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Walk into my wadrobe – with Syed Ali Arif

Launching  ” Walk into my wardrobe ”

If you have not heard it a zillion times from me already , I am going to say it again :) I wish people would think Indian garments and brands are equally cool . I wish they would  buy silk and khadi dresses and not polyester clothes which believe me you just can’t wear in an season in India.

I wish people would feel PRIDE in flaunting Tussar or Banarasi sarees , beautiful block print suits , phulkari stoles, ikkat duppattas, Kutchi skirts and the list goes on … So this section in the blog is about people who love flaunting all of the above and more !! Take a sneek peak into their wardrobes , take some fashion cues and get INSPIRED.

This first post is about Arif . I am so glad I bumped into him on Instagram and I am even more glad that he has helped me make this post not about a woman’s wardrobe but how even Indian men need to shake up their sense of fashion and experiment. So ladies , email this post link to your BFs, brothers, sons and hubbies and make sure they read this too .

pic2PITR : Please tell us a bit about yourself, what you do , likes etc ..

Arif: I am a contemporary artist by profession and hail from Hyderabad. Having showcased my artworks in solo/group shows across India and abroad, I moved my base to Mumbai in 2007. The move was inescapable as Mumbai is a big city in terms of exposure and visibility which helps in growing, not just as an artist, but as an individual as well. After moving here I realised the possibilities of digital printing. That’s when I started my own brand called ‘Item Number’ in partnership with Inderjit who is a fashion designer. We started making lifestyle products including bags, cushion covers, notepads, mugs, coasters among many others. The brand received a phenomenal response and grew into a successful business. We eventually decided to translate our love for stylish clothing into designing and making a range of clothing for women, under the same brand, and in 2014 we launched this collection. I, however, continue to paint as that’s my first love and Inderjit takes up various styling projects (including films) on the side. I love to travel a lot for inspiration. I am also a sucker for movies, especially Bollywood and I can watch a film almost every day.

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PITR : Who is your style inspiration ?

Arif: A major credit goes to my mother who was the epitome of grace and beauty for me. At one time, she had a collection of about 500 sarees! She definitely had style but at the same time simplicity was her magic mantra. I guess I picked up after her. I like simple, non-fussy clothes in my wardrobe. Loud colours and/or prints are a complete no-no for me. Inderjit also helps me from time-to-time in putting together certain looks and also while actually buying clothes. I like to browse fashion looks in mens fashion magazines (like GQ) to see whats latest out there, but in the end it matters a lot on how you carry and present yourself. One very important aspect is to understand your body and your ever-evolving personality and your clothes should always complement them.

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PITR : Your favourite designer and why?

Arif: I don’t have any distinct favourite designer as I don’t really believe in wearing labels. I am very moody and like my clothes to be very well-defined and with proper fit. I buy clothes from anywhere and everywhere. No one (I repeat, No One) in my family or circle of friends buys clothes for me, for they all know how finicky and particular I am about certain things. Although, if my pocket would permit, I’d definitely love to own an exclusive ‘Sabyasachi’ but right now I am in love with ‘Antar Agni’ by Ujjawal Dubey. This guy has changed the way we used to look at Indian wear for men. He is a magician!

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PITR : Your favourite form of textile technique like block printed shirts, chikan kurta etc …

Arif: I’ve only recently started looking at Indian textile techniques like block-printing and Kalamkari and also at Indian fabrics like Ikat, Mushroo and Dabroo, while desperately seeking some inspiration to upgrade my closet. Besides shirts, short kurtas and Nehru jackets (as they add that touch of Indianness to your wardrobe), I now have Ikat pants (very rare for men to carry them) which I cherish immensely. One must try and choose these clothes in darker shades for easy mix-and-match with basics like cotton trousers or casual pants and jeans. Trust me when I say that these can be worn for any occasion, with the correct styling.

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PITR :You wear a lot of accessories which Indian men usually shy away from. Tell us more about your collection. How can men wear traditional Indian jewellery or strings or rings without looking over the top.

Arif: The idea is to keep it simple and minimal while adding that ‘extra’ touch in the end. One should definitely be sporty enough to carry accessories without looking out of the place or like a clown (with way too many). Try experimenting depending on the occasion. A chunky ring with Indian wear or a brooch with jacket, a pearl necklace with a Sherwani or a distressed copper ear-cuff with jeans and tee are some of my favourties. There are quite a few brands now in the market catering to men’s jewellery that varies from silver to antique-style to wooden to traditional. See what looks good on you and try one piece till you are comfortable to carry couple of them at a time.

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PITR :Tell me more about the “artisan made ” clothes in your wardrobe. The shawl .. block printed shirt etc

Arif: I have a Kalamkari shawl from FabIndia which I mix with kurta-pyjamas, as well as, with solid-coloured jeans and tee. I pick up such artisan-made fabrics from various handloom exhibitions to make shirts and kurtas out of them. I had recently been to Gokarna in Karnataka and bought assorted checkered fabrics which the locals wear as lungis, but I plan on making shirts and short kurtas or even a light waist coat out of them.

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PITR : Your recommendations for Indian men on how to style themselves in Indian garments on daily basis and not really make Indian clothes an occasion wear.

Arif: I know a lot of them find Indian wear little hard to manage considering you are wearing too much fabric at one go. The major mistake we men do is make everything loose or ill fitting. Make sure your fits are perfect. Choose colours that complement your personality and skin tone. Try not to have too much shine or bling on you. Cotton is best for everyday wear. Jeans-kurta is a cool look for guys. Add a solid colour cotton stole and kolhapuri chappals or sandals to complete the casual look. Wear churidaars or dhotis (FabIndia and Khadi Bhandar have the best ones) to make it more formal for an evening out. I wear a Nehru jacket on my jeans and shirt to make it distinctive yet Indian.

Arif , Thanks once again for sharing your pictures and ideas.

Roopali, if you are reading this , thanks for the idea of these series and I look forward to peeking into your wardrobe very soon !

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