The United Kingdom’s latest PM likes the same label as one particular Devil
Rishi Sunak. Photo:rishisunak.com
If The Devil Wears Prada, why not the prime minister? The United Kingdom’s latest PM, the fifth in six years, Rishi Sunak, is not only dominating the headlines for being the first person of colour to be appointed PM (he’s of Indian Punjabi descent); with a religion that’s not Christianity (Hinduism); at 42, the youngest PM to occupy 10 Downing Street or; according to Reuters, the wealthiest occupant, with the estimated net worth of £730 million (about S$1.18 billion), believed to be more that any British royal, even the late Queen; but also a rather stylish politician. His style is even more striking considering the mono-tone and rather frumpish choices of his predecessor Liz Truss, and the frankly shockingly messy turnout of her predecessor Boris Johnson.
Liz Truss, now famous for being the shortest-serving PM in the history of the UK, is, of course, no Theresa May, Britain’s second female PM (2016—2019). Ms Truss’s dress sense is electorate-correct: neither too bland nor too conspicuous, but her tailored single-coloured dresses and suits (her faves are from Karen Millen) could stand out in Instagram posts, even if they lack noticeable élan. Boris Johnson, he is quite another beast altogether. Throughout his shambolic tenure, we’ve never seen him looking neat. The messy clothes—shirts with collars that won’t behave and ill-fitted, crumpled suit—aside, there is that irritating mop of hair that looks like it has never met a comb in their life cycles, except, perhaps, the owner’s fingers. The total package is always unkempt, top to bottom. No one needs a prime minister who consciously preens, but neither one who comes off as frowsy.
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy. Photo: PA Wire
Mr Sunak, in contrast, cuts a sleek, dashing figure. But his critics seem to believe that a well-dressed political leader is out of touch with his voters. They drew attention, for example, to his £3,500 custom-made suit by Henry Herbert (an almost indie brand compared to those on Savile Row) and his £490 Prada shoes when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance to the rest of us non-Brit lay people), and equated that with a lifestyle no ordinary folk will appreciate. Or, is it just difficult for them to accept a dapper Asian politician? And, especially one who is well-educated and wealthy? It is not quite comprehensible that, with today’s access to well-made clothes—they don’t have to be expensive—and the importance of looking well-groomed in a professional capacity, we still prefer our politicians to look like they can barely afford to buy anything to wear, even at Uniqlo.
If it shouldn’t be said that Mr Sunak has innate style and the means to express it, is it acceptable to think that his wife Akshata Murthy has something to do with his welcome nattiness? A fashion designer (and a business woman and “software heiress”, whose father, N,R, Narayana Murthy, is the founder of Infosys), Ms Murthy started her own clothing business Akshata Designs in 2010. Vogue India described her designs as “more than just stylish; they’re also vehicles to discovering Indian culture”. It is not known if the line is still in production (the website does not appear to be functional: a click on ‘Collections’ revealed nothing). The pair is noted in British social circles as a stylish couple. No reason to believe that Mr Sunak needs to abandon smart elegance now that he will work and live in 10 Downing Street. Surely he does not need to follow his former boss Boris Johnson? Begrudge him not his style or his Pradas if he can restore order to what appears to us a rather disunited United Kingdom.