This year started on an exciting note for Narendra Kumar. The designer, who is also the creative director at e-commerce firm Amazon India, launched a swanky new store in Mumbai in March. He was in New Delhi later that month for the first fashion week after the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI) announced its tie-up with Amazon as the title sponsor.

The tie-up was another feather in the hat(s) Kumar no longer has a fetish for. Just as he reinvented himself professionally with this new tech-savvy avatar (he spends four days a week in Bengaluru), like a fashion chameleon he quietly shed the fedoras he would sport. “Everyone started wearing them," he dismisses. So now they sit on the topmost, hardest-to-reach shelf in his wardrobe, remnants of a time gone by.

Kumar’s wardrobe, in his 19th-floor apartment in central Mumbai, feels like a mini-bar version of his store. Neat, colour-coded and well-organized. Charmingly, Kumar merchandises his personal wardrobe too. “That’s the least I can do as a designer," he says. But the most striking feature is the many, many pairs of sneakers and shoes in pastels, neons, metallic colours, even prints. Kumar is clearly shoe-obsessed. The “right pair of shoes" determine his state of mind every morning.

He speaks about his love for footwear, and how someone in lime-green pants and animal-print shoes fits into the corporate offices of an international technology giant. Edited excerpts:

Which, according to you, are the right pair of shoes?

It is the pair that puts me in the right frame of mind before I leave for the day. Whether I want to feel a sense of sportiness or formality, my shoes help. I could only have a bad day if I didn’t wear the right pair. For me footwear finishes the look and defines a person because it shows that small things about a person are really important. I decide the many things I would do in a day and the shoes that would go with most of them because I don’t go home and change for an evening out. In India, you just don’t get great shoes, so every country I travel to, I buy some.

How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?

I decide what to wear every morning in 5 minutes. My look today is more youthful and sporty. I wear a lot more T-shirts because I have to move constantly between factories and studios and it is quite hot. In the evening, I throw on a jacket over it and I am ready. But whatever I do, there will be a sense of tailoring. Even if I am wearing a coloured chino, I will put on a smartly tailored jacket. So there is an element of sophistication. You understand style through its fundamentals, but you don’t let the fundamentals define yourself.

Do you always wear casuals?

It has been a long time since I went to work in a proper suit. I always break my suits with colour or prints through shirts, shoes or a pocket square. For a corporate meeting, I’ll wear darker-coloured shoes, but there is always colour. There is a sense of energy, sportiness and creativity in my look that comes with mixing colours. I like challenging people’s notions about what clothes should be like, to tell them it’s not about the clothes but the person wearing them. Clothes need to have a sense of fun. That fun is not always exposed to other people. You know what you are wearing and that is what energizes you.

How has your personal style evolved?

When I was young I used to alter a lot of my clothes on the hand-machine that my mom had, play around with the flare of my trousers, etc. My father was stylish—even at that time he had his suits tailored in London by Burton. My first job was selling Xerox machines and later selling milk bottles to the government, and I wore khaki trousers with pinstripe shirts. If there was one day that liberated my thinking, it was when I joined the National Institute of Fashion Technology (Nift). That’s when all my inhibitions were let loose; I began experimenting and felt free enough to try new things.

Did it concern you that you might be expected to change your look to fit Amazon’s corporate offices?

Not at all. I wore electric-blue trousers and a light-blue fine linen checked shirt for my first interview in a building full of software developers where everybody wears jeans. I wore lime-green trousers with a blue shirt for my induction, and for the first time they had seen anyone, women included, wear that much colour. It created an identity for me. Two weeks after I joined, the team decided to have a day where they all wore coloured trousers. But even though I am still wearing colour, I wear it in finely tailored fashion for sophistication. I think I have got the corporate to fit into my style rather than me fitting into it. You can’t afford to be in the fashion business and dress like you’re from the 1960s.

Is your attire a statement of your personality?

I find myself the most convenient ambassador of my own brand. And there is a sense of pride that we set off certain trends—we were the first people to use linen, introduce slim-fit styles, and coloured trousers into menswear.

How much of your wardrobe is Narendra Kumar? Where else do you shop?

At some point, 70% of the clothes were mine, but my style has evolved over the last few years to sportier and more casual. We don’t make that many casual clothes. For denims, I like G-Star (Raw), I don’t think that there is anyone that makes jeans that fit so well. I like to explore new brands, such as Scotch & Soda, and prefer high-street brands such as Zara, H&M, Cos, & Other Stories, etc. But my jackets are all from my own label.

For shoes, I like Yohji Yamamoto, Smith’s, Alberto Guardiani, Cesare Paciotti, Gianfranco Ferré. I had to get legal permission to get my python print Botticelli shoes to India. I usually go for brands that are originally shoemakers and craftsmen. If I can get three pairs of shoes in the price of one branded pair, I would rather buy that.

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