Sarah Sheikh likes to call herself a “little girl in a man’s world.” And in this case, it’s not just another tired cliché because Sheikh’s bespoke menswear store, SS Homme, has literally infiltrated a space long reserved for men, by men.
It was an internship at GQ magazine that first got this London College of Fashion alumnus interested in men’s clothing. “There would be all these beautiful suits from Prada and Tom Ford coming into the office, that’s when I realized that men have the right to look good but don’t have many options in India,” the 24-year-old says.
Sheikh also insists that foreign designers cut suits with a Caucasian body type in mind, which doesn’t factor in differences in height, shoulder width and even the classic Indian male paunch.
“Men in this country are getting more health and fashion conscious, but there are still major differences. Our idea was to cater to every body type, not just keep up with trends,” she explains.
At the year-old SS Homme store that Sheikh launched with partner Sandeep Gonsalves, getting a suit made takes around 23 days, because all of the fabric is sourced from foreign manufacturers. “It takes about 8 days to get the fabric to India, and about 15 days to make a suit which includes three trials,” says Sheikh, adding that their starting range of suits begins at Rs 25,000.
Still, the idea of bespoke clothing is not foreign to India. Whereas custom-made suits in the West cost as much as a down-payment on a luxury car, men in the sub-continent are accustomed to visiting their family tailor, picking out the right fabric and having made-to-measure suits created for reasonable rates.
Where Sheikh believes she has an advantage is in her feminine taste. “Most customers walk into the store with their wives or girlfriends who will do most of the choosing for them. It’s easy for me to talk to the women and get them to try something new. And even when a customer walks in alone, he’s looking for a woman’s opinion. They may be skeptical at first, but after hearing my ideas and realizing that I’m only trying to make them look younger and trendier, they ease up.”
Sarah Sheikh's five-point guide to polishing up your man's look
1. Buy blazers in classic prints and textures like houndstooth, English checks, herringbone and seersucker which are versatile enough to be worn from day to night.
2. On a recent trip to London, Sheikh realised that old school cufflinks have made a resurgence. She also emphasises the importance of accessorising with lapel pins, tie pins, even bowties.
3. Buy your man a shirt stay -- a strapped device that attaches the bottom of the shirt to the top of his socks -- for formal occasions. "Even though it may feel uncomfortable at first, it's worth it because it keeps your shirt looking sharp and clean."
4. Add a bandhi (Nehru waistcoat) in linen silk or a wool blend to your wardrobe. These can be dressed up with a pair of jodhpurs or turn casual when worn with jeans.
5. Here's where you get to have a little fun with bright colours and cheeky prints. A pair of good-fitted tailored shorts are also perfect for most seasons.
- Rochelle Pinto, www.vogue.in