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Bespoke tailoring: Here's how you can get the authentic experience in India

Bespoke tailoring: Here's how you can get the authentic experience in India

Bespoke tailoring is the epitome of sartorial elegance. But how do you get an authentic experience in India? Here's what you need to know

Bespoke tailoring is the epitome of sartorial elegance. But how do you get an authentic experience in India? Here's what you need to know Bespoke tailoring is the epitome of sartorial elegance. But how do you get an authentic experience in India? Here's what you need to know

It is one of life’s little ironies; the men who would look good in designer suits usually can’t afford them. In the 1980s, modern Italian design stormed America, led by Richard Gere’s debonair appearance in Giorgio Armani’s suits in the film American Gigolo. The allure of Armani attracted hordes of well-heeled men to his stores, but unfortunately, they soon realised that they could never look quite as good in those suits as Gere did.

Whenever we see photographs or videos of designer suits, they are usually worn by toned movie stars or by professional models. They are young men of a certain height with lean bodies. Unfortunately, by the time most men can afford designer garments, they are no longer young, and their bodies are not as lean as they used to be. But even if affordability isn’t an issue, in India we have another problem: our body type is completely different. Tailors will tell you that the average Indian man has thinner legs and a bulkier waist than the average Westerner.

So, how do successful Indian men find ways of wearing the world’s great menswear designers while ensuring a flattering fit? It’s not easy, but it is possible. Here’s a guide for Indians to navigate the world of high-end menswear:


Though customers who shop at designer stores in Indian cities do not always realise this, all stores run by top foreign fashion brands in India keep very good tailors on their premises. In the West, an in-store tailor will only be available (at a large cost) to shorten jacket sleeves or take in hems. But in India, the tailors at stores such as Giorgio Armani, Canali or Zegna are equipped to make substantial alterations.

Often, canny customers will buy suits that are one size too large and then have them altered to their own specifications. Men who mostly fit into a size 54 will buy a size 56 suit and rely on the in-store tailor to alter it. This is the cheapest way to get a designer suit to look good. But most men don’t know that it is an option.


This is one of the fastest-growing segments in the high-end menswear market. At brands like Canali, an Italian tailor will regularly fly down to India, and spend several days in each major city. Customers at the store will be measured and then asked to choose fabrics and styles (single-breasted, double-breasted, two-buttoned or three-buttoned, etc.) that they like.

Once this is out of the way, the tailor will return to Italy. Within two months, the suit will be ready and delivered to the Indian store. The shop’s tailor will do a final fitting and minor alterations to ensure that the suit fits well.

Made-to-measure is more expensive than ready-made (at least 25 per cent more), but it does give you an Armani or Canali suit that is right for you. There will be no obvious flaws: your waist will be considered, your shoulders will be perfectly draped, there will be no wedges on the seat of your trousers, etc.

A made-to-measure suit may look like it was made for you, but experts will know that it wasn’t, really. It was a ready-to-wear suit that was altered to fit your body. But there are suits that are actually made only for you.


Bespoke tailoring is the epitome of sartorial elegance. It is most closely associated with Savile Row, the iconic London street where the best tailoring establishments (Anderson & Sheppard, Gieves & Hawkes, King Charles’s tailor, etc.) all exist in the golden mile surrounding it.

A bespoke suit is made only for you. A tailor takes your measurements and then cuts out a pattern on a sheet of paper. This is the most crucial stage because the tailor who does the cutting (the cutter, in tailor-speak) has to visualise how the suit will look on you. Other tailors can then make the sleeves, the trouser legs, etc. according to the cutter’s pattern.

A good tailor will know how to create a suit that makes you look thinner if you are a little tubby; one that makes you look taller if you feel you are too short; one that evens out your shoulders if one stoops a little etc. And the tailors will then do all the stitching by hand: there are no machine-made suits in bespoke tailoring. It is a long and tedious process; it takes at least 50 man-hours to make a single bespoke suit and you need three to four fittings. Prices usually start at around £5,000 (around Rs 5 lakh) and then keep going up.

There are bespoke tailors in other countries who use Savile Row techniques (for example, Vaish at Rivoli in Delhi), but to get the full bespoke experience you need to be a frequent visitor to London. Many Indian businessmen do go often to London, but most lack the patience for the Savile Row process and are content with made-to-measure suits in India. In terms of quality, however, there is no comparison between the artisanry of bespoke and made-to-measure.

If frequent trips to London aren’t an option, there’s still hope: The bespoke Savile Row firm Whitcomb & Shaftesbury is co-owned by Indians and has an operation in Chennai. It is possible to get a tailor from Whitcomb & Shaftesbury to take your measurements in India and the suit will be cut on Savile Row. Sadly, the prices will be at Savile Row levels, but at least you will save on airfares.

So, unless you are built like a model, think carefully before you splash out on a ready-made designer suit. By paying a little more, you can get a suit made for you that will transform your look and enhance your confidence.


Published on: Nov 20, 2023, 2:14 PM IST
Posted by: Priya Raghuvanshi, Nov 20, 2023, 1:17 PM IST