” Helme prefers to shop sustainable fashion labels and leans towards Bodice for this reason. Her favourite piece of clothing is a customised coat from the label. “I’ve lived in India for nine years and I’m very comfortable wearing saris to soirées,” she says. “My favourite ones are from Nicobar, Péro or Anamika Khanna. They’re now my garments- of-choice for weddings all over the world.”
Wardrobe MVP: “A Bodice jacket with Olivia Dar earrings.
Looking good has always given Seth an additional level of confidence. As a graduate of École Hôtelière de Lausanne, which placed a premium on personal grooming, being perfectly presented has been deeply ingrained in her. “Especially at work, my style gives me poise. You’ll always find me in some version of an LBD for client-facing meetings and events,” she says. “There are days when I’ll change my blouse four times before leaving home and my husband will say, ‘It’s just work.’ But when I’m feeling pretty or wearing a colour I love, my mood and day are just better.” Over the years, Seth’s style has evolved to incorporate comfort and, like many of us, workout gear has comprised a bulk of her more recent purchases. Her fashion choices are largely classic—dresses, shirts, scarves and sweaters in black, grey and white tones. But every once in a while she likes to surprise. For those occasions, she’ll rock an electric blue skirt by Payal Khandwala or a fringe sari dress from Shweta Kapur’s 431-88.
Wardrobe MVP: “Nude high heels, a black tank top and skinny jeans.