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Sep 29, 2008
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Indian male chants a new style mantra

Sep 29, 2008

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - The big mustache, silk shirt and gold accessories-look that survived for decades is now being replaced by a haute couture hero: India's men are taking their fashion cues from the global scene.

A model presents a creation during the first day of India Fashion week in Mumbai March 29, 2008.

And this fashion fever is not just for the rich -- India's growing ranks of wealthy, well-heeled and Western educated professionals with careers in multinational companies and a chunk of disposable income are leading the change.

India's economy, one of the fastest growing in the world, is also turning the Asian country into an international business force, which in turn means more global exposure for businessmen who are keen to look the part.

On Monday, men's magazine GQ India hits the newsstands, following in the footsteps of other male-only publications such as Men's Health, Maxim, and FHM, and experts are saying this is further proof that Indian men are embracing more global fashions.

"A certain segment of male Indian society has always pampered itself and spent a lot on clothes," Che Kurrien, GQ India editor, told Reuters.

"Add to that a lower strata of society that always wanted to spend lavishly but couldn't afford to. Well, now they can. Combine the two groups and you have a huge market."

Gone are the days when sherwanis, high-collared knee-length coats for men, were the only acceptable businesswear. Professionals are now spending a lot on officewear to fit in at meetings abroad or while doing business with foreign clients.

"It's a drastic change from before," Kurrien said. "We've already had a lot of requests from men, say from small Indian cities, who want to know how dress for a business meeting in London. They want to impress. Appearances matter now."

And it's not just about clothes. Men are spending more on beauty products, facials, pedicures, manicures and even surgery to look good -- leading surgeons say the number of men having cosmetic procedures is now equal to the number of women.


Women also have a part to play in this evolution, with wealthy, young Indians, long clued in to the global fashion scene, relying less on their parent's matchmaking and more on their own choice in finding partners.

"It's a competitive world. The demands of the present day mean you have to think about your appearance too, to give you that competitive edge," said Dr M.S. Venkatesh, of the Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery Clinic, Bangalore.

Following the global trend, the demand for luxury products is also on the rise among India's professionals.

While the cost of a designer briefcase is more than the annual income of most of India's billion-plus population, the country is home to the fastest rising number of millionaires in the world as well as a burgeoning middle class that is expected to exceed the entire population of the United States by 2020.

Given the current global economic downturn hitting the United States and Europe, emerging markets such as India offer a different story.

"India has woken the world up to its economy which has been steadily growing, unlike other parts of the world which are in recession. So there is only growth potential in the luxury sector," said Kalyani Chawla, a senior marketing and communication executive for Christian Dior, India.

In January, the Indian government took a step toward helping the luxury market, allowing foreign firms to own a controlling 51 percent in joint-ventures operating single-brand stores.

In Delhi, the country's first luxury mall, DLF Emporio, is about to officially open, offering those with a hefty disposable income a chance to buy from Cartier to Gucci under one roof.

"The Indian male peacock is coming out and blooming," said Shobhaa De, an author and social commentator on India.

"For weddings and social events where they're likely to be photographed, most of the best make-up artists are snapped up by the men, not the women."
By Lyndee Prickitt MUMBAI

(Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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