NEW DELHI — Indian designer Tarun Tahiliani has teamed with Savile Row tailor Whitcomb & Shaftesbury to bring a new dimension to high-end men’s wear — traditional sherwanis and bandhgalas updated with modern styling.
“The modern man is more fitness conscious, he wants his clothes to fit as well,” said Tahiliani. “Also, formalwear for men often has embroidery and with embroidery, the outfit loses a lot of the give,” he explained, adding that the collaboration will bring outfits that are essentially plain, and cut so that they feel like “a skin on your body.”
The sherwani is a longer, often knee-length coat, and the bandhgala is a high-collar, button-down coat with a more Western cut — a sort of British compromise for Indian wear.
Whitcomb & Shaftesbury brings to the concept an interesting international connection. The company was founded 10 years ago by Mahesh and Suresh Ramakrishnan, who are two of a set of Indian triplets. Suresh had been an investment banker in New York, and Mahesh a strategic consultant there, living a lifestyle in which they searched for high-end suits for work, hunting through the top department stores, and looking at bespoke options.
“When we went shopping for our suits, we educated ourselves about the options. It started out as a pastime, soon became a hobby and very soon, an obsession,” said Mahesh Ramakrishnan.
The name of their company itself is easily explained, Ramakrishnan told WWD. “Many of the people on Savile Row name their stores after themselves, Henry Poole & Co., for instance. But we could hardly call it Ramakrishnan and Ramakrishnan. So we chose the names of two streets in the vicinity.”
On Savile Row, they stand out as the only Indian-born, British-driven duo employing the finest tailors to keep up the bespoke tradition of the area.
“Savile Row craftsmanship is itself a benchmark of how things should be made; it’s very English; it’s become a kind of a byword in dressing. If you look at what it is, a Savile Row garment is one that conforms to a very exacting set of standards, very much like a Swiss watch,” said Ramakrishnan.
Outside the U.K., the brothers started an outpost in Chennai in South India from which they launched a Classic Bespoke line. Still cut in London and tailored in India by specially trained workmen, the Classic Bespoke is about half the price of the Savile Row Bespoke garment, starting out at about 104,000 rupees, or $1,700, for a suit. The Savile Row bespoke is made entirely in London.
The new line will retail at a slight premium over Tahiliani’s own line, with bandhgalas starting at about 150,000 rupees, or $2,450, and sherwanis from about 200,000 rupees, or $3,275.
Noting the “big changes” in the way men dress today, Ramakrishnan believes things are looking up for the men’s market. “The late 1990s and early 2000s were very disruptive — everyone wanted to dress like a teenager. Now people are more health conscious and want clothes that fit them better. Men are embracing color a lot more. The understanding that you don’t have to be a woman to wear color has really begun to come in,” he said.
For this season, royal air force blue will be the color of choice, he said, noting that he believes Indian men are open to experimentation with the color and style of their suits.
“Men’s wear is still a small percentage of our business,” said Tahiliani. “It’s not something we’ve paid enough attention to. But now, it is time.”
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