Style is a very personal thing—you may choose a crisp white shirt with a floral lehenga-skirt (as Akshata Murty did during her recent visit to India) or don the country’s many weaves and its myriad saris like style icon, Rekha or oscillate between global designers and home-grown brands (emerging and established) like Sonam Kapoor Ahuja does. More often than not, style is an extension of our thoughts, standards, and modus operandi of how we choose to live and move in the world.
To sum up a compendium of women who consider style a serious business, we looked into the depths of the Internet—from Kolkata, Goa, and Delhi, to Mumbai, Jaipur, and London. These women are using closet space to define their style. Some like to wear their values, while others use clothes to inspire and stand out. Some weave their identity into the fabric of fashion, while others travel the world in search of their style. These are the best-dressed women of 2023, hand-picked by Harper’s Bazaar India.
Daribha Lyndem, author
Joan Didion, Zadie Smith, Sylvia Plath—wordsmiths who use fashion as their plaything are a whole vibe. And author Daribha Lyndem’s wardrobe flex substantiates how her grammar (and ballet flats) are both utterly on point. Worn with everything from plissé skirts, preppy suits, prairie dresses, and light-as-air kurtas, it’s a shoes-and-co. closet we’d like to cop.
Smita Lasrado, casting agent and co-founder, Feat. Artists
The model turned entrepreneur is her own brand of covetable cool. Case in point: patent leather Ottolinger trousers; flossy, gaug-y Supriya Lele tops; and vintage YSL jackets and bags from her wardrobe’s archive—the stuff off-duty model style is made of.
Gauravi Kumari, designer and entrepreneur
From rare bandhani, leheriya, and gota patti saris brought forward for traditional festivals in the City Palace, to flower-inflected bucket hats and block-printed dresses for hot summer getaways, no one does image curation quite like an Indian royal.
Archana Jain, founder, PR Pundit
Now, we would put a moratorium on the words ‘timeless dressing’ if we could, but when it comes to this widely respected quinquagenarian and her mop of silver-grey curls peppering everything from safari-ready looks to midi dresses by Lovebirds and Uniqlo, timeless dressing wins ‘words of the day’.
Ishu Dhakras, co-founder of Né Nepal, marketing professional, and impact entrepreneur
As a product of many cultures, this marketing professional, who spent her growing up years in Gangtok, Nepal, and Uttaranchal, and then San Francisco in America, brings her no-borders approach to clothing at her label Ne Nepal that she launched in 2018. After working with brands such as Burma Burma, Anita Dongre, and Dentsu, Ishu Dhakras wanted to bring her love for artistry and heritage to a brand that wove those stories in its very own fabric. True to her wandering feet, the label is available in Nepal, India, and USA, and spans clothing, tableware, and even lip balm, and body scrubs.
Rashmi Verma, designer and curator
According to designer Rashmi Varma, the best companion to a pair of Margiela Tabi boots is a draped black sari. Her list of unlikely combinations includes, “a vintage Thierry Mugler peplum safari suit, my dadiji’s (grandmother’s) old gold bangles, silky men’s chikankari kurtas worn loose and oversized with a pair of killer heels”. Opposing forces do make a mightier match.
Amrita Thakur, designer and fashion curator
We only have special commendations for Amrita Thakur, who is a dedicated dresser turning up and turning out major looks. Her top-to-toe talking videos unpacking her #OOTDs have us liking, sharing, subscribing, and saving. What’s real? That she pairs her high-street with homegrown and couture with vintage.
Sumiran and Sadh Chhetri, vintage store owners
Yes, you’ll need to do a double take. Sisters and partners in pre-loved business, Sumiran and Sadhvawana Chhetri got together to start Lali Thrifts in 2019, when they connected over vintage crochet vests and grandmother cardigans growing up in Kalimpong and visiting weekend thrift markets. We stan a sister-partnership where the source is always style.
Ayesha Kanga, actor
Arguably the most trend-conscious from the cast of Netflix’s Class, Ayesha Kanga levels between goth and Gaurav Gupta like she swaps y2k Ed Hardy jeans for her mother’s jewellery. “My personal style is mostly ironic verging on ugly-cute,” says the actor with a refreshing sensibility that we’d like a large serving of.
Tania Shroff, content creator
With Instagram as her runway, this content creator, who officially made her crossover from influencing to designing, in a collaboration with model-approved Posh and Pearls, has given us a string of wishlist items curated on her square-inch feed. Think Coperni beach sandals in blue tie-dye, Miu Miu strawberry pink skirt-suits, and layers of Posh and Pearl body chains.
Naveli Choyal, photographer
Frame, set, click. How does an on-the-move photographer dress? “Pants with lots of pockets,” is how Naveli Choyal describes pieces that take pride of place in her wardrobe. In between capturing portraits and flower markets, she brings playfulness to her wardrobe with colour-blocked saris worn with statement silver jewellery and her signature heavily kohl-rimmed eyes.
Tinu Verghis, farmer, artist, and yoga therapist
After spending a great number of years in fashion’s fast-paced world as one of India’s top models, Verghis reproached to a slower life in the susegad lanes of Goa, where she grows her own vegetables, makes art, and practices yoga. Her style, minimalist and layered, takes its inspiration from Japan and Goa’s iconic gem, Wendell Rodricks. “Sustainable fashion brands that use eco-friendly materials and adopt ethical practices are my go-to choices,” she explains of her conscious closet.
Manpreet Kaur, creative director and artist
Patchworked, with a side-slit, as dungarees or as utilitarian cut-off shorts—denim, in all shapes and forms is the building block of Kaur’s wardrobe. “I only buy pieces I see myself wearing 100 times and in 100 different ways,” says the self-proclaimed denim crusader. So, you’ll see classic yet statement pieces from homegrown labels like Prxkhxr, Rkivecity, Samaaj Studio, and an indigo dusting from international brands, TheFrankieShop, Maison Margiela, CamperLab, and Beams.
Kapoor, stylist and film producer
We love a behind-the-scenes queen. And no one does off-camera style quite like this suit-wearing woman-in-charge. Whether it’s crinkled quicksilver jacket and trouser sets by Anavila or shape-defying Dion Lee cocoon tops—Rhea Kapoor’s looks eat and leave no crumbs.
Rhea Kuruvilla, art marketing professional
The world of fashion criss-crosses art, architecture, design, and luxury, and this emerging voice in the art world knows exactly how freely creativity can flow. Her wardrobe leans into cerebral black dresses or solid white sneakers, much like her art inclinations go from Francis Bacon to FN Souza.
Ambika Seth, restaurateur
This leading name in the food industry knows fashion is for comfort. Whether it is addressing the teams behind the scenes in long, white dresses or acing a step workout on a Saturday in yoga tights and tees, ease of dressing is paramount for her. The cherry on top of her flowing summer dresses? A chunky necklace that’s always a conversation starter.
Harleen Kaur, artist
For some, style is a way to showcase their heritage. Harleen Kaur’s serene and sincere approach to fashion sees her mixing homegrown labels like Turnblack, Ancestry, Yavi, Cord, The Loom, and Fabindia with her totem patka (head wrap). “I’m deeply rooted in my Sikh and Punjabi heritage, and my style becomes a tribute to the rich tapestry of culture, intricately woven into my attire,” she explains of every look that is punctuated with a statuesque head scarf.
Karuna Ezara Parikh, author
This tall and tattooed storyteller weaves poetry through her clothes, often choosing the warp and weft of Madras checks and gossamer chanderi, ikat, kantha, Benarasi, and the Gucci Bamboo. All while stringing perfect stanzas and building a community of like-minded readers at her book club titled, Karuna’s Kitaab Club.
Naomi Janumala, model
First seen in Fenty’s June 2019 ad campaign directed and shot by RiRi herself, promptly followed by the cover of Harper’s Bazaar India’s December 2019 issue, Naomi Janumala (who is also Johnny Lever’s niece) is fashion’s true-blue child. Highlighter-hued tracksuits, pared-back Calvin Klein’s recalling fashion’s best ‘90s era, and whisper-thin dresses—she is her own brand of street-chic.
Karishma Swali, designer and creative director of Chanakya International and the Chanakya School of Craft
It’s been a total joy to watch Chanakya’s Karishma Swali power her way through red-carpet appearances in silk-chiffon JADE saris artfully worn with Dior Bar Jackets, before taking on press meets in Mumbai wearing cotton kurtas and Kolhapuris. All during Dior’s greatest show of strength in India in collaboration with Swali’s weaving house and an army of talented women.
Carol Humtsoe, thrift shop owner and model
With the countryside and culture of her native Nagaland, model and shop owner Carol Humtsoe has a plentiful Instagram-based curation of slow-sourced, second-hand gems for all. The model, with a penchant for vintage, reinvented herself as an archive influencer with the foresight to never throw clothing away. Case in point: a beautifully cut vintage Versace blazer and some pieces from Jil Sander that you will find at her shop, Carol’s Shop & Tea Room.
Pragya Kapoor, producer and environmentalist
She’s smart, she’s sexy, and she cares about the planet. From working in the garden to walking the red carpet in brands that advocate for sustainability, Pragya Kapoor’s style is a humble reminder that when in doubt, reuse, repeat, and recycle.
Rasmit Kaur, stylist
We would all like to be the bold and brilliant Rasmit Kaur in her Raw Mango saris and Burberry trench coats when we grow up. The ‘pro age stylist and diversity advocate, living her best life at 56’ has given growing old a glow up. One reel of her looks reads, ‘Let’s stop the negative self- talk and embrace a love for fashion. You have the power to create a wardrobe that makes you feel confident and stylish, no matter your size or age’. Amen Roz, Amen.
Namrat Klair, client marketing and communications, Dior
Must be something about being surrounded by the best of bags and shoes… Namrat Klair, keeper of cool things and in charge of communications at Dior in India has (you guessed it) a Dior goodie to match every travel escape. Velcro slides against azure waters, the Dior Caro perched on a boat, sunglasses with a sneaky CD logo at the beach. Top marks to this luxury rep for walking the talk everywhere she goes.
Varshita Thatavarthi, model
'That Sabyasachi model’ is now everywhere. From billboards and TV commercials, to fashion presentations. We love a fashion moment that spirals into something larger. Every post that the model now puts up receives comments with kudos for being a real woman’s size. Leather jackets, long dresses, lehengas, and an eye-wateringly sexy fish-net dress, she can do it all and then some.
Maithili Ahluwalia, Founder, Bungalow Eight and creative consultant
Here’s a supremely stylish woman with nary a social media presence. But no best-dressed list is complete without the woman who gave us one of the best concept stores in the country (#BringBackBungalowEight deserves a hashtag of its own). Dresses that billow behind her, En Inde accessories decking her neck, ears, and every last finger—Maithili Ahluwalia has launched and supported the best design talent in the country, like no other.
Nikhat Zareen, sportswoman
Professional boxer and two-time world champion, Nikhat Zareen is a winner all around. On court she’s seen kitted out in adidas gear, and outside the ring, her style is a strong contender. Somebody call the referee because this suit (served with a side of Louis Vuitton) is giving us a sucker punch x 10000.
Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance, India
So often women on the world’s stage are looked up to for their choice of clothes. Their style and wardrobe decisions are debated and dissected, much like their politics. Whether it was UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s wife and designer, Akshata Murty’s celebration of emerging Indian designers on a recent trip to Delhi or Madam Vice President of United States of America, Kamala Harris’s bedazzled Ashish rainbow jacket on a pre-pandemic Pride parade in San Francisco. India’s Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitaraman, with her strict uniform of simple cotton saris, minimal gold jewellery, and a non-descript bindi makes a standout statement of her own. One that seems to say—‘there is a job to be done, and while she’s at it, her clothes will not fall prey to being politicised. Not until her work is complete, anyway'.