Written by Sarthak Kaul
When anyone happens to mention suits, most of us go in a tizzy and start picturing dashing, high powered business men, Wall Street stock traders, lawyers, bankers and other high level corporate executives. Oh and yes, James Bond with his Vodka Martinis and Aston Martins. These influential and powerful people never cease from fascinating us as they go about swaggering in those well-built, deftly cut contour like it’s just another day in the park for them.
Dabbling with suits
Suits have always been the symbol for class and privilege and most men want to embody what they represent- grace and aplomb. Most people in India wear suits occasionally, usually for formal occasions such as weddings. It’s merely a costume to sometimes blend into social gatherings and formal environments. Some like to splurge on style and extravagance and are more brand driven. But does an average Indian really understand the serious business of cloth, fabric and craft?
Perhaps, it’s because earlier generations either had their suits stitched by tailors by the streets or picked them up on an odd trip abroad.
In the west, youngsters feel no shame in adorning suits which have passed on by their fathers and grandfathers before them.
Saville Row and the tradition
It is for the same reason that places like Britain’s Saville Row have had such a strong cultural and traditional impact on generations of men donning classic suits. Saville Row is a street in Mayfair, central London which is primarily known for harboring some of the world’s best tailors, carrying the bastion of exquisite suit making, the pinnacle of true, inimitable British fashion.
When a customer picks a cloth for his suit, it is said to “be bespoken for” by him and will be tailored perfectly to his specifications and needs. He will be measured, go through several fittings and after months he will get to wear the suit and experience the luxury. What separates a suit cut in Saville Row and a tailored suit in a place like India is the level of detail, a choice from around 2,000 fabrics which takes about 50 hours of work. The resultant suits exhibit the signature British style. The jackets will have double vents, some will be soft while some will be structured, it will come with working cuffs and a full floating canvas.
The British wear their suits close to the body, but not extra slim like the Italians and not cushy, sack-like like the Americans. But like most precious items available to man, it won’t come cheap and only a short percentage of men in the world can afford it. A fully hand-made two piece suit from Saville Row will cost at least a couple of thousand pounds.
Suits in the times of Mass Culture
But with changing times Saville Row has had to make altercations, with old houses such as Huntsman and Grieves and Hawkes now selling ready-to-wear suits, while trying to retain the core bespoke tailoring techniques which they are famous for.
High street chains like Next and Marks and Spencer are selling a pair of jacket and trousers as low as 100 pound with increasing clientele from overseas having budget and time constraints. On the European front there is Canali, the eponymous suit brand from Milan dealing in old-style Italian outfitters who are still focusing majorly in traditional western wear. The company has over 200 boutiques in about 100 countries worldwide. In a world where men are forgetting about construction and craftsmanship, every Canali suit is still made in Italy in one of its seven manufacturing operations.
The art of the craft
The level of human intervention and the pride with which its tailors take their job is spellbinding. What Canali focuses more is on its construction- there are two distinct methods of making jackets. The first is called fusing. Another option is made to measure which is different from a bespoken suit. With a bespoken suit, a pattern is cut expressly for the user. Made to measure takes into account your shoulder posture, your arm length, width of your stomach, your frame and other physiological specifications. Most international brands are catering to this service.
With Canali you can be measured in Delhi, London or Hong Kong but the suit will be still made in Italy and delivered to you in India. It costs a bit more than ready made but will still be more economically viable than a lot of ready-made fused suits you will find in DLF Emporio.
“A sleek, well-cut suit can turn every man into the ideal man: serious, powerful, physically charismatic,” Esquire wrote in The Handbook of Style. “The modern suit has been about two things: power and sex.”