Measure of a Man

Bespoke tailoring for men goes mainstream

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Too much wine (and cheese) and too little sun, I wonder how I got along. But get along I manage, and with occasional comments like “Oh God, how do you remain so thin?” and “You’ve lost weight” perking up my ego, and my lazy self. How do I manage? Some, thanks, of course, go to my genetic height. But mostly, it’s one magical idea. Bespoke tailoring.

Since ready-to-wear burst upon our mainstream lifestyles in the late-eighties (or ‘readymade’ as middle class India calls it), it seemed like the death knell had been rung for the neighbourhood tailor. And so it seemed for quite a few years, the only exception being a burgeoning of the local designer fashion industry that, despite the hype and hoopla of the initial exhilarating days of the nineties, did not really live up to its potential, instead virtually limiting itself to the wedding trousseau market.

Perhaps not so fast. The sprouting of various made-to-measure, as well as, bespoke tailors in the last couple of years have infused new energy into tailoring. It is not inexpensive, yet, their takers have been increasing. “You try it once and you realise the difference,” says Anupama Sachdeva, the Singapore-trained image consultant and creative head of Pezalli, a Delhi-based firm. “It can get so addictive!”

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Don’t I know! My first brush with tailoring in ages was when Camessi, one of the pioneers of this new-found bespoke tailoring trend send one of their roving master tailors from its Mumbai headquarters to measure me for a shirt they wanted me to experience. Trying on the shirt about a month later (it takes that much time, including a fitting session in between to check for any wrong measurements whatsoever), was a sensation that no expensive ready-to-wear brand could possibly give you - a shirt made of the colour, fabric, button and stitching style of your absolute choice, fitting you exactly the way you want it to! My new addiction, on last count, there are three shirts which I paid through my nose to get (but so, so worth it, I must say!) and a made-to-measure trouser on the way.

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Unlike the neighbourhood tailors, a session at the bespoke atelier (or, more often than not as it happens, in the privacy of your living room) is not an impersonal ritual of a measuring tape put to your body. Different brands pride themselves on various procedures and selections which they tout as their USP - Bombay Shirt Company, for example, is ultra choosy when it comes to its raw materials. “Selecting a fabric is where the process of crafting the perfect custom-made shirt starts,” says Akshay Narvekar, founder of the Bombay Shirt Company, “We work with only a handful of suppliers across the world, to bring our customers the best quality Egyptian cotton and pure linens.”

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At Pezalli, the initial evaluation almost reaches the level of visiting a shrink, with questions on your ‘style personality’, colours that suit your skin tone, personality characteristics and body shape. “Every individual is different, not just in personality, but also in their body characteristics,” points out Anupama. One of the biggest attractions, and lure, of bespoke shirt tailoring in India is that the individual measuring and exact tailoring can take care, to a large extent, of the infamous Indian paunch. Add to that, many unique features which differ from person to person. “Not just the belly button popping out, there are so many other physical flaws we need to look out for,” explains Anupama, “from the shoulder drop, short neck, hunching and round back to forward chest (a decent term for ‘man boobs’).” Every point has to be taken into consideration. For example, it isn’t enough to note that a person has a ‘prominent seat’ (another decent term for big butt) and tailor accordingly. “If this same person has a paunch, then his posture changes completely and we need to tailor (the trousers) accordingly.”

Fans of bespoke aren’t just your usual suspects of film stars, big business tycoons and ex-royals. They are people like you and me - from lawyers to corporates and even young creative professionals (See box for the experience of digital advertising whiz kid and regular THE MAN contributor Ryan). As Sachdeva puts it, “Today, everybody understands power dressing. A person who’s dressed sharp has a bigger audience.”

Read Next : A Bespoke Experience

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