Bespoke fashion, once a prerogative of style connoisseurs with deep pockets, is fast becoming a growing trend among professional men around the world, as prices fall, and awareness grows. The once underground market, propelled by the gaining penchant for exclusive details and individualised fashion preferences, has today been impelled to the street level making it accessible to everyone developing their personal brand.
But in India, things are a bit different. The country has long harboured a rich bespoke tradition. When it comes to suits especially, bespoke was the norm and the only option back in the day as the garmenting industry was restricted to small scale manufacturing until the late 1990s. Also, due to lack of size standardisation in apparel, there were few ready-to-wear options for consumers, who preferred to buy ready-to-stitch (RTS) fabric and then tailor the garment according to their size.
With the entry and expansion of international and domestic apparel brands in the early nineties, the RTW segment increased in popularity, especially in urban centres, and ever since, the segment has grown rapidly and outpaced the RTS segment of the apparel market.
But a shift away from ready-to-wear, back to bespoke, has been registered in the last few years mostly among the young, style conscious, financially stable men of today. “Over the last decade, there has been a growing demand for made-to-measure outfits. These can be customized as per the customer’s choices including fabric, colour and design,” say Kabir Mehra & Samarth Hegde, Founders, Herringbone & Sui.
The Besopke Crowd
A typical bespoke enthusiast is an evolved gentleman with an elevated taste and believes in excellence in everything he does. All through the catchment – a mixed demographic – a common trait that separates a bespoke consumer is aspiration. “Our target customers are mixed in terms of income group but who are aspirational in nature,” says Naveen Pishe, Partner, P N Rao.
Agreed that a major square of the clientele of a bespoke brand comprise the well-heeled of the society, but a fair section is also made up of modern young gents with an inclination towards fashion.
Tejinder Singh, COO, Arvind Internet – the company which launched Creyate, an Omnichannel menswear custom clothing brand in 2014 – says “Our concept of offering premium men’s wear does shift the focus on the higher income strata of the society. However, also maintaining its agenda of introducing the mass customization lifestyle in India, the brand always ensures to optimize the price point, to make the products affordable for the largest audience base. Besides that, Creyate looks forward to the group of modern gents who have a certain individualistic taste in fashion, eye for detail and prefer to make a personal statement.”
Equipped with tech-driven stores across India and Japan, a 3D customization engine, a luxury concierge service and an automated backend, Creyate aims to provide an unprecedented experience in men’s wear customization.
Of late, a new trend of opting for bespoke suits – especially for occasions – has also been registered by brands around the country. “Bespoke items are especially popular in India in the wedding season and for those who are looking for formals for work wear. It is also a great opportunity for people with unique body shapes and sizes to enjoy a no-body shaming atmosphere and buy whatever their hearts desire,” says Shraddha Sharma, Co-Founder, Suit Up India.
Suit Up India is India’s first and only 3D marketplace for tailors, designers and couturiers. It is an endeavour to bring bespoke sellers online and help them sell without having to make or photograph samples especially only for selling online. The brand utilises a unique 3D technology for customers to be able to design their articles online before placing their final orders which then reach the seller.
The simplest reason is FIT! Bespoke suits are completely customized with utmost attention given to even the tiniest of detail. It gives the consumer the best fit for his body type without compromising on the comfort factor, unlike ready-to-wear suits. Also, a bespoke suit is more personal than a readymade suit, any day. Each curve and nuance is taken care of in a bespoke item.
“From extra pockets or no pockets to details and trends, you can make an item more suited to your personal style and body shape in a customised suit than in a readymade. Most formal suit companies follow European standard sizes and in a country like ours, diversity can never be put on a standard scale. Our languages, food, culture and body shapes differ by every few kilometers. That’s what makes us so diverse and beautiful, Hence, bespoke!” says Shraddha Sharma.
Suits are a man’s closed companion, and they not only explicate on his sophistication, but also make him feel confident. Brands, thus, feel that a bespoke suit is a valued investment, which can last for long time and can be even be passed on to the next generation.
The Anatomy of a Well Cut Suit
Fabric: While there are several elements that craft the perfect suit, there’s no doubt that the fabric is the soul of a suit. It is vital when it comes to suit appearance and believe it or not, it’s the fabric that can make or break a suit. So, it’s imperative that brands offer only the best fabric to their consumers.
“At Herringbone & Sui quality fabric is in our DNA. We source fabrics from some of the best mills in Biella, Italy where their time- honored craftsmanship and latest technology make for fabrics that last you a lifetime. Each piece of clothing expertly crafted by Herringbone & Sui’s couturiers is made up of luxurious fabrics and the finest European techniques,” says Kabir Mehra.
A slew of other brands also have tie ups with fabric majors around the word to ensure that they have the best of fabric to satiate the sartorial buds of their consumers. SS Homme, a brand that draws inspiration from a mix of Savile Row London and European silhouettes to commemorate the art of reconstructing classic men’s wear, is one such brand.
“We have ties ups with prominent fabric houses such as Dormeuil, Huddersfield, Holland & Sherry and Scabal. We have an extensive variety of high quality English and Italian fabrics by Zegna, Loro Piana, Vitale Barberis Canonico, etc.,” says Sandeep Gonsalves, Co – founder, SS Homme.
Cuts, Styles and Accessories: Apart from the fabric, a well-tailored suit encompasses an array of other aspects which demand detailed attention to bring out the best in a man. Take for example all SS Homme orders, which are finished with a 1/4th Inch burgundy pipping. “We use horse hair on the chest piece as well as lapels. For closures, we use the finest zips sourced directly from Japan,” says Sandeep Gonsalves.
At Creyate, every garment is manufactured with the help of an automated backend that takes care of all the data fed in by the customer. The canvas is decided basis the type of fabric chosen by the customer. “For instance, a lightweight, fluid fabric would require a heavy canvas to give the suit the right shape and structure while a stiffer fabric may not need the same,” says Tejinder Singh.
Finally, the suit has to be perfectly accessorized with accessories that will only compliment the suit. A wide range of options like lapel pins, cufflinks, tie bars, pocket squares, bags, shoes, bow ties and self – made bow ties, etc are available to choose from.
Herringbone & Sui on the other hand offers bespoke luxury accessories for men with lapel pins, cummerbunds, bow ties, cufflinks and button sets. “We aim to give the consumer that dapper look with all his outfits and additionally give them a choice of motifs to design customized shoes to complement their outfit,” says Samarth Hegde.
Pricing Policy: A bespoke suit generally tends to be on the higher side of the price spectrum. However, considering the time and attention to detail invested in the creation of a bespoke suit, its cost can be justified. Also, in the bespoke fashion word, brands deal mostly with a discerning clientele that focus on the quality and fashion more than on the pricing.
“The customer’s decision to go for bespoke is basically awareness – awareness about the true value a bespoke outfit gets them. It’s all about comfort when it comes to bespoke, not pricing or fashion,” Ayush Mehra, Director, Study by Janak.
Overall, the price of a suit depends on the fabric, style and accessories opted for. “The pricing policy is based upon the type of fabrics the customer prefers and the kind of design he would prefer on the garment. The bespoke process and the key focus of our brand is minimalism, which drives customers towards our brand,” explains Sandeep Gonsalves.
The Process: The basic modus operandi of a bespoke brand is as follows – the customer visits the store and places an order by choosing from a variety of designs, styles, fabrics and accessories, post which his measurements are taken. As the process is initiated, the customer comes again for a trial and then to take delivery. The process can take anywhere between 10 days to 4 weeks depending on design, product and the details involved.
Take for example Creyate, which offers a very unique, customization journey to design one’s garment. Every customer is guided to a 3D customization engine through which one can choose to customize different components of the product, right from fabrics, designs, to trims.
“Once the selections are done with the help of our MTM (made to measure) specialists, 19 scientific measurements and over 40 body observations are noted to ace the perfect fit for the customer. Thereafter, all the specifications are sent to an automated manufacturing backend which works on the same. With a state-of-the-art finish from the factory, the garments are ready for collection at the store in about 7-10 days,” explains Tejinder Singh.
The Infrastructure: To master the art of the fit and detail that is required in any piece of formal clothing, a bespoke brand has to be armed with a newfangled machinery and technology.
Herringbone & Sui’s employs a revolutionary virtual measurement technology that maps anybody measurements in under five minutes. All a customer has to do is share three pictures and a couple of basic measurements and the proprietary technology will use artificial intelligence to compute 34 different measurements more accurately than a tailor.
Creyate has launched a new feature in its app whereby an existing customer can repeat his purchase without having to go through the measurement process again. “We look forward to incorporating more such futuristic ideas to cater to the digital-friendly customer base,” adds Singh.
Mass Scale Manufacturing VS Bespoke
The mass scale manufacturing ready to wear brands are well equipped when it comes to technology/machinery which results in immaculately manufactured products. The bigger question that has baffled men, including me, is that — has the bespoke industry, especially in India, evolved enough to match these production quality standards?
There is a clear difference between the two types of production based upon the purpose of the production, the costs involved, the business model, and lead times. The difference ultimately boils down to one single point – manufacturers vs makers. The custom making process would have more human fabrication as oppose to mass production which would rely solely on automation of machines. This enables bespoke brands to allow a plethora of option in terms of customisation and also allow them to create one-off novelty item products for an enthusiastic individual.
“Bespoke is a craft. It’s like jewellery making. You need a craftsmen to make it. Machines play a very minimal role in bespoke suits. Ready-to-wear gives you numbers in productions but it can never match the standards of suit making that a suit connoisseur is looking at,” says Ayush Mehra.
A bespoke specialist takes the client’s body type into consideration while producing the garments which gives him the upper hand over any technology. When it comes to fit and style on a personal level, nothing matches the perfection of a bespoke suit.
India’s Bespoke Suit Market
Over a period of time, the demand for customised suits has rapidly increased. The ready-to-wear apparel industry which was flourished during the 2000s has now been challenged by bespoke tailoring. It has been currently noticed that the customised suit segment is growing at a high rate, and its share is expected to increase in the next five years.
“As per a 2015 report by the Indiaretailing Bureau, the size of the Indian luxury industry, which encompasses bespoke tailoring, is approximately US$ 5.3 billion, with a nearly 20–25 per cent contribution from apparel (US$ 950–1300 million). Presently valued at US$ 360 million, the market for bespoke clothing is growing at an impressive 15–20 percent,” says Tejinder Singh.
“While bespoke clothing accounts for 30–35 percent of the total luxury apparel market, it is as yet dominated by menswear. Bespoke options for women are limited in India with few tailors offering this service,” he adds.
The growth of this segment within the Indian subcontinent is largely due to the emergence of the nouveau riche and the High Net-worth Individuals (HNIs). This section of society possesses an increased disposable income along with a keen desire for exclusivity. Apart from celebrating their personal and professional achievements, the owners of bespoke clothing often also see the exclusivity offered by a bespoke suit as an extension of their own personality.
The Potential in Smaller Cities
With a rapidly growing middle class consumer base propelled by rising income, the Indian luxury market is experiencing strong evolutionary even in the smaller cities. Today, to the growing awareness amongst the youth with digital facilities has lifted the demand of bespoke suit services in the smaller cities as well.
“The primary market for made-to-measure suits undoubtedly lies in the Tier I cities. However, as India has always been an evergreen market for wedding wear, especially a lot of Tier II cities are showing immense potential for the growth of occasion wear. Today, we have already reached out to prospective Tier II cities including Amritsar, Pune and Kochi,” says Tejinder Singh.
According to Tejinder Singh, while check suits and coordinated suit separates have made a strong fashion comeback, peak lapels and slanted pockets are being preferred in style. Double breasted blazers with cuffed hems have also been revived. The slim and athletic Italian style is doing a successful round in the market, while the soft shoulders of the American style is also in.
“Our section of business casuals have also gained significant popularity in recent times, prompting the pairing of blazers with denims and chinos. We have taken this opportunity to promote blue collar essentials tweaked to suit the white collar elites for boardroom sessions to after hours,” he adds.
Trends are more liberal these days and suits in classic slim fits to double breasted suits, all are in demand. A prominent choice these days are chalk stripes which is in close competition with the evergreen shades of blues. The current trends are structured suits, sharp razor cuts, precise attention to sub structured silhouettes and darker shades.
“In terms of business wear, 2pc and 3pc are still ruling the roost. However, double breast is making a comeback this season while fits are still slim. In business wear, lot of personalization in style is clearly noticeable, contrast buttonhole colours, wide lapels seem to be making a comeback as well. Shades of blue are the popular choice of colour, Green and purple are still the flavor of the season,” says Naveen Pishe.
The Future is Bespoke
The Indian tailoring industry is thriving and growing despite the growth of ready-to-wear and branded segment of the apparel market. A slew of new brands, including a surprising number regional and online players, have emerged in the last few years in the bespoke suits’ domain, which reinforces the demand and potential of bespoke services in India.
This also implies that, with increased competition, fulfilling consumer needs will be an important success factor for brands that will also have to design their go-to-market plan cautiously, identifying key pain points and ensuring that a superior experience is offered.