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'In India, women diet a lot, which is not good'

January 12, 2014 14:08 IST

'Working in India, you can dress colourfully unlike in the west'


Shobha Warrier

Style diva Kanika Subbiah tells you how to mix fashion and style and make an instant impression!

She is among Chennai's best dressed women.

Kanika Subbiah, 42 who originally hails from Chandigarh, has made Chennai her home after she got married to Vellayan Subbiah of the Murugappa Group.

A woman of substance and style, Subbiah is also an entrepreneur, avid cyclist, swimmer, practices yoga and a fitness freak. In November last year, fashion magazine Vogue featured her as one of the most well dressed women in Chennai.

In the following interview, Kanika, also the founder of, a personalised gifting portal that was launched in June 2013, shares her wardrobe secrets, fashion tips and the importance of fitness.

You hail from Punjab and have also studied in the US (Subbiah holds an MBA from the University of Chicago). Tell us how different it is to dress in the hot Chennai climate? Also, please share some style tips for our readers.

I like to dress well. Dressing for the Chennai climate is so different from what I wore in Chandigarh and the US.

I was always in western wear like trousers, skirts, etc for work when I was in the US.

After I moved to Chennai, I dress much more Indian. But for work, even now, it is western as it is more comfortable.

I've lived in very cold places, and Chennai's weather is completely different.

I wear a lot of cottons here and linen. I carry this fabric quite well. Half of my wardrobe is white which is perfect for the weather.

The cotton sari is perfect for Chennai weather. It breathes. It is as comfortable as trousers. It is a beautiful way to dress, according to me.

My wardrobe is almost the same throughout the year as the weather doesn't change much.

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Image: Kanika Subbiah
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj/


'Fashion in India has arrived'

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What according to you is the ideal clothing for the working woman?

I like to wear trousers, loose comfortable linen pants with full sleeve kurtas or shirts, to work. Salwars are also wonderful.

I tend to wear full sleeve kurtas and shirts as I feel cold inside the air-conditioned office.

You see more western wear in offices in Mumbai. But I don't miss it. Working in India, you can dress colourfully which you can't in the west.

You have a plethora of options here, but the clothes should be appropriate to the occasion.

Identify what your personal style is and what you are comfortable in.

What about accessories?

My favourite accessory is a stole or scarf. It’s very versatile and goes well with Indian and western wear. You can also wrap it in so many different ways, and it can be really stylish.

I don't wear a lot of jewellery. I usually wear a rudraksh, a bracelet and earrings.

Good, smart, comfortable shoes are important. With saris, I wear comfortable flats.

Like your style in dressing, good posture is very important. Sitting and walking straight not only looks stylish, it is essential for your body and health.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is important but fashion for the sake of fashion is not. Stick to what looks good on you and your personal style.

I am not for going after the current trend or colour; they are secondary to me.

If you ask me about the fashionable people in India whom I like, I would name Nandita Das first. I love her style.

I also like the way Priyanka Chopra, Kangna Ranaut and Deepika Padukone dress.

Fashion in India has arrived. Compared to other parts of the world, the options we have in terms of colour, fabric and dress style is enormous.

Image: Kanika Subbiah
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj/

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'If you are fit, anything will look good on you'

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What does fitness mean to you? How important is it to be fit to be stylish?

I have been a runner for 20 years. It takes extra effort to run in summer in Chennai.

I ran eight miles this morning! Recently I have started cycling. It's a good idea to cycle to work. It is healthy and environment friendly.

I also swim and I plan to compete in a triathlon. I do an hour of yoga, more meditative, every morning.

I eat healthy food but I eat a lot. I love food and I eat a hearty breakfast, like parathas, and dinner, but no lunch.

In India, women diet a lot, which is not good.

Exercise and eat in moderation. I don't believe in deprivation.

An hour of exercise every day is a must, whatever combination it is.

If there is anything that is more important than fashion, it is fitness.

If you are fit, anything will look good on you. Fitness is very holistic, a combination of eating right, exercising and thinking right.

Image: Kanika Subbiah
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj/

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'It is always a challenge to buy gifts for men'

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Your portal offers personalised gifts. Can you tell us what to keep in mind when buying a gift?

A gift should be relevant to the person you are gifting it to. That is why we can personalise the stationery or gourmet food with the person in mind.

Then think of how the gift should be presented. Packaging is very important.

When the person receives the gift, s/he should feel that it was bought for them, and not something that was just lying at home. The person receiving the gift should feel special.

Your idea of gifting for babies...

There are so many things that you can choose for a baby nursery, from baby bedding to toys to silver

Your idea of gifts for men...

It is always a challenge to buy gifts for men. There is always music and books, but if you want to go outside that, try cufflinks, clips with personal initials, leather wallets, belts, toilet case... Personalised stationary can also be a very good gift idea.

Your idea of gifts for women...

There are lots of options for women though every woman has her own style and preferences.

I would suggest stationery and jewellery are better than apparel. Of course, there are things for the home which women love to get as gifts.

Image: Kanika Subbiah
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj/
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