Home >Mint-lounge >Features >Rahul Khanna: The world of fashion has gotten a lot more flat

I wore my pink socks for the interview," Rahul Khanna jokes as we settle down in the living room of his sea-facing home in Mumbai over a cup of coffee. As co-founder and managing partner of Trifecta Capital, a venture debt provider for emerging businesses in India, Khanna’s name is spotted far more often in business news stores rather than style features. Yet it is the dynamic nature of his profession that the venture capitalist considers crucial in the evolution of his polished style.

With brands like Big Basket, Paper Boat, UrbanLadder, and Curefit on his company’s repertoire, Khanna works with start-ups as well as financial institutions and businesses that invest in the fund. “I like to think that the work we do involves a lot of creativity—when you’re dealing with new business ideas, young entrepreneurs, one has to imagine the possibilities," he says. “Can I joke that if I wasn’t doing what I was doing, I’d probably be an architect? The idea of building something is very gratifying. That element shows through whatever one does, and reflects in one’s approach to life, and their clothing." Khanna may be reticent about his sartorial choices, but is always impeccably dressed. The first time I met him (two days before the interview) at a fashion show, he was dressed in a monochromatic modern kurta set. He has a soft spot for Indianwear, he says. On the day of our meeting, his ensemble is more in tune with his everyday wardrobe. Dressed in Massimo Dutti separates and his pink socks peeking from inside tan leather shoes, Khanna speaks to us about his minimal style, the difficulties of shopping for menswear and his love for jackets, leather and bags. Edited excerpts:

How are workplace dress codes evolving in India today?

There is a bit of a start-up culture emerging in India and people don’t necessarily want to dress up to work. I think the world of fashion has gotten a lot more flat. There’s also a whole other subculture emerging where streetwear is becoming part of workwear. People show up in sneakers to work, but very nice sneakers. We have to figure out where all this goes. But the line has gotten increasingly blurred and the good news is, men are experimenting.

What does it mean to be well-dressed in your line of work?

It’s an interesting question, because we live in two worlds. There’s a side of the business that relates to raising capital, dealing with investors and managing their lens to the business. And there’s a side of our business focused on the start-up community and these two universes are very different and one has to straddle the two. It would be very awkward if I walked into a start-up wearing a suit and a tie, but if I walked into one of our large investor’s offices wearing khakis, they might start to think twice. One does think about the context—I believe that people get comforted by a certain archetype. When they think of an institutional manager of capital, they expect a certain demeanour. And when a start-up wants to engage with you, talk about a new business idea over a drink, they want to feel like you can relate to them.

How do you keep the balance in dressing up, and what would we find in your wardrobe?

Most of my time is spent with young companies and so more often than not, it’s a pair of well-cut trousers and a casual shirt. There was a point when I lived in Delhi when our wardrobe had to have seasons, because it would get pretty cold. Moving back to Bombay, a nice pair of cotton trousers and shirt can get through the day and hopefully in the evenings too, with a jacket. Given how hot and humid it is, anything more than cotton gets very hard to keep on.

I think the wardrobe grows with time. There was a time when my wardrobe was completely checks. My daughter would laugh and say I was wearing the same shirt as yesterday. Now there’s a lot of blue and white in there. There isn’t much bright colour, but socks are an interesting way to add colour. On occasion, I wear a nice pair of cufflinks.

Do you find it challenging to shop for clothes in India?

It’s difficult—in terms of off-the-shelf stuff, there are very few brands that cater to high-end, fine-quality, detail-focused well-tailored clothes. I am particularly glad that Massimo Dutti opened here—they do a limited number of things but their cuts are great and there’s always detailing. I just find that the Indian market is very mass (market brands) or it’s super premium, and in this end it’s not always very wearable. We were at a friend’s store and there were a bunch of interesting young designers. But they make clothes that are very hard to wear on a daily basis. It’s cool to wear one of those shirts on a weekend but you know for everyday wear, it’s really tough buying clothes. When you get to a certain age or an aesthetic, you just have to go and get your own clothes tailored.

Is there anything you have a fondness for collecting?

I wouldn’t say I’m an avid collector, but I am a sucker for a good jacket. I love ties but don’t always get the chance to wear them. And I love leather—I think it’s a storehouse of memories. Santoni (an Italian footwear brand) is a favourite for shoes and I have a tan leather bag from Piquadro that I’ve used for ages. I also have a collection of bags. There are very few accessories men can have. I think for many generations people carried one bag, the choice of what briefcase to carry is a nice thing to have.

Apart from Massimo Dutti, do you have any other favourite brands and designers?

In Delhi there are a couple of stores, like Vayu at Bikaner House, and a few brands that I really like, like White Champa. Rikki Kher’s Kardo had some interesting stuff. Once in a while I’ve gone to Bombay Shirt Company and had a few shirts made that were nice. I am particularly partial to Canali. They have a sportier silhouette—their Kei jacket and suits are unlined and very nice for every day.

And we have also seen you wearing Indian garments.

I actually like wearing ethnic-wear. White Champa does a lot of crossover designs, like shirt kurtas. I enjoy wearing stuff that has the right proportion. Some kurtas can be too long, but they have got it right. And they have beautiful buttons. It’s very simple and elegant but has a flavour of India. Interestingly, I’m starting to see people (men) go back to wearing Indian clothes (at work). I think a lot of younger entrepreneurs are very comfortable with a home-grown sense of fashion.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout