For a meeting with Virender Sehwag or Ishant Sharma, or any of the other cricketers she represents, 45-year-old Latika Khaneja is likely to be in trousers and a shirt. But for a night out, it is mostly dresses. She is not averse to starving for two days just so that she can get into her favourite fitted burgundy dress, yet for a sit-down dinner party, she will always wear something loose because “I like to eat when I am out”. The director of Collage Sports Management has strict dressing rules for cricket stadiums, boardrooms and parties. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Style staples: (clockwise from top right) Khaneja (in a Ralph Lauren shirt and Gucci trousers) wears white for special meetings; the red Dior watch and the Breguet watch are her favourite party accessories; the Nike skirt is a Sunday golf staple; a special cupboard is dedicated to her heels; and party wear is usually a dress such as this Gucci dress paired with Stuart Weitzman sandals and a clutch. Madhu Kapparath/Mint
What do you wear for meetings with sportsmen?
When I go to watch cricket matches, I wear jeans, a Polo T-shirt with a visor and coloured sneakers. Caps are a no-no because you have to get your hair done after removing them. If I have to attend a function such as a birthday party for a cricketer’s child or somewhere where I am likely to meet their family, I wear a salwar-kameez. It’s more palatable to everyone around, and definitely less intimidating. Usually, for evenings I prefer dresses, though if a cricketer is coming for the party I always wonder what they will think when they see me in one.
Why would you worry about that?
I find that being dressed too formally or fashionably can be intimidating. In fact, in corporate India, even though women have taken to wearing trousers, it is more for comfort and less for fashion. Mostly girls wear white shirts and grey trousers to blend in rather than to stand out.
Any style rules that you never tamper with?
No short dresses or a sari for sit-down dinners. You can never make these outfits look good when seated. They are perfect for parties where you are likely to stand mostly.
If you don’t want to make a fool of yourself, go shopping with your teenage daughter. She will never let you buy things that will not look good on you. Thanks to my 16-year-old daughter, I have stopped visiting Mango, Promod, Aftershock. These are very children stores now.
If I am buying an outfit which is a new silhouette (for me), I always get it in black or white.
How did your dressing style evolve?
I started wearing stuff I liked when I set up my own garments business in mid 1990s. In the late 1980s, when I was a management student at IIM (Indian Institute of Management), Calcutta, and we had to go out for projects, etc., we only wore cotton saris. The system was geared in such a way that a dhobi (washerman) would come in to take your sari for cleaning, ironing and starching. It was well organized. Plus saris did not make one seem aggressive.
What, according to you, is a myth about corporate dressing for women in India?
Only fashion magazines recommend pencil skirts as workwear for Indian women. You can never really wear them to office—they are a pain. They ride up all the time, especially when you sit; you have to walk up on “that” side of the staircase from where no can see up your skirt. Honestly, I would never wear a dress or skirt to work. It is not practical.
Bag rules: The Louis Vuitton red bag is what Khaneja is likely to carry through the day, while the orange Bottega Veneta clutch is a preferred evening accessory.Madhu Kapparath/Mint
What about wearing heels?
I love wearing heels but this year I decided to stick with flat shoes for work. I wear heels if I have a meeting at an advertising agency and usually carry a spare pair in the car.
I don’t think flat shoes look unprofessional or tacky. Earlier I used to have rules like I will not wear jeans to work, but since I have started managing sportsmen I find that informal wear works better not just with them but also the companies I have to meet for securing endorsements for them. At Nike, Adidas, Reebok, the management staff is mostly dressed casually.
So when do you wear heels?
At parties. I mostly buy stilettos, pumps and sandals from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Bottega Veneta because they tend to last longer and are more comfortable to wear. I buy shoes when I am travelling overseas. Most of my heels are about 3 inches or more and thankfully my daughter does not raid my cupboard for them. Currently, among my favourites is a pair of purple Stuart Weitzman’s sandals, which I got a few months back. I also own about five pairs of black stilettos because you can never have too many black shoes.
Do you read fashion magazines?
Regularly. I like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Are you partial to whites?
I wear all colours but yes, I love whites though I would never wear a white shirt or an outfit for a routine meeting. Whites are reserved for special occasions such as conferences or meeting an interesting person. Whites are tough to maintain. One wear and they have to go for dry-cleaning. I tend to ration them.
Do you have a favourite Indian designer?
Suneet Varma. I love his saris and own quite a few of them. I do not like embellished dresses and that’s why I never buy them from Indian designers.