The next time you spot a man wearing his suit like a second skin, don’t automatically assume that he’s imported the masterpiece from Italy. Chances are he’s had the suit custom-tailored at one of the many bespoke tailoring outlets spread across India.
We unearthed three of the Capital’s best-kept secrets—all are family-run establishments that have been creating bespoke suits for generations.
Vaish at Rivoli
Sachin Vaish is not your typical tailor. For one, he carries no measuring tape and, second, he sits behind a computer, not a sewing machine.
But make no mistake, bespoke tailoring is in his blood and this third-generation “gentleman draper and tailor” is very passionate about his work. “My grandfather and father both trained at Savile Row in London,” says Vaish, pointing to two prominently displayed certificates at their establishment, Vaish at Rivoli, in the Capital’s central business district, Connaught Place.
Around since the 1940s, Vaish at Rivoli was set up by Vaish’s grandfather. “My grandfather dressed the Britishers; in the 1960s and 1970s, my dad used to make customized suits for some of nawabs and industrialists; in my time, it is really the high-ranking professional who is the czar of style,” says Vaish.
In the late 1980s-90s, most high-end tailoring establishments did go through a gloomy period as clients discovered Hugo Boss and Armani, but slowly the well-travelled were drawn back to the joys of a customized suit. “In fact, now we get many customers from Europe and America who come especially to us to get suits made because they know the value of bespoke tailoring,” he says.
Unlike his father and grandfather, Vaish doesn’t hold a degree in suit making from Savile Row (“because there are no instruction schools any more”), but he does have a degree in design and garment manufacturing from Pearl Academy of Fashion and has apprenticed at Savile Row and with Brioni in Italy.
“Between my father and me, we always make sure one of us directs the cutting and the fitting of every suit ordered at our store,” he says. Judging by the number of times Vaish gets up to attend to a customer coming out of the fitting rooms and the deep and frequent discussions he has with the “masterji”, it can’t be denied that every suit is treated like a masterpiece-in-making at Vaish. “The beauty of going to a bespoke tailoring outlet is that you get a garment constructed with only you in mind,” he adds.
Cost: Most of the suits tailored at Vaish start at Rs25,000. “While we do not say no to people getting their own fabric, we prefer to work only with good materials,” says Vaish.
Clientele: Vaish counts K.K. Birla (industrialist), Rajendra S. Pawar (chairman, NIIT), Shivinder Singh (Ranbaxy) and Sanjay Jain (lead executive, Accenture) among his clients.
Call 011 41502525
Walking up the staircase of Abdul Majid Butt’s residence-cum-workshop, you can’t help but wonder how his clients ever find his tiny abode in the lanes of Jangpura ‘A’, Delhi. “No, no they never come here. I go wherever my client is,” he explains as he flips open a grey suitcase and digs out at least a dozen recommendation letters that his ancestral establishment “Savileroy”, originally called “A Salama”, has gathered over the last 70 years.
Starting from a faded and tattered recommendation from a British lady in 1933 to Cherie Blair’s handwritten note and autographed photograph, each client’s note appreciates the suits, coats and even uniforms (for the British chiefs of army, navy and air force, no less) that Butt and his family have made.
A Kashmiri immigrant, he moved to Delhi from Srinagar in the late 1990s because “militancy in Kashmir meant there were no tourists and that translated into no livelihood for us”. Butt and his younger brother, Bilal, have managed to resurrect their bespoke tailoring business solely on the basis of word-of-mouth references.
So what makes “Mr Savileroy” sought after? Butt attributes it to the fact that he can make any kind of suit or coat, just by looking at a picture in a catalogue. “I can make coats and jackets for both men and women, which is an advantage if you are travelling with your wife, and I am very reasonably priced. Also, I deliver on time, which is important if my customer is in Delhi for a short period.” His style of functioning is simple. He carries swatches of fabrics to the client’s site, takes all the measurements himself, cuts the cloth patterns and then gets the garment stitched at his factory in Old Delhi.
Cost: His prices start at Rs10,000.
Clientele: Savileroy boasts of a wide range of customers, such as Sir Rob Young (British high commissioner, Delhi, in 2003), Arne Walther (Norwegian ambassador to India in 1995), Karan Thapar and Shyam Benegal.
Grover Cloth House
A framed picture of Chelsea Clinton adorns the outer facade of Grover Cloth House in Khan Market. It is rumoured that when US President George Bush visited Delhi in March 2006, O.P. Grover and his tailors made close to 150 suits for the accompanying entourage. “Sorry, I can’t confirm how many suits we made. That’s a secret. But when Bill Clinton came, we definitely made many more,” says Grover, a second-generation draper and tailor, who also holds a degree in law. A favourite among the expatriate community in Delhi, this suit-maker guarantees that his tailors can replicate garment designs to perfection. “We can produce a photocopy of any design, be it a kilt, a jacket, a suit or a skirt, and if you bring us a branded outfit like a Hugo Boss or an Armani, we can give you the same likeness in design and custom-tailoring according to your physique,” he adds proudly.
Listing delivery on time, speciality in western silhouettes, availability of quality fabrics and an excellent after-sales service (“We charge no extra fee for alterations”) as his establishment’s USP, Grover adds tongue-in-cheek, “Now you know why we are in the good books of the White House.”
Cost: Suits start at Rs15,000.
Clientele: Apart from Chelsea Clinton and members of the American embassy, most of Delhi’s ever-expanding expatriate community finds its way to Grover Cloth House.
Call 011 24625622