As Narendra Modi prepares to head north to campaign as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, he plans to add a sartorial edge to the secular image he would like to project. The Gujarat chief minister, best known for the buttoned-up half-sleeve 'Modi kurta', might be seen in a Pathani kurta, reveals his Ahmedabad-based stylist of 25 years, Bipin Chauhan.
"Narendra Modi recently showed me a Pathani suit that I had stitched for him way back in 1994 and said that he wanted something similar. So Pathani's in different fabrics are in the offing, which I think he plans to use as evening wear for functions," Chauhan said.
The Pathani kurta is a long-sleeved, collared long shirt popular with north Indian, mostly Muslim, men. They are usually teamed with a shalwar, the baggy pants worn by Pathans.
Chauhan, managing director of Jade Blue, a leading manufacturer and retailer of men's apparel in Ahmedabad, says the three-time CM is a stickler for well-fitted clothes, and has an eclectic personal style.
The only brief that Chauhan says he follows in dressing Narendra Modi up derives from a snatch of conversation he once overheard: Modi was saying that he would never compromise on his eyes, his clothes and his voice.
Chauhan guesses that while Narendra Modi's preference for comfortable clothes usually keeps him away from bandhgalas or Nehru jackets, "considering the cold in Delhi this winter, you might just see him donning one".
Chauhan, whose family has been in the tailoring business for five generations now, came up with the 'Modi kurta' in 2010, and registered the innovation as a brand name last year. As the demand for the kurta rises outside Gujarat as well, Chauhan plans to scale up production at his facility in Khokhra in Ahmedabad, and retail the garment in outlets in Indore and Hyderabad.
He says Modi kurtas for women and younger people in bright colours are on the way, as are cheaper options. "We sell two variants of the kurta currently, cotton for Rs 1,895 and linen for Rs 2,995, along with the churidaar. We plan to offer just the short-sleeved kurta in cotton for Rs 995, and in linen for Rs 1,900, so more people can own one."
According to Chauhan — who hopes he and his brother Jitubhai Chauhan can be stylists for India's prime minister next year — the demand from NRIs for the Narendra Modi kurtas was so overwhelming that his production units