Customisation is a version of luxury that can never truly go out of style. Bespoke is more precious, no matter how tiny the customisation. While this approach to personalisation can be applied to most garments, certain forms of clothing are still ruled by prêt in retail: hoodies, sporty jackets, pullovers and almost everything made using denim. This is because the machines needed to create customised pieces in such apparel are neither cheap nor widely available – which is why, when I came to know of Korra as a brand, I instantly gravitated to their products. Customised selvedge denim using authentic Japanese fabrics, and not the kind that are churned out by some smug master in Delhi’s Mohan Singh Place – was this really possible? Even in the west (or east), few brands dare to offer customised denim-wear.
Less than a week after having heard of them, I was sat across from Shyam Sukhramani, the man behind the idea, in my living room. He offers not only bespoke jeans, he throws in the offer (for a modest fee) to come over and measure you up in the comfort of your own home. But before we got to that bit, we sat and discussed denim in all its forms and glory. His story weaved through the history of the fabric, as also his own tryst with the material and his stints with the bigger (actually, biggest) brands in the space, and how, after having taken those western brands to unprecedented glory in a nascent Indian market, he decided to break away and pursue this idea.
Everything at Korra is made in-house (everything minus the actual making of the denim fabric, which is sourced from mills, at least for the time being). But they make sure that the fabric they source meets certain standards – organic and sustainable, for one. Shyam and his team have worked hard at establishing the brand identity, and are very precise in how they handle each order. Shyam himself measured me out, noting down each measurement in his very special notebook, which was fashioned out of waste denim fibre. Very hipster, I had thought, but at the same time, very sensible.
Then we began choosing the right style, shade and texture of the fabric. Shyam has different cuts, and he often carries a few styles along for people to try on, and to alter other aspects of the denim too, like the rise, the width at the bottom or the stitch colour. So it’s a bespoke service, but with M2M features to boot. The idea is to transform jeans into a garment that people want to wear for its comfort, rather than flaunt for it pop-value; it’s about the fit and not embellishments which, frankly, isn’t what bespoke is about. Next came the colour. Unlike traditional Japanese selvedge fabrics which (99 per cent of them) come in a dark shade of indigo, Shyam had a more diverse range at hand. The shades in stock keep changing and run out as frequently. Many fabrics also incorporated some amount of stretchability into their weave, thus making them a lot easier to wear than regular non-sanforised selvedge which, as one is often instructed, should be worn without washing for at least a year. Once broken in, they are soft, but the first year or so, walking around in that cardboard-like sandpaper-textured denim, is discomfort unparalleled – take it from someone who has spent a good part of the last three years nurturing a few Japanese jeans to wearability.
My order took about a week (they usually ask for a maximum of two weeks to process, depending on the degree of customisation). The jeans turned up, snugly rolled into a simple cloth bag, and they fit me perfectly. There were no further alterations needed, and I signed off on them. The fabric looked great, the comfort was unmatched and the subtle all-brass rivets and buttons were the perfect bells and whistles on an otherwise sombre pair. One thing I loved about the way things are done at Korra is that each artisan who works on the jeans from start to end (single tailor-sewn) gets to sign off their name on the inside. This is perhaps the best way to stick it to impersonal assembly-line produced goods.
So, do I recommend Korra? Absolutely. Sure, they might be a bit behind on their orders, considering how the word is getting around quicker than they can scale, but it is worth the wait. A good pair of jeans is as important to me as a well-fitted suit. And here comes the best bit – their average pair is cheaper than most off-the-peg big denim brands out there, which makes it an absolute no-brainer to go ahead and book your appointment. Oh, and one last request: don’t wash jeans often, and also stop ironing them entirely; it just doesn’t help the fabric or the look. If you wish your denim to wear you, let them spend more time on you, and let the marks of time add character to them.