We design with intention and thought. Nowhere is the convergence of those two more apparent than at work, where personal style meets professionalism.
We spoke with Raul, Nicobar’s co-founder, about his personal style, finding work-life balance, and more. If you’ve met him, you know he thinks about mindfulness, about life lessons gleaned from sport, and that Tom Cruise in Maverick is his latest source of inspiration. Raul was raised in India but spent half his life out of the country, studying and working as an investment banker in New York, London, and Boston.
How would you define your personal style? Any style tips for our audience?
Without a doubt, comfort is above all else. Comfort starts with the fabric and then the fit and quality of the construction. I prefer simplicity with some detailing, which is Nicobar’s design signature.
My personal style was not always this. For years my closet has been filled with worn shoes and overused sneakers. I used to love wearing ties – today, I find it difficult to wear one. I used to say “style over comfort” and now have evolved to “comfort is style”.
In fact, style is, first and foremost, about how you feel internally. The more one looks after their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self, the more whatever one wears looks stylish.
I may have come full circle seeing Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick recently. Growing up in Bombay, the ultimate style symbol was Tom Cruise in his twenties in a beautiful white T-shirt, jeans, aviator sunglasses and a brown leather jacket. While I avoid leather when I can, even today, that is a fabulously stylish look (except riding a Royal Enfield instead of a Kawasaki!) Most of the time, you will find me in T-shirts and sneakers.
Some days I want to stand out, and then it’s all about colour and designs that resonate. I have a favourite shirt with frogs that I wore when courting Simran. Today, one of my favourite prints is from our Goa 60s Mandovi collection – a fabulous retro print.
What does a regular day at work look like?
A good day at work is determined by prep before work. Typically a workday starts with a good 7-hour sleep with no electronic device interaction at least 90 mins before sleeping, except the Kindle. I usually wake up between 5 and 6 am and start the day with a half-hour meditation, followed by 30-45 minutes of a workout and 30-45 minutes studying our scriptures. Currently, I’m studying the Gita.
This is a combination of action (workout), reflection (reading scriptures) and silence (meditation). The perfect day always has a combination of these things.
I usually work from around 8 am to 4 pm and try to keep a few hours in the evening for sports or being with my kids or friends. Between 8 am to 4 pm, unfortunately, there are back-to-back meetings. I prefer walking meetings, meetings where I can connect with my team, versus transactional meetings. I am most effective in walking meetings. I was told men don’t like looking at each other when they speak; hence walks work great for good conversations between men. This year I am focused more on white space in my calendar, allowing for more relationships and reflection versus transactional meetings.
A great day is when I have made someone else successful, a lesson I learned early in my career at Goldman Sachs. I was always trying to be the smart guy in the room and my mentor, luckily, early in my career, shared with me, “stop trying to be the smartest guy in the room. Make sure people enjoy working with you and try making others successful. People will figure that out over time.”
How do you bring mindfulness and purpose to work?
In this respect, we are lucky. I see an inflection point now. Nicobar was created to be a brand that shapes culture – that changes the nature of consumption. We are still tiny, but I think we are making the right impact in small circles and will hopefully grow over time. We are making small nudges that I think will scale through a focus on eliminating natural fabrics and reducing plastics and synthetics to create an everlasting design language and style.
Beyond product, mindfulness comes in how one interacts with people—listening more than speaking is vital—showing curiosity and treating those around us with kindness even when being firm.
Do you have a favourite Nicobar piece that has been with you for years? What do you love about it?My first purchase at Nicobar was the simple pink and white Navab shirts with Nehru collars. I love the cotton linen fabric, which is easy to dress up with linen trousers or Shillong jammies or dress down with linen shorts or jeans. The Shillong jammies are a perfect mix of a tailored look for trousers along with the comfort of pyjamas, another staple in my wardrobe for more than five years. I am a big fan of all Nicobar T-shirts. Simple organic cotton or, more recently, with some lovely prints centred around animals and nature.
SHOP RAUL’S LOOK