Be­spoke Suits: An in­vest­ment in in­di­vid­u­al­ity

Cus­tomi­sa­tion, while ex­pen­sive, is just an­other way to build self-con­fi­dence, the best and most per­sonal style up­grade a man can hope for to­day. Here’s a de­tailed look at the grow­ing de­mo­graphic of the rapidly devel­op­ing be­spoke suits mar­ket in In­dia...

Business of Fashion - - Contents - By Shivam Gau­tom

Be­spoke fash­ion, once a pre­rog­a­tive of style con­nois­seurs with deep pock­ets, is fast be­com­ing a grow­ing trend among pro­fes­sional men around the world, as prices fall, and awareness grows.

All it takes is just one look at the ur­bane and dap­per men of to­day to re­alise that be­spoke – made-to-mea­sure or cus­tom-made fash­ion – is the best per­sonal style up­grade men can hope to gift them­selves. Af­ter all, if fash­ion is all about glam­our, then what can be more charis­matic than hav­ing clothes tai­lored to your ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions, both in terms of size, style and in­di­vid­u­al­ity?

The Con­sumer

In­dia has long har­boured a rich be­spoke tra­di­tion. Back in the day, be­spoke was the norm and the only op­tion, es­pe­cially when it came to suits. It was only with the en­try and ex­pan­sion of in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic ap­parel brands in the early 90s, that the RTW seg­ment in­creased in pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially in ur­ban cen­tres, and ever since, the seg­ment has grown rapidly. But a shift away from ready-to-wear back to be­spoke has been reg­is­tered in the last few years, mostly among the young, style con­scious, fi­nan­cially sta­ble men of to­day.

Lately, a pro­fu­sion of so­cio-eco­nomic fac­tors has cul­mi­nated in the pro­lif­er­a­tion of this savvy con­sumer base which ex­hibits a con­scious in­cli­na­tion to­wards unique, made-tomea­sure pieces; a part of what is be­ing called ‘the new lux­ury’.

The growth of this seg­ment within the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent is largely due to the emer­gence of the nou­veau riche and the High Net-worth In­di­vid­u­als (HNIs). This sec­tion of so­ci­ety pos­sesses an in­creased dis­pos­able in­come along with a keen de­sire for ex­clu­siv­ity. Apart from cel­e­brat­ing their per­sonal and pro­fes­sional achievements, the own­ers of be­spoke cloth­ing of­ten also see the ex­clu­siv­ity of­fered by a be­spoke suit as an ex­ten­sion of their own per­son­al­ity.

“In re­cent times, be­spoke suits have en­joyed lot of pop­u­lar­ity with the young crowd aged 15 to 24 as at this age they want to try some­thing un­usual. Apart from this, those with high net worth in­di­vid­u­als who live in a so­cially ac­tive so­ci­ety also en­able the In­dian be­spoke in­dus­try as does the up­per mid­dle class,” says Ra­chit Se­wani, Founder and Owner, La­bel It Cus­tom.

“Be­spoke cloth­ing has evolved over the years to be­come more ex­pe­ri­ence ori­ented than just be­ing prod­uct spe­cific. While fit still re­mains the big­gest rea­son why peo­ple pre­fer be­spoke, de­sign has been get­ting a lot of rel­e­vance”

– Prem De­wan, Re­tail Head, OSL Lux­ury Col­lec­tions Pvt. Ltd. (Cor­neliani)

Why Be­spoke

A pur­pose­ful sense of in­di­vid­u­al­ity and unique­ness is what sets aside a be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ence from a ho­mo­ge­neous high street of­fer­ing or even the ex­pen­sive most fac­tory pro­duced ap­parel. In ad­di­tion, be­spoke suits are com­pletely cus­tom­ized with ut­most at­ten­tion given to even the tini­est of de­tail.

“The whole point boils down to at­ten­tion to the finest of de­tails and the abil­ity to cus­tomise even the small­est el­e­ment. But in con­tem­po­rary times, there is a grow­ing awareness to­wards sus­tain­abil­ity wherein clients would rather in­vest in a high qual­ity prod­uct that is ver­sa­tile and func­tional rather than se­lect­ing a low qual­ity prod­uct that may be used only for a spe­cific event or pur­pose,” says San­deep Gon­salves, Direc­tor and Co-Founder, SS Homme.

Be­spoke de­sign in suits is a great con­cept for those who crave in­di­vid­u­al­ity.

“Peo­ple who want to look great body-wise go for be­spoke cloth­ing as it as­sures them of 100 per­cent fit. Be­spoke also opens the gate of imag­i­na­tion for the cus­tomers as they can de­sign, ex­per­i­ment, in­no­vate with colours and have a fit they de­sire which is next to im­pos­si­ble with ready to wear brands,” Se­wani.

Be­spoke cloth­ing also serves to pro­vide a more in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship for the client with the brand, es­pe­cially when it comes to lux­ury be­spoke suits for these brands sell an ex­pe­ri­ence. “Be­spoke cloth­ing has evolved over the years to be­come more ex­pe­ri­ence ori­ented than just be­ing prod­uct spe­cific. The main driver for this has be­ing the ex­plo­sion of the wed­ding mar­ket in In­dia over the past decade and be­spoke has made a huge come back. While fit still re­mains the big­gest rea­son why peo­ple pre­fer be­spoke, de­sign has been get­ting a lot of rel­e­vance,” says Prem De­wan, Re­tail Head, OSL Lux­ury Col­lec­tions Pvt. Ltd., the com­pany which re­tails the brand Cor­neliani in In­dia.

The Oc­ca­sion Connection

When it comes to nup­tials, noth­ing quite ri­vals the op­u­lence of an In­dian wed­ding. Big fat In­dian wed­dings, as they are righ­teously re­ferred to as, are epit­ome of grandiose and one of the big­gest mar­kets of ex­clu­sive fash­ion in In­dia. To­day, it is not just the bride and groom who pre­fer to sport some­thing ex­quis­ite and unique, the kin and guests are at their ex­clu­sive best too.

“In­dia re­quires a rea­son to wear a suit as op­posed to other coun­tries where suits are reg­u­lar buys. But with events such as wed­dings and the avail­abil­ity of af­ford­able cus­tomiza­tion, this mar­ket is slowly gain­ing in mo­men­tum,” says Se­wani.

“Usu­ally we see a lot of wed­ding wear and cor­po­rate clien­tele at the store. I would say the so­cial de­mo­graphic is split evenly amongst grooms, grooms­men look­ing for wed­ding gar­ments and cor­po­rate clients look­ing for busi­ness suits,” re­veals Gon­salves.

Be­spoke suits are also pop­u­lar cor­po­rate work­ers since cor­po­rate of­fices em­pha­size on sharp dress­ing codes and be­spoke suits fit the bill.

“The cor­po­rate world to­day ac­cepts peo­ple who dress sharply for the work­place. The use of jack­ets is largely ac­cepted, and they are of­ten seen matched with fash­ion­able for­mals,

“To­day, with the mid­dle class be­com­ing more af­flu­ent, the scope of cus­tomi­sa­tion ser­vices in smaller cities is also grow­ing at a rapid pace. The pop­u­la­tion of smaller cities have started fol­low­ing the lat­est trends of the fash­ion mar­ket”

– Su­nil Mehra, De­signer & Founder, House of Su­nil Mehra

shirts and trousers. A wide range of jack­ets are avail­able at all our PN Rao stores for the semi-for­mal line/fash­ion for­mal line with dif­fer­ent hues, cuts and color with dif­fer­ent fits suit­ing all body types and need. We see a lot of po­ten­tial in this seg­ment and are se­ri­ously look­ing at it to tap into the op­por­tu­nity,” says Ke­tan Pishe, Part­ner, PN Rao.

The Be­spoke Suits Mar­ket in In­dia

The be­spoke mar­ket in In­dia is steadily scal­ing the ranks. The grow­ing need for that per­fect fit, awareness of best fabrics, qual­ity in­ter­na­tional brands and com­pa­nies of­fer­ing im­pec­ca­ble be­spoke prod­ucts along with a higher de­tail of prod­uct un­der­stand­ing, have all led to this growth. It has been no­ticed that the cus­tomised suit seg­ment is grow­ing at a high rate, and its share is ex­pected to in­crease in the next five years.

“Ris­ing awareness in terms of fabrics, styles and fits es­pe­cially in the pro­fes­sional space is largely be­com­ing a huge au­di­ence for this mar­ket. The cus­tomised mar­ket in In­dia is here to stay and is grow­ing at a very fast rate due to the com­pet­i­tive pric­ing and the qual­ity of the prod­ucts,” says Gon­salves.

“Be­spoke ser­vices are see­ing a much higher de­mand. Cus­tomised ser­vices ac­count for al­most 15 per­cent of the US$250 mil­lion (`1,300 crore) lux­ury ap­parel and ac­ces­sories mar­ket in In­dia,” states Su­nil Mehra, Founder & De­signer, House of Su­nil Mehra.

To­day, even small cities have the as­pi­ra­tion and the spend­ing power so made-to-mea­sure is no longer re­stricted to Tier-I cities. “To­day, with the mid­dle class be­com­ing more af­flu­ent, the scope of cus­tomi­sa­tion ser­vices in smaller cities is also grow­ing at a rapid pace. The pop­u­la­tion of smaller cities have also started fol­low­ing the lat­est trends of the fash­ion mar­ket,” says Mehra. Ac­cord­ing to Pishe, the trend starts from cities like Mum­bai and Delhi for they have al­ways stayed close to na­tional and in­ter­na­tional fash­ion trends and then spreads out to rest of the coun­try.

The big gap in the mar­ket be­tween lux­ury brands and fast-fash­ion cloth­ing has also been cited as a cat­a­lyst for the rapid growth of this in­dus­try. In a nut­shell, the cus­tomised suits mar­ket in In­dia is keep­ing pace with the el­e­vated fash­ion con­cise­ness of the In­dian con­sumer. This has opened doors to a slew of breed of brands and de­sign­ers who spe­cialise in meet­ing the suave, mod­ern con­sumer’s de­mand for a more fit­ted look. At the same time, it has also given rise to a healthy com­pe­ti­tion among the es­tab­lished names of this do­main to up the ante on their prod­ucts and ser­vices, stand out among their peers.

In­fra­struc­ture

In con­tem­po­rary times, in­vest­ing in new tech­nol­ogy has taken cen­ter stage in ev­ery in­dus­try across the globe. Rules of busi­ness are chang­ing by the day and it is im­per­a­tive that busi­nesses iden­tify and im­ple­ment rel­e­vant tech­nolo­gies can cre­ate new value for them. Even in­dus­tries like the be­spoke suits in­dus­try, that draw chiefly on man­ual pro­cesses are im­pelled to

utilise new­fan­gled tech­nol­ogy and ma­chines to breast the so­phis­ti­ca­tion and fi­nesse that the cul­ti­vated mod­ern con­sumers of this sphere de­mands.

“In terms of ma­chin­ery and tech­nol­ogy, we have a to­tal of 10 ma­chines, which are placed over the en­tire workshop space. We have eight sew­ing ma­chines, one over­lock ma­chine and one fus­ing ma­chine. With the ad­vent of tech­nol­ogy, there is a lot that can be of­fered in terms of be­spoke cloth­ing such as 3D tech­nol­ogy and data stor­age to rein­vent the en­tire process,” ex­plains Gon­salves.

Brands like La­bel it Cus­tom are also in­vest­ing in the cre­ative prow­ess of ex­pe­ri­enced de­sign­ers to shell out unique prod­ucts and cre­ate a niche. “We have our team of de­sign­ers who in­no­vate and churn out new styles ev­ery three months. We also heav­ily bank on cut­ting-edge laser cut­ting ma­chines, but­ton hole ma­chines, etc., to en­sure per­fect fin­ish­ing on the fi­nal prod­uct. We are very open to tech­ni­cal upgra­da­tions and would we def­i­nitely will be will­ing to try it out any new tech­nol­ogy af­ter hav­ing a pilot study,” says Se­wani.

Sig­na­ture Styles

La­bel It Cus­tom, which prides on dress­ing celebri­ties like Diljit Dosanjh, Ak­shay Ku­mar, and Shaan, stand out with an Om­nichan­nel ap­proach. The brand uses ser­vices of stylists to of­fer clients the lux­ury of or­der­ing and giv­ing mea­sure­ments from the com­fort of their homes. They have also in­tro­duced a dig­i­tal mea­sure­ment and trial ma­chine through which clients can get the best pos­si­ble fit and com­fort.

PN Rao boasts of hav­ing a high first time right per­cent­age and about 45 per­cent of its busi­ness con­sists of re­peat cus­tomers. It also has a high re­fer­ral of about 80 per­cent. “We of­fer the half can­vas jacket as a stan­dard at all our show­rooms and the cus­tomer can opt for the full can­vas jacket as well. There are very few tai­lors in the coun­try who can make the full can­vas jacket,” says Pishe.

At SS Homme - Sarah & San­deep, de­sign aes­thet­ics that align with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and the in­flu­ence of ge­om­e­try is what makes the cut. “While our be­spoke ser­vice is the most in­no­va­tive and unique process, we also have a made-tomea­sure process which can get you a sharp gar­ment in a span on 3-4 days,” states Gon­salves.

Cor­neliani aims to be­come the cu­ra­tors of Ital­ian so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Weight­less­ness is the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter­is­tic and spe­cialty of the brand. Their gar­ments are airy and built around an idea of sub­tle ef­fort­less­ness.

Fabric Op­tions

While there are sev­eral el­e­ments that craft the per­fect suit, there’s no doubt

“Ris­ing awareness in terms of fabrics, styles and fits - the pro­fes­sional space is largely be­com­ing a huge au­di­ence for this mar­ket. The cus­tomised mar­ket is grow­ing at a very fast rate due to the com­pet­i­tive pric­ing and the qual­ity of the prod­ucts”

– San­deep Gon­salves, Direc­tor & Co-Founder, SS Homme - Sarah & San­deep.

that the fabric is the soul of a suit. It is vi­tal to ap­pear­ance and can make or break a suit and it’s no won­der then that brands work on of­fer­ing only the best fabric to their con­sumers.

“Fabrics are the ma­jor fac­tor of our mar­ket lead­er­ship as we ship the best pos­si­ble fabrics from the re­puted mills like Arvind Mills, Ray­mond, Si­yaram’s, etc. Peo­ple trust the fine qual­ity of Ray­mond and in ad­di­tion to that they want ex­per­i­ment with the wool blended qual­ity of Si­yaram’s as well. Our pre­mium cus­tomers do not hes­i­tate to ex­per­i­ment with Aus­tralian Merino Wool in 150s and 160s fabric count. We also have in­tro­duced Hol­land and Sherry to our col­lec­tion of fabrics of late,” says Se­wani.

SS Homme - Sarah & San­deep im­ports fabrics from Eng­land and Italy and it only sources fabrics lo­cally for the eth­nic gar­ments. “We have an ex­ten­sive va­ri­ety of high qual­ity English and Ital­ian fabrics by Dormeuil, Sca­bal, Hol­land & Sherry, Loro Piana, Hud­der­s­field, Vi­tale Bar­beris Canon­ico, etc. We stock ex­quis­ite worsted wool in su­per 100s to su­per 180s in mo­hair, cash­mere, finest merino wool and linens that are suit­able for var­i­ous cli­mates. These fabrics are ideal for suit­ings, blaz­ers and trouser­ing for busi­ness mens’ suits and spe­cial oc­ca­sions that are per­fect for the cos­mopoli­tan man,” re­veals San­deep Gon­salves, whose reper­toire of clients in­cludes names like Hrithik Roshan, John Abra­ham, Ranveer Singh and Ran­bir Kapoor to name just a few.

At House of Su­nil Mehra, op­tions range from 100 per­cent silk, cash­mere silk, wool-silk, al­paca-linen-silk, cash­mere­silk with stretch. “Most pre­ferred fabrics in­clude wool silk, 100 per­cent silk/cot­ton jersey wool-linen-silk blend etc., along with pre­mium fabrics such as Vianna which is the epit­ome of lux­ury for menswear,” adds Mehra.

PN Rao holds about 1,000 va­ri­eties of fabric in-house, 500 of which are brand new for this sea­son. “Apart from the new lot, we also have over 500 op­tions all of which are made avail­able on the PN Rao cat­a­logue to show­case it to our cus­tomers this au­tumn-win­ter. To throw more light on our fabric op­tions, we have broadly cat­e­gorised in five dif­fer­ent sec­tions viz., poly wool is called Moxi; a com­bi­na­tion of wool and lit­tle of polyester is Premio; all wool fabric is Gra­cia; pre­mium wool fabric is Su­pe­rio and fancy Jacquards and vel­vet is Elita. We will also be show­cas­ing brands such as Va­nia, Dormy, Caval, and Euro­peana, shortly,” states Pishe.

Sub­tle Dif­fer­en­tia­tors

Apart from the fabric, a well-tai­lored suit en­com­passes an ar­ray of other as­pects that de­mand de­tailed at­ten­tion

“We of­fer the half can­vas jacket as a stan­dard at all our show­rooms and the cus­tomer can opt for the full can­vas jacket as well. There are very few tai­lors in the coun­try who can make the full can­vas jacket. World over, the half can­vas and full can­vas jack­ets are rec­og­nized as high qual­ity ver­sions”

– Ke­tan Pishe, Part­ner, PN Rao

to bring out the best in a man. All SS Homme or­ders are fin­ished with a 1/4th inch bur­gundy pip­ping. We use horse hair on the chest piece as well as lapels. For clo­sures, we use the finest zips sourced di­rectly from Ja­pan,” says Gon­salves.

Cor­neliani fea­tures a 150 step start-tofin­ish process, in­clud­ing 27 hand­made phases. All pro­cesses are ex­er­cise un­der the able guid­ance of an ex­pert in­house tai­lor and clients have the lux­ury of dic­tat­ing ev­ery fun­da­men­tal de­tail of the gar­ment. “Clients can per­son­ally se­lect each el­e­ment, from the fabric, cuts, style, and shape, but­tons, to the lapel and lin­ing. A per­sonal tai­lor will de­liver a one-of-a-kind piece of artistry, ex­e­cuted with the ut­most pre­ci­sion, to de­fine your per­sonal style,” says De­wan.

An­other im­por­tant as­pect of a suit are ac­ces­sories in­clud­ing lapel pins, cuff­links, tie bars, pocket squares, bags, shoes, bow ties, etc. The right mix of ac­ces­sories can add tex­ture, colour and po­ten­tially in­fuse per­son­al­ity into a suit. “We of­fer our clients a wide range in but­tons, blazer brooches, in­ner lin­ings, col­lars, vents and pocket types to se­lect from,” says Se­wani.

SS Homme - Sarah & San­deep utilises ac­ces­sories like but­tons, zip­pers, lin­ings, etc., to highlight ev­ery suit tai­lored. “De­pend­ing on the type of gar­ment, there are a va­ri­ety of dec­o­ra­tive and clas­sic but­tons that we of­fer. A pop­u­lar op­tion that most clients go ahead with is Ital­ian Corozo but­tons due to its struc­ture and it be­ing ideal for varied con­di­tions,” says Gon­salves.

House of Su­nil Mehra of­fers hand­made but­tons, sterling sil­ver, hand-painted, jew­elled but­tons, meenakari work, and be­spoke but­tons with brand­ing.

Pric­ing Pol­icy

Be­spoke is free­dom of choice! And as the say­ing goes, “Free­dom has a price. Most peo­ple aren’t will­ing to pay it.” A be­spoke suit gen­er­ally tends to be on the higher side of the price spec­trum. But con­sid­er­ing the time and dex­ter­ous at­ten­tion in­vested in the cre­ation of a be­spoke suit, its cost is well jus­ti­fied. Also, a mul­ti­tude of op­tions come into play in fur­ther en­hanc­ing the cost of a cus­tom tai­lored suit; the para­mount be­ing the fabric used fol­lowed by the labour in­volved. “Mostly our fabrics are de­vel­oped in Italy and ideated by us in terms of mak­ing the com­po­si­tion. So, the fabric cost­ing is lit­tle above the notch as com­pared with the other brands in the mar­ket,” ex­plains Mehra.

De­sign is an­other im­por­tant in­flu­encer that de­ter­mines the price of a fi­nal prod­uct. “There are sev­eral gar­ments that are hand-em­broi­dered that sig­nif­i­cantly drive up the price be­cause of the added cost. Se­lect­ing a pre­mium fabric usu­ally is very ex­pen­sive but with the be­spoke process com­bined, it usu­ally ends up be­ing a bal­anced pur­chase,” says Gon­salves.

It also has to be noted that in the be­spoke fash­ion word, brands deal mostly with a very cul­ti­vated clien­tele whose con­cerns con­verge more on prod­uct qual­ity than pric­ing!

Lat­est Trends

Talk­ing about the lat­est styles in vogue in the be­spoke suits seg­ment, Gon­salves says, “The cur­rent trends are struc­tured suits, sharp ra­zor cuts, pre­cise at­ten­tion to sub struc­tured sil­hou­ettes and neu­tral shades.”

In­dus­try sen­tinels have also wit­nessed a steady tran­si­tion to­wards pow­der blues, camel, taupe and teal to stand out from the crowd. “Colours are show­ing their pres­ence in ac­cents like pocket squares, pat­terned satin neck ties, socks, etc. Mak­ing head­lines in global fash­ion cir­cles are print, checks and jacquard. Ev­ery­one wants a high level of cus­tomiza­tion op­tions with their names or ini­tials on the prod­uct. The fit is still slim and would con­tinue to be that for some more time,” ex­presses De­wan.

Suits are get­ting trendier ev­ery sea­son as cus­tomers are open to ex­per­i­ment and in­no­vate. “Amer­i­can style peak

col­lar and tuxedo col­lar will be trendy this sea­son with dou­ble vents and slanted patch pock­ets. Mod­ern fit and tai­lored fit will be con­sumed most this sea­son as skinny fit blaz­ers go to trash. To stand out from the crowd, add blazer brooches as an es­sen­tial part with silk pocket squares to get the next bond look,” says Se­wani.

Mass Scale Man­u­fac­tur­ing VS Be­spoke

The mass scale man­u­fac­tur­ing ready to wear brands are well equipped when it comes to tech­nol­ogy/ma­chin­ery which re­sults in im­mac­u­lately man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts. The big­ger ques­tion that has baf­fled men, in­clud­ing me, is that – has the be­spoke in­dus­try, es­pe­cially in In­dia, evolved enough to match these pro­duc­tion qual­ity stan­dards?

There is a clear dif­fer­ence be­tween the two types of pro­duc­tion based upon the pur­pose of the pro­duc­tion, the costs in­volved, the busi­ness model, and lead times. The dif­fer­ence ul­ti­mately boils down to one sin­gle point – man­u­fac­tur­ers vs mak­ers. The cus­tom mak­ing process would have more hu­man fab­ri­ca­tion as op­pose to mass pro­duc­tion which would rely solely on au­to­ma­tion of ma­chines.

This en­ables be­spoke brands to al­low a plethora of op­tion in terms of cus­tomi­sa­tion and also al­low them to cre­ate one-off nov­elty item prod­ucts for an en­thu­si­as­tic in­di­vid­ual. “Tech­nol­ogy may have evolved, but the craft­man­ship of be­spoke tai­lor is far su­pe­rior than any man­u­fac­tur­ing unit. A be­spoke spe­cial­ist takes the client’s body type into con­sid­er­a­tion while pro­duc­ing the gar­ments which gives him the up­per hand over any tech­nol­ogy. The devil is in the de­tails,” says Gon­salves.

“In re­cent times, be­spoke suits have en­joyed lot of pop­u­lar­ity with the young crowd aged 15-24 as at this age they want to try some­thing un­usual. High net worth in­di­vid­u­als who live in a so­cially ac­tive so­ci­ety also en­able the In­dian be­spoke in­dus­try”

– Ra­chit Se­wani, Founder & Owner, La­bel It Cus­tom.

Cor­neliani store

La­bel It Cus­tom store

House of Su­nil Mehra store

Cor­neliani store

SS Homme store

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