Italian suit maker Canali unveiled its fifth stand-alone boutique in India last month at The Oberoi arcade in Gurgaon. Dressed immaculately in a pinstripe blue suit, Stefano Canali, general manager, was at hand to make sure everything matched up to the brand’s core. Canali is the third generation of the Canali family in business. He is credited with having restructured it from a family-run business to an international set-up. As Canali spent the day at The Oberoi Gurgaon, we caught up with him and discussed Canali’s India plans and men’s fashion. Edited excerpts:
What are the brand’s plans in India and what do you expect from the Indian market?
India has huge potential in terms of people and demand, and more so because Indian culture is close to Italian. We are about heritage, craftsmanship and detail, and India mirrors that. But our expansion in India has slowed down because of lack of infrastructure. There aren’t enough luxury locations for us to open our stores. And we are not keen on multi-brand stores because there is a proper way in which we want to address our customers. We want to give them a sort of full reception that is only possible in a Canali branded store. So while we are going slow and steady, we are looking forward to expand in India.
Stefano Canali, men’s fashion brand’s GM. Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint
You’ve launched the Nawab Collection, which is exclusively available in India. Do you believe it is important to localize global brands according to the country or culture they’re launched in?
While it is interesting to reinvent a local style, which is what the Nawab jacket is—a rendition of the bandhgala—the soul of the jacket remains Italian. In the way it is constructed, the detailing and tailoring is completely in tune with Canali. So when you are a global brand, it makes sense to adopt local traditions and styles, but your signature—it may be your tailoring, a finesse of fabrics, a quality—has to remain. Something has to set you apart from the indigenous.
Men’s fashion seems to be getting increasingly metrosexual. What is Canali’s stand on men’s formal clothing and the current trends?
I believe that trends in terms of colours, fits and fabrics are transient. Though seasons come and go something has to remain constant all through that. So while we must evolve, we also have to preserve the DNA of our creation. Canali is very clear on that aspect. For instance, you might say that a blue suit is boring, but when it’s made with the finest 200S (the figure refers to the finesse of the wool from which the suit is made) wool, with soft stitching and thoughtful detailing, to the connoisseur it will stand out. On one look there may be nothing bold or aggressive about a double-breasted, six-button suit, but to the one who looks closely, he should see an understated elegance. You can mix up styles as much as you want, as long as your fabrics, tailoring and finishing is perfect. At Canali, you’ll not only see classic geometric patterns, traditional, aristocratic cuts, but also cool summer colours in linen or rich burgundy jackets in velvet.
India is a country with a strong tradition of local tailors. Does Canali see that as competition at all?
To start with, we admire tailors everywhere in the world. But for our most discerning customers we have our bespoke service. When you’re going for made-to-measure, you risk more. So a consistency in tailoring is very important and something we promise. Also, a deep knowledge of different fabrics and how they behave is necessary. For instance, look at the Kei jacket, which is part of our Autumn/Winter collection this year. It’s a formal blazer but un-constructed and unlined in the way usual blazers are. Like you may think that hand stitching is always superior than machine, but it’s more to do with why and in which case hand stitching works better than machine. In the Kei, the armhole is hand-stitched because that gives it a soft, natural shoulder and a relaxed feel. I love to wear the Kei while I’m travelling because it can be just folded up and kept in the overhead luggage cabin.
Tell us about your personal taste in clothing and three things that would definitely be part of your wardrobe.
Personally, I believe you should try to be distinguished, trendy and simple. I’m a customer of my company and understated style is what I go with. But be sure to mix things up. While my weekdays are in formals, on weekends, I’d sport a turtleneck or a cashmere sweater with suede loafers. Also, every man needs a Super 200S suit and a seven-fold tie.