The photographer shares his experience of getting a Savile Row suit
I have this childhood fascination with a certain British secret agent. I have seen all his movies, right from the ones with Sean Connery in them to Daniel Craig, even the George Lazenby one.
Sadly though, the only James Bond connection I ever had was my dad’s avuncular South Indian accountant, Venkat P.P.K. And, in jest, I used to call him “Walther uncle", a supremely private pun that was forever lost on the kind, old gentleman.
So when I walked the short length of London’s venerable Savile Row to Paul Jheeta’s salon, I couldn’t help but cue Agent 007’s timeless tune in my head. I might even have seen a suited gentleman speak into his watch on the other side of the street.
His suit was ill-fitting. Not on this street buddy, I thought.
On my bucket list for the longest time was the wish to get a Savile Row suit. I mean, James Bond got his there, right? Made complete sense, right?
In a parallel universe, I’d figured out much earlier (and all by myself) that a tailored piece of clothing fits way better than one off the rack. Once I got my head around that bit, I was ruthless. In the process, I gave away at least 20 suits and jackets that bore names such as Armani, Calvin Klein and Boss, among others. They just didn’t fit perfectly.
And that was because they weren’t made specifically for me.
Enter bespoke. Enter Paul Jheeta.
I had heard of Jheeta from a mutual friend. It seemed that he had worked his way into that last glorious bastion of Britishness—“Savile Row"—and, in the process, became the first Indian (and perhaps the first foreigner) to have an address out there. That could not have been easy and it was reason enough for me to respect the man.
As it turned out, Jheeta is more British than his Punjabi surname suggests—a slim, natty sort, wearing jackets and pants that made him look fitter than he actually is. (That was the idea, I guess.)
He also uses words such as “matey" and “quite" quite liberally and peppers most sentences with a clipped “righty ho".
So what really is bespoke?
Simply put, it is a super-customized version of an object, specially created to fit the needs of a user. Bespoke suits are handmade by the same set of tailors and most likely cut stitched and finished at the same establishment that measured you.
No human body is perfectly symmetrical. So expect many and detailed measurements for the suit to fit perfectly. I discovered quite a few things about myself in the process of getting a bespoke suit.
The consultation was more fun than intimidating. I let Jheeta choose a navy blue pinhead-textured Italian light wool fabric and then he did the very civilized Gestapo bit.
Over a cup of tea, no less.
Where do you intend to wear it?
Tie? What kind of knot?
How warm/cold will it be where you live?
Do you like showing off your cuff links?
What about shoes? Please wear the same shoes at every fitting.
Do you look at your watch often? Can I see how thick your watch is?
Do you intend to wear a sweater underneath in colder months? How thick is the sweater?
Do you tend to have major weight swings?
What work do you do? Can we funk up the inside lining, unless you’re a banker?
Do you hang to the left or right? Yes, he asked that.
Boxers or briefs?
Will you carry a Walther PPK under your left lapel?
Okay, he didn’t ask that last question, but he did take some 40 separate measurements, some 20 digital photos, while pouring another cup of hot water into my Earl Grey.
Over the next few weeks, Jheeta drafted my paper pattern, cut and chalked on cloth. He cut cloth and prepared baste with individual parts of the garments of the jacket and trousers were sewn together.
During the first fitting, a new pattern was made. Baste was ripped, remarked and recut. Final adjustments—additions, collar, sleeves, buttonholes, etc.—were done in the second and third fittings, and in eight weeks, I got my dream Savile Row suit.
The delivery was made in India. What was interesting though was that apart from the personal service, Savile Row also provides discretion. One couldn’t possibly be tacky enough to drop names of clients. But I did learn that a certain Indian cricketer who recently retired owns about a dozen Jheeta suits. That cricketer also has a penchant for watching tennis and possesses a national award that rhymes with Patna.
But was the entire experience worth it?
Absolutely. The suit makes a low hum. Those who need to know, know. I’ve worn it twice since and three designers and two industrialists have pointedly asked me about the suit.
It’s a single-button work of art for those who care about things such as art, detailing, passionate workmanship and the form following the function.
The vibe, I guess, is really more akin to a dark Aston Martin than a screaming red Ferrari.
Mr Bond, I think, would surely approve.
Atul Kasbekar is a photographer, celeb manager and purveyor of all things cool. He is also an angst-ridden fan of Arsenal.