Ashwin Deo’s wardrobe isn’t large by any standards, but his passion for shoes is. Stacks of shoeboxes are lined up in a room attached to his bedroom, and as he pulls out the pairs for us to see, Deo himself is surprised by the number of shoes he owns. His wife reveals that he is most relieved by the fact that his son’s feet are bigger than his, so he can’t borrow his precious pairs.
For around 10 years, as managing director of Moët Hennessy India Pvt. Ltd, Deo had to wear suits to work daily. And that’s how he discovered his other passion. After his recent move to Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd as their South Asia CEO, he isn’t required to wear suits, but he still slips on a jacket every day. Deo says he doesn’t keep up-to-date with fashion’s latest but when it comes to suits, he knows exactly what he wants. This is not dictated by brands or fashion trends. His wardrobe is lined with suits in light and dark colours and linen, and bandhgalas. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Suit up: (clockwise from far left) Deo has a collection of around 100 ties; his passion for shoes started when he was a child; Thomas Pink shirts are Deo’s current favourite; and he wears his Franck Muller watch all the time. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
What changes have you seen in your dressing style through the years?
When I started working, I had a very informal way of dressing. But in the last 8-10 (years), it changed drastically. I saw people around me who followed a certain way of dressing and gradually I became more formal and started wearing suits, ties, then French cuffs and cufflinks. I’m very fond of clothes and shoes, and I love picking out my clothes every morning. I have never been into “fashionable” clothes, it’s always been classics for me. I never wore bell-bottoms even when they were a rage years ago.
In the last few years I have found more confidence to wear colours. Earlier, I wasn’t as conscious of the little details. Also, I would pay more attention to the price. But now if I’m getting a great fit or fabric, I don’t mind paying for it. I now understand fashion a bit more and even experience makes you more discerning. I cringe looking at some of my old photos and see fits or colours that I would never wear again.
What makes your style distinct from others?
The only way I think I stand out is because I’m dressed formally on most occasions. Even for social occasions I wear a suit or at least a jacket. I don’t follow trends. Three years ago when double-breasted suits were supposed to be out of style, I was still wearing them because I’m comfortable with that style. I wear bandhgalas to social dos and add a cravat and pocket square sometimes, which I think are very stylish. I stay away from clothes that are garish or highly embellished. I like my clothes to be understated.
What is casual wear for you?
Jeans, of course. I don’t think my shape allows me to wear T-shirts, so I wear kurtas with jeans. Kurtas with a churidar could be both formal and casual for me.
What is your one fashion obsession?
Shoes. I have about 40 pairs of shoes, mostly formal. I’ve always had this obsession. Even as a child of about 6, I had 8-10 pairs. I buy them everywhere I go—France, London, Australia. I have Louis Vuitton formal tie-ups, boots, suede monk straps and even slippers. I have red slip-ons by Ferrari and bright green Converse shoes. I love boots and have many of those.
Where do you shop?
I wear suits mainly by Ravi Bajaj, Arjun Khanna and Narendra Kumar. For the past few years I’ve been mostly wearing Thomas Pink shirts. I love their colour, fit and fabric. I wear boots mostly by RM Williams, an Australian brand.
I love ties and have close to a 100, most of them by Salvatore Ferragamo; I also have Hermes, Zegna and Louis Vuitton. Most of my kurtas are by either Arjun or Ravi. They have very distinct styles of designing and I love both.
Do you prefer Indian designers to foreign brands?
I primarily buy Indian designers because I cannot afford luxury brands. I do own Canali, Pal Zileri and Zegna suits but most of my suits are by Arjun, Ravi and Narendra. Even if I can, I wouldn’t want to spend Rs2 lakh on a suit. I wear suits on a daily basis, not just once in a while that I can buy expensive suits.
Any skeletons in your closet?
I bought this suit by Narendra Kumar a few years ago because it was a relatively brighter blue than I have ever worn. But I later realized it was not my colour and haven’t worn it since then.
How do you maintain your wardrobe?
I’m very particular about maintaining my shoes. I also make sure they always have a shoetree. My shoes don’t wear out that easily, so I don’t know what I’ll do the day I need to repair them. I’m quite attached to my shoes (laughs). My suits are taken care of by my wife.
Who do you think is well dressed in the corporate world?
I think Anand Mahindra has a style that is very classic and looks great. The suits he wears, the way he puts his clothes together, formal or otherwise, the whole ensemble looks good.
Any tips for buying suits?
Firstly, buy the best fabric that you can afford. I usually make two trousers with one suit. So when I’m travelling, one suit is good to go for two-three days with different shirts and ties. I make my choice of suits depending on the colours of my shirts. There’s no point in making a suit that’ll go with just one shirt and tie. A pocket square and a great tie also add to the look.
How do Indian men go wrong in suits?
One thing that I’ve noticed is the length of the jacket and sleeve is longer than it should be.