Akshay Narvekar is a bit concerned about a “fashion" interview. “I don’t have a large wardrobe that I can show off," says the 34-year-old Mumbai-based entrepreneur. Assured that we want to know not about the width of his closet but the depth of his personal style, he relaxes enough to give us a peek into how he works his clothes.

Initially, it seems surprising that the founder of India’s first online custom-shirt company owns only about 20 shirts, but he helps us understand why a limited wardrobe suits him. “People think I probably have 100 shirts, but I like to focus on things I really like, instead of having a little bit of everything." He launched the Bombay Shirt Company (BSC) to help others create their own sense of style. “I wanted to make made-to-measure shirts accessible to everyone."

With BSC, you can create your own one-of-a-kind shirt from scratch—online, or at any of the four brick and mortar stores (there are two in Mumbai, one in Bengaluru and one in Delhi). The brand’s Lower Parel factory in Mumbai is also a playground for Narvekar, who loves working with tailors to tweak his own clothes.

A Vacheron Constantin from Akshay Narvekar’s collection of watches
A Vacheron Constantin from Akshay Narvekar’s collection of watches

Here, he talks about how he channels his creativity into what he wears and why Indian men need to stop following the herd when it comes to fashion. Edited excerpts from an interview:

How would you describe your sense of style?

It is minimalist in every sense of the word. I keep my wardrobe quite curated. It is low-key—blacks and whites, with some blues and greys. There is an odd bright colour, but mostly it is classic and basic. I own four-five suits but am usually wearing shirts, T-shirts and jeans. I do customize my clothes all the time. The luxury of owning a factory is that I can even customize something bought off the rack. For example, I have added pockets to my H&M T-shirts. I pick up scraps from my factory and tell the tailors to stitch them on my clothes.

Coming from a corporate background, how did you decide on a fashion start-up?

I have always had an interest in fashion and design. I worked in the corporate sector in the US for eight years and then returned to India and worked in private equity. I had worked at BCBG Max Azria in strategy and operations in Los Angeles and when I decided on a start-up, I wanted it to be something I was familiar with. I have always had a creative bent of mind and would buy fabric and get my shirts tailored. But it was cumbersome, so BSC came into being as a solution. I have designed the stores as well. This is helping me channel my creative side. Most made-to-measure brands are all about the fit and the cut, and that goes without saying for BSC too. But for us, it’s more about the design—the collars, cuffs, the fabrics and other detailing.

Do you remember your first bespoke shirt?

Through my early 20s I didn’t really care about fit, just the design and colours. I wore oversized clothes all the time. It was on a holiday to Bangkok, many years ago, that I first bought shirts fitted to my size. It was my “aha" moment. After that, I started going to the tailor for all my shirts.

Narvekar’s favourite shoes by Hudson
Narvekar’s favourite shoes by Hudson

How does your style change from work to play?

I only wear shirts to meetings, otherwise T-shirts. And I have these stretch denims from Uniqlo that I bought in 10 different colours, including black, blue, grey and oxblood. I wear these all the time. If I like something, I stick to that.

The last time I wore a suit (Hugo Boss) was to my wedding a few months ago. I play a lot of sports, so my sweatshirts, shorts, T-shirts and football shoes take up much of my closet space.

Which shirts brand do you like?

I like Eton because the focus is on quality and keeping it classic and minimalist in design. Proper Cloth is another custom-shirt brand I admire. I used to wear a lot of other brands, but they have been phased out. Now that I am forced to be a guinea pig for all the new styles at BSC, I don’t get the opportunity to wear much else.

I don’t shop much any more, just buy a few nice things. My watches are my pride and joy.

Narvekar’s Bottega Veneta, Tod’s and Montblanc wallets.
Narvekar’s Bottega Veneta, Tod’s and Montblanc wallets.

What advice would you give Indian men about buying shirts?

Wearing extremely tight-fitted shirts is a big no-no, and the right fabric is most essential. If you are heavy-built, then choose thicker or textured fabrics. Thinner fabrics could be sheer or stick to you too much. For a wedding, wear a satin or a poplin shirt under a jacket. And the detailing always helps—try contrast collars and cuffs, gussets, monograms, etc. Thin faces need a wide collar and a broad face needs a pointed collar.

It can be the subtle things that will help you stand out. For Indian men, there is a lack of confidence in trying new things. We get a lot of comments on our online chats saying, “Hope what we have chosen doesn’t look silly." People are hesitant and worried about being ridiculed, so having a stylist helps.

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