Five Fits With: Music Exec and Menswear Enthusiast Sameer Sadhu
As we often discuss in this column, style is really at its peak when a person exhibits both comfort and honesty, and if you’re wondering how clothes can read honestly, we can start here with these outfits and this conversation. Sameer Sadhu is the VP of A&R at Nettwerk Music Group, as well as a partner at Singapore-based boutique label services firm Secret Signals, and his roots in the music world show in the way he gets dressed. He and I grew up listening to a lot of the same alternative rock—emo, screamo, pop-punk, and hardcore. With that shared history, along with an interest in traditional menswear, we have moments of style overlap. But Sameer remains unique in his approach, mixing high fashion and the sometimes-trendy with wardrobe staples in an impactful and yet subtle way. Below, Sameer and I discuss the journey from playing in bands to finding them for a living, falling in love with fashion through his father’s clothing, the correlation between style and art, and plenty more.
Where are you from and how did you find your way into the music business?
I’m originally from India, grew up in Singapore, and played in bands and was part of the music scene in Singapore from the age of 14. That was the age that I knew I wanted to be in the music industry, despite not knowing how and feeling like an outsider. Initially, I interned at a label when I first moved out to the States for university in 2008. After that, I went back to Singapore and worked at a couple labels before moving to join Nettwerk in 2015 on the management side as a day-to-day.
Can you remember how you first fell in love with fashion?
I think a lot of it was inspired by my parents and my dad really, the clothes he was wearing; that initially got me into clothes. Then, as I got older, finding clothes I loved sparked a response in me in a similar way that art does.
Were your parents particularly well-dressed?
Yeah. A smart pair of trousers and a shirt tucked in was my dad’s look for the longest time, which is very similar to what I enjoy now in clothes—very simple but clean. I still have a lot of his shirts as well. When I look back, I remember seeing vintage Lanvin shirts. I found a few Burberry pieces, and several pieces of made-to-measure clothing. It was really interesting as I got older to see that. There's a pair of Bally loafers that he had that I thought were so cool. They were navy with a green and red horsebit on them. Perhaps that’s where my love of loafers started.
How has your style changed over the years?
It's definitely evolved a lot. It’s something that driven by my mood more than anything else, and the discovery of brands and clothes. The problem is I love clothes, and I constantly change my mind in terms of what I like that day or week. It's a very fluid part of life, is how I see it. Living in New York, I’m inspired by the things and people around me. From strangers, to my friends, to my wife. When I moved to the States, that was the first time I could wear jackets. It sounds really silly, but growing up in Singapore, it's summer all year round, so there's never a need for a jacket. Those environmental changes were a big driving force in my discovery of clothes that happened at a later age in life, when I moved to the States and was working here and made money. I was able to explore a side I couldn’t before.
What role do fashion and style play in music?
It’s an extension of identity, and an extension of art. To an extent, you can understand someone a little better based on how they style themselves, and how they dress, and the aesthetics they draw from. For people who make art, how they live is such an extension of their own art as well. It also plays a very strong role in how artists view themselves, a lot of it subconsciously.
What do you look for when signing a new artist to a music label?
When you look at an artist, there's always the baseline: “Is the music good? Do I love it?” From there, it's all the other sides of the nuance, like the vision of the artist and where they want to take it. “Is that something that I feel like our team and I can add value to? Do I enjoy working with the artist? Do I get along with the artist? Is it something where there's that two-way street in terms of mutual respect? Is the team a team we feel like we can work together with?” Nettwerk is a company of 185 staff, and when I go in and sign an artist, I have to consider the personalities that would be involved in the project and how that matches as well. “Is that something that the team will embrace and make it a successful project?”
Because at the end of the day, you want the project to be successful for everyone. One of the biggest battles in this industry is having resilience and consistency. It’s those softer skills that aren't talked about enough, but truly are huge factors in deciding whether the artist is the right fit for the label. There have been meetings in which I met artists, and perhaps personality-wise there isn’t the right click between me and them, or their manager. You’re going to spend a lot of time communicating with them and talking with them. This is a partnership and it's more than just six months. It's years. You have to get ready to be able to communicate clearly and have that ability to bring good news and bad news, and work towards goals together and be comfortable with that. It can be hard to determine during the courting process, but that's something that you learn. You could go in a meeting and realize very quickly if it'll work and not. Obviously, that’s not always the case, but for the most part it is. When you've been in the industry long enough, you know the people who you trust. Those are the other things that we look at outside of just the music and their creative vision, which is, at the end of the day, the number one thing.
What are some brands you are loving, new and old, and why?
I love the new Simone Rocha men's collection, very into it. Love The Row. A brand that I don't wear that I think is very cool is Dion Lee. Adore what Stòffa is building. I'm really getting into Margaret Howell. One of my go-tos for a lot of things is Sunspel. It's just simple classics. I do think the best current designer out there at this time is Jonathan Anderson. Everything he does at Loewe is just phenomenal.
Do you have any all-time favorites?
Bode and Thom Browne are favorites. I think The Row is there too. Loewe. Love Craig Green, big fan of the early collections, but I think he's coming back strong, too. I do like Rick Owens a lot. Every couple of years, I just fall in love with Rick all over again.
Why do you think that is?
It’s the incredibly whimsical and daring nature of his brand. Something about it is so enduring, and it's just always ahead of things. Everything he does, from the furniture to the clothes—just the world building—is really cool.
You travel a lot. Where do you think has the best style in the world? And how about the best shopping?
Best style by far is New York. So much of style is based on confidence, and New York just has that self-confidence where no one really gives a fuck about what's around them. I love that. It's unapologetic, and to me that's very, very cool. It's borderless in terms of age. You see so many older people who dress incredibly well, and then you see so many kids also dressed incredibly well. It's boundless in terms of gender, and age, and race. London is probably a close second. In terms of shopping, I really like London. L.A. honestly is pretty good, because the biggest thing that's missing in New York right now is multi-brand stores. Outside CHCM and La Garconne, the multi-retailers are on the decline. Be it something like Departamento or H. Lorenzo or Just One Eye, there's just so many different stores in L.A. Sizing wise, I feel like everyone in New York buys smaller sizes, and everyone in L.A. buys bigger sizes. So, when I'm in L.A., I can actually buy stuff because it hasn't sold out yet. London has the Yohji store; apparently we're meant to get one in New York, but that hasn't opened. London has some really, really cool little stores. But there's a cool community here as well.
If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it consist of?
It’s definitely all black, as simple and silly as that sounds. I realize the days I feel least confident, I just have to put on a black outfit and not think about it, and that's the go-to. So I think just a pair of straight black trousers, a pair of loafers, and a black T-shirt, and a button down, and maybe a little sweater if needed. That's a very easy outfit to wear.
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