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Say check mate in a suit

  • SS Homme, Mumbai-based bespoke menswear atelier, is collaborating with Italian fabric manufacturer Carlo Barbera to create a line of dapper corporate suits
  • With an emphasis on pattern and pattern, the 25-esemble collection encapsulates the dressing habits of young, well-travelled Indians

SS Homme’s collection in collaboration with Carlo Barbera includes checks of all sizes
SS Homme’s collection in collaboration with Carlo Barbera includes checks of all sizes (Photo Courtesy: SS Homme)

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Suits are full of joy.”

So said Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother, and if this famous albeit fictional suit aficionado’s take isn’t enough, there’s Tom Ford to make a case. “There is nothing sexier or more attractive than confidence and a good suit should give you that,” the American designer and film-maker told menswear e-tailer Mr Porter in November 2017. We are inclined to agree. If you don’t have a dapper suit, your wardrobe isn’t quite ready for the world. The keyword here is dapper, a suit that looks good and make you feel great.

Sandeep Gonsalves knows a thing or two about suits, and not just because he wears them regularly. The Mumbai-based entrepreneur runs SS Homme, a bespoke menswear atelier that he co-founded with his wife and business partner Sarah in 2012, whose clientele includes celebrities such as Akash Ambani, Varun Dhawan and Sunil Chhetri, among others. While the brand launches new collections every season, its latest range of corporate suits is one-of-its-kind: a collaboration with Italian luxury menswear fabric manufacturers Carlo Barbera. Founded in 1949, the family-owned garment mill was acquired by Kiton in 2010 and the collaboration with SS Homme is part of its formal entry in the Indian market.

(Photo Courtesy: SS Homme)

For the collection launched in SS Homme this May, the brand has created a capsule of 25 ensembles going from day to night using the fabric firm’s pure worsted wools and wool-silk-linen blends. While the colour palette goes from blue and grey, staple corporate hues, to more fashionable summery shades of green, mauve and sea blue, the patterns show an abundance of checks.

In recent years, men’s suits have undergone a significant transformation, moving from bulky silhouettes to a casual, lighter approach. Tailoring still takes precedence, but shoulders are lighter courtesy the lack of padding, waists are cinched in and lapels are slimmer than before. There’s also an emphasis on new colours and cuts—during the Spring/Summer 2019 menswear shows, Louis Vuitton By Virgil Abloh showcased white suits layered over sheer shirts (completing the look with sneakers), John Galliano paired big jackets with skinny leggings, Acne Studios took a gentle route with an oversized lime-green suit and Dior’s menswear director Kim Jones reinvented the double-breasted suit in roomy, icy blues that looked dapper even over a pair of shorts.

But taking sartorial risks in suiting is no cakewalk. “We did a lot of pattern-on-pattern. From a design perspective, it was quite challenging,” says Gonsalves about developing the collection with Carlo Barbera, which is, first and foremost, a showcase of the firm’s fabrics. “Men don’t do a lot of mix and match. They usually pair checks with solid colours.” Gonsalves found the balance in a subtle play of colours and pattern proportion—a forest green jacket is paired with dark blue trousers, big checks are juxtaposed with smaller ones in the same colour family, and accessories like silk ties (also designed in-house) punctuate monotone suits.

The focus of the collection is showcasing the heritage of the fabrics, says Gonsalves, a long-standing fan of English and Italian fabric manufacturers. Previous collections of SS Homme have been tailored with fabrics sourced from brands like Barbera as well as Dormeuil, Scabal and Huddersfield. “I have often travelled to Italy and gone to Biella (where the Carlo Barbera mill is situated) and seen how the fabrics are manufactured,” he says. “The weaving technique is such that fabrics from the region are unmatched in their quality and finesse.”

The manufacturing process at Carlo Barbera is both extensive and exhaustive. In 2010, The New York Times reported that it includes a six-month resting period for the yarn after dyeing to regain humidity, and a secret 15-step period to ensure the quality of fabrics.

The collection developed by Gonsalves and his team also targets the well-travelled, millennial Indian who is less reticent about making daring sartorial choices. “Our suits are not just made to be worn in Mumbai,” he says, referring to my question about a pastel blue overcoat—a lovely but somewhat early addition for a summer collection. “A lot of our clients are travellers, and going to places that are quite cold now. We have suits going from early morning to midday and night. We wanted to encapsulate how the younger generation dresses.”

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