Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Relapse of an Indian Tailor Addict

After years of hearing about the glories of his wares, listening to stories of his famous clientele, and reaping the benefits of others' visits, I finally stepped foot in Grover Cloth and Tailoring House in Khan Market on Saturday afternoon.

For those unfamiliar with my previous stint in India from October 2004 to April 2005, I had made a near weekly trip to a tailor, Kumar Brothers, located in South Extension in Delhi. So infamous were these trips that my fellow expat work colleagues at the time joked that Lindsay and I had singlehandedly paid for the installation of air conditioning in their small shop. I'm honestly not sure if they were joking and couldn't argue the validity of their claim. The final tally of garments from Kumar was staggering: 30+ shirts, 10 dress pants, 5 suits, and 2 sport coats.

Saturday's visit to Grover was my first step inside a tailor in nearly six years. I quickly felt like a recovering alcoholic abruptly thrust off the wagon. As a recovering tailor addict, you can't imagine the urge to simply pull bolts of fabric from the shelves and bark orders about wanting a dress shirt with French cuffs in this fabric and a shirt with the collar and cuffs set on a diagonal in another fabric. Thankfully, we had a visiting friend, Paul, along whose sole purpose was to restock his wardrobe so I didn't feel quite the need to purchase (as much).

While Paul certainly gained preferred customer status, I stayed conservative selecting just a few shirts and couple pairs of pants. You know you're an addict when you consider yourself conservative by selecting six shirts and two pairs of pants while constantly scanning the bolts lining the wall for a fabric you may have missed.
Paul displays the unbridled joy of his maiden tailor visit
When filling out the order form and still scanning for more shirts, I wasn't ready for the sticker shock of Grover's prices. My price baseline was formulated from the 2005 experience as well Naresh, the tailor we've found that makes house calls (I never said I had quit the whole tailor thing cold-turkey; just said I hadn't stepped foot inside a tailor). Apparently, when you can boast of having Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as clients (quick aside, they don't actually boast of this, it was a rumor we had heard that I verified in a Delhi commerce promotional book published in preparation for the Commonwealth Games that features Grover), you can extract a pricing premium. That, and their fabric is basically the same stuff that the Italian designers use.

However, the price of a linen shirt I had selected (Rs. 4200!) was borderline insulting considering my man Naresh stitches together a linen shirt for around Rs. 700. Granted, the fabrics were nicer, but six times nicer? I took a pass on that shirt but not before semi-playfully trying to bargain down the prices on the other items. After seeing the price of the pants (apparently, I had selected his nicest fabric), I decided to take a pass (temporarily, at least) there as well. Apparently, Lindsay thought my bargaining was bordering on insulting and she pulled me away from the counter so as to not upset them too much as Paul still hadn't begun the process and had far more at stake.

Even with the pricing surprise, I had forgotten the joy of visiting the tailor. Thankfully, the shop is a good 35 - 40 minute drive from the apartment so it's not an every weekend kind of place (though we did find time to go back before brunch today for a quick fitting). Unfortunately, clothes here take a beating in the laundry so I may need to wait until we near the conclusion of our assignment before getting too much more made; however, the expectations surrounding Grover were exceeded and the myths confirmed. The man cuts a good shirt.


  1. Oh boy - it's probably best that I don't look at the total of Paul's 16 shirts and 8 pants...I believe he said?!?!

  2. I don't think it was nearly that bad, though the numbers 14 and 6 sound a little familiar.