Stefano Canali shares the secrets to a great power suit

The Canali store inside the Jio World Plaza in Mumbai
The Canali store inside the Jio World Plaza in Mumbai


In an interview with Lounge, the Canali group head discusses tailoring quality clothing to younger customers

Long before global news headlines declared India one of the world’s luxury hotspots, Canali had recognised its potential. Two decades ago, to be precise. Since then, the 90-year-old Italian brand, famous for its sharp, tailored men’s suits, has opened seven stores in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata—perhaps the largest retail presence for an international luxury house in India.

So strong has been Canali’s belief in the Indian shopper that it launched a special 10th anniversary collection of Nawab (in the 1.2-1.8 lakh price range), a rendition of the royal bandhgala, in 2021. The belief remains strong.

“Over the past five years, our business in India has experienced robust growth," Stefano Canali, the president and chief executive of Canali Group, said after the launch of the seventh and the latest store in Mumbai’s Jio World Plaza in March. “Currently, Mumbai and Delhi markets are key contributors to our sales, accounting for 53% of the overall revenue."

The Mumbai store offers a mix of formal wear, the Nawab collection and accessories, with added focus on casualwear—an attempt to cater to both repeat clientele and new, younger customers.

In an interview with Lounge, Stefano Canali talks about the brand’s plans to expand in India, the changing customer and what makes a great suit. Edited excerpts:

Also read: In luxury, you create a need. You don’t respond to a need: Breitling CEO

 Stefano Canali, the president and chief executive of Canali Group
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Stefano Canali, the president and chief executive of Canali Group

Why is India so important to you?

Opening a physical store is certainly an investment but it is money well spent since it allows a luxury brand to properly and effectively deliver all its messages.

The online approach, of course, is important, but I think it complements the physical store. It cannot act as a substitute to the experience that you get inside an actual retail store.

This is our seventh store here in India, and we plan to add another one next year. We have, perhaps, the biggest luxury brand network here right now, and that shows how serious we are about this country.

Canali was among the first to recognise the importance of India, and one of the reasons for this remains the similarities between the Italian and Indian cultures. Just to give an example, both countries give importance to family values and food.

Heritage and culture have been strong points for both nations for thousands of years. That’s why we knew 20 years ago that the Indian consumer is very discerning, interested in substantial quality and also demanding.

That’s why we had the bandhgala jacket (Nawab) as early as 2009. It was a marriage made in heaven, reinterpreting a traditional ceremonial garment with our Italian artisanship. We also came up with a sleeveless version, and it was an instant success. These efforts allowed us to get in touch with more Indian consumers.

What changes have you noticed in the Indian market over the years, especially after the pandemic?

The needs of a luxury consumer have largely been around quality and consistency. But now, quality itself is not enough. On the one hand, you have to be consistent so you don’t alienate existing customers and remain credible, and, on the other, you need to adapt. We’ve always been renowned for crafting high-quality, sartorial suits, but this is not enough anymore.

After the pandemic was over, we swiftly implemented an evolutionary strategy as far as the product offering was concerned. We started moving towards a lifestyle-led proposal... basically, offering products that share the same messages and have the same quality but are different from the style perspective. For instance, there’s a light brown suit in cotton linen in the Mumbai store (the new Jio World Plaza outlet), which can be worn with a pair of sneakers and a bowling shirt. It’s 100% tailor-made, has nothing to do with the business suit, but still is a power suit.

So, the man’s suit has changed?

As far as tailor-made clothing is concerned, the perfect shape of a jacket or a suit is the shape that best fits a man’s body. It is the way you interpret this shape that is quite different these days. You can use different materials and proportions. What you get with this mix-and-match strategy is a very different kind of suit that could be trendy, yet very classic.

That’s our strategy: to offer the so-called the whispered luxury. Which means that quality is, of course, the most important aspect for us, but the clothes need the content of fashion as well. That content is not supposed to be overwhelming. So nothing bold, nothing stark. It’s something that, at the end of the day, must deliver an evolutionary idea of the brand which is in sync with the ever-changing needs of the consumers.

What makes a great suit?

Many things actually, the construction, the artisan’s skills, the ability to keep on innovating which means increasing the quality, while, at the same time, decreasing costs and time. Most importantly, turning a designer’s thoughts into reality in a way that every single ingredient ends up serving an up-to-date and compelling cocktail.

Also read: Menswear suiting will never go out of fashion: Canali CEO



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