Ten years ago Chennai-born Wall Street bankers Suresh and Mahesh Ramakrishnan created history by acquiring a blue-blooded Savile Row firm Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. They are now Indianising it further by signing on Tarun Tahliani to design for them including his trademark sherwanis, bundis and bandhgalas . The designer spoke to MW in an exclusive interview. And in a companion piece from November 2012, we look at Suresh and Mahesh Ramakrishnan journey from Wall Street to Savile Row.
MW:How did this collaboration between you and Whitcomb & Shaftesbury come about?
TT: To be honest, I’m not really sure. They came to see me and presented this idea exactly two years ago at my bridal couture exposition.
MW: Why did it take two years to turn this idea into a reality?
TT: It was too new an idea and the process is a little complicated; meeting with the clients happens in Delhi, fittings are held London while the tailoring and pattern-making is done in Chennai and London, so I wasn’t sure if we were up for it. But when we saw the quality of the product, we felt that it’s worth it. What we are trying to design is clothing that sits on the body like a dream. It’s all about the construction. And that is what will differentiate our work from the rest.
MW:You have used a lot of textured fabrics like velvet, satin and cashmere. Where are they sourced from?
TT: Most of our fabrics are not from India because Indian fabrics don’t tailor well. The fabrics that we use are little thin so that they mold easily with the body. What we do is create an endoskeleton for which the garment is made, which is why we are using fabrics places like Holland & Sherry and Scabal.
What are the important areas that you focus on while designing for men?
TT:When it comes to men, you can instantly make out if they are uncomfortable in what they are wearing, which is why the way a fabric is cut is very important. For example, with a heavily embroidered sherwani, your local master won’t know how to compensate the fabric with the seams around the embroidery inorder to get that perfect fit. Most men have been buying western tailored clothes for longer than women, so they get the importance of a right fit. The idea to get the clothes fitted to your body is quite luxurious. Unlike women, men don’t care if someone else has exact same piece, they are okay with wearing a same suit for many occasions, for them it is all about comfort, great shape and feeling fantastic.
MW:Do you think men are moving away from their safe zone and are getting more experimental with style?
TT:I don’t think Indian men are very experimental. They are highly influenced by Bollywood judging from the way they style sherwanis with crushed dupattas!But in a way, I think we are going back to our roots when I see men wearing dhotis at the weddings. In this collection with W&S I’ve combined their classic tailoring with our drapes. You’ll also see our interesting take on a sherwani with a tailcoat back. So we are now going to try and experiment more with styles other than our classic sherwanis and bandhgalas. What we have here is their expert technique and fine Savile Row tailoring with our identity to create a modern and a minimalist version of traditional Indian wear to go global.
MW:When it comes to men’s tailoring, what is the change that you are hoping to bring?
TT: There is now a need for a very superlative quality when it comes to fit, fabrics and tailoring. When I look at some of the menswear designs what we have here, I am appalled with the quality of the tailoring and pattern-making! For example, the shoulders are drooping, sleeves are loose, armholes aren’t constructed well, collars are gaping… You can’t have these kinds of mistakes in a tailored garment. We aim to provide the customers with a good fit, superior quality of pattern-making and tailoring and the finest of the fabrics available in the world.
Read the journey of Tam-Brahm siblings who quit their lucrative IT jobs to set up shop on Savile
Row, the world’s most famous tailoring street, under the very British name of Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. Read their story here.