Renu South Sinha
When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos visited India in January 2020, designer Narendra Kumar Ahmed, creative director of Amazon Fashion, chose to dress Bezos in an item of clothing that represented “a clever idea of modern India that values its traditions but remains quite modern” – the Nehru Jacket, named after India’s first Prime Minister, himself a suave dresser.
“The jacket has stood the test of time due to its versatility,” says Mumbai-based designer Kunal Rawal. “There’s a Nehru jacket for everyone,” says Rawal, who has designed for Bollywood stars like Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor.
That and its other aspects – it’s practical, comfortable and can be worn as an evening dress – have kept the jacket relevant, adds Ahmed.
Designer Raghavendra Rathore, an eponymous name in bandhgala for over two decades, believes: “The overall aesthetic, structured finesse and simplicity of its silhouette is what has kept the bandhgala jacket timeless. The elegance, versatility, comfort and ease it exudes surpasses all seasonal trends.
Rawal calls the figure “being kind to the Indian physique. The jacket covers six-packs, paunches and paunches with the same panache”.
The adaptability of the jacket can only be limited by the imagination. “A single jacket can be used to create different looks, whether Indo-western or traditional, casual or formal, says Hyderabad-based designer Archana Jaju. -dresses of men of all ages,” adds Jaju.
While confined to the stage and wedding season, the jacket has recently gained prominence in boardrooms and on sidewalks, Rawal says. He attributes the explosion to the new-age Indian male accepting that his masculinity is not threatened by fashion, as well as millennials looking inward at India’s rich cultural past, wearing the traditional silhouette in its modern avatar. Many young designers are experimenting with different cuts and styles, using cross-cultural elements. The long Indian summer makes it a perfect choice for any occasion at any time of the day, says Rawal, who calls it his go-to garment and always keeps this multitasking jacket with him to wear from a workday to a night out. .
Called Bundi, traditionally the vest was not a form-fitting garment. “As part of the Swadeshi movement, Mahatma Gandhi called people to wear hand-spun and woven khadi. The elite also joined in by burning their English clothes. Their problem then was how to look modern without looking Western and how to look Indian without looking traditional. This is how the Nehru jacket was born. The masses adopted Bundi after Nehru started wearing it. Evolved from British officers’ uniforms, the Nehru jacket featured many European elements like a structured silhouette, darts, slit pockets, buttons, a stand-up collar, and more. says Jasvinder Kaur, textile researcher and author of “Influences of the British Raj on the Attire and Textiles of Punjab.”
Various online portals have made the jacket readily available and affordable in its couture and ready-to-wear avatars, fueling its demand even in Tier 2 and 3 cities. Saurabh Srivastava, Director and Head of Amazon Fashion India, says: “We have seen a steady demand for Nehru jackets over the past few years across the country. Previously popular among older cohorts, these jackets are finding a place in the wardrobes of young men and even women. Available in several patterns, colors and fabrics such as silk, cotton, khadi, linen, georgette, even denim, most brands, whether high-end, casual or ethnic, offer a wide selection for adapt to all styles and all pockets.
The humble Bundi spends her day in the sun as young designers have fun with her looks and millennials wear their heritage on their sleeve, or sometimes without.