By Rajeev Mokashi
The only person who acts sensibly is my tailor. He takes my measure anew every time he sees me. Everyone else goes by their old measurements. – George Bernard Shaw
Reigning In Style
Celebrations are back and actually on fire. P N Rao, the iconic and proudly Indian fine suit brand, beloved of the fashion cognoscenti down South, is committed to sharp tailoring and begins their centennial year extravaganza with gaiety and Glitz.
Fine tailoring is an art and an expression. A centennial in the history of the tailoring trade is not to be underestimated. From its humble beginnings, in a small atelier on MG Road, P N Rao’s designs were worn by the great and good ladies of the erstwhile British empire in the cantonment area of Bangalore. They hold testimony to being the official clothiers for the British Garrison pre-Independence. Progressing on to men’s made-to-measure (MTM) fine suits, P N Rao has witnessed sweeping changes in menswear, culture, luxury, and design. What has remained consistent, however, is the brand’s guiding mission, a legacy driven by conviction, craftsmanship and commitment over the century.
A Candid tête-à-tête with Hugo JACOMET & Sonia GLYN
The media confab was held at The Leela Palace Bengaluru – A perfect setting for an event that spoke CLASS… in capital letters. To commemorate this milestone, Ketan and Naveen Pishe – partners at P N Rao hosted Hugo Jacomet and Sonya Glyn – the world renowned YouTube talk show hosts of Sartorial Talks. As the event garnered steam, partners Ketan and Naveen could hardly hide their emotions. A real proud moment for this third generation family to carry on the legacy of their founding forefather.
Moving on to Hugo, he unapologetically introduced Sonya as “his wife” – NOT his business partner — and how their teamwork made the dream work. Clad in a MTM dandy designer blazer and beige trousers and with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi‘, he looked Elegant with a capital E. Being raised by a seamstress mother and shoemaker grandfather, his upbringing in a humble atmosphere instilled passion in him for anything and everything made-to-measure.
Then, in 2009, with a mission to rejuvenate elegance, which lacked tremendously, he let go of his North going career as a fancy TV producer and the uncalled showbusiness madness that came along to decidedly start his blog – Parisian Gentleman. Swiftly, thereafter, he authored a book by the same name, “The Parisian Gentleman,” in 2015, published by Thames & Hudson and reprinted six times so far. The book stands as a testimonial and a worldwide reference on this specific subject – which is not fashion, or how to dress well – but rediscovering the art of tailoring, the art of traditional shoemaking, and rejuvenating elegance.
In terms of Sonya’s background, she picked up fine dressing nuances from her small-town businesswoman mother, who, in her words, ‘was a big fish in a tiny pond.‘ Sonya combines old-fashioned southern charm with a staunchly progressive fashion sense. Her initial stint was in the corporate world.
Circa 2011. Out of curiosity, she approached Hugo over Twitter, asking if she could write from a woman’s perspective on men’s wear. Four days later-led to another and they got hitched. Riding high on success, they jointly embarked on a crazy project, and the outcome was the second book titled “The Italian Gentleman” in 2017. It doesn’t stop here. They further scaled up with ‘Sartorial Talks’ – a show on quality content on classic men’s style on their YouTube channel.
A stupendous welcome in all its glory awaited Hugo and Sonya at P N Rao’s manufacturing unit in Hoskote, which left them spellbound and asking for more. It was absolutely sensational. Sonya called it the best welcome in the universe, and Hugo felt like the ‘King of France’. They even planted a tree with their names. “I hope it will harvest some fruits to enjoy on my next visit”, Hugo averred.
Speaking about their experience touring Italy, prior to starting work on their book, Hugo and Sonya wanted to explore and expose the almost dying art of tailoring and shoemaking in Europe and America. Calling Italy the capital of crafting, they met hundreds of artisans and crafters one-on-one to understand their personalities and transmit the emotion they were creating in the clothes to voice it in their book. The unravelling of Italian style is hugely complex, with styles differing from Milanese to Sicilian to Neapolitan. Living out of suitcases in hotels for three years the old-fashioned way, they accomplished the herculean task of rejuvenating the work of hand and traditional artisans and sharing the history behind it.
“Instead of buying ten crappy garments a year, buy one or maybe two, and if you maintain it well, you could well translate it to the next generation.!“
Hugo towers over the French, dressing like some benevolent French admiral, only with much better shoes. He emphasized that crazy fast-fashion and mass marketing are brainwashing people all around the world and is a catastrophe for the planet. Everything is mechanized, digitized and instant. We’ve got to learn the virtue of waiting.
Tugging at his shirt sleeve, he quipped, “I know who made this shirt; I know the hands that stitched my blazer, the pocket square, even my shoes.” He insisted, It’s time we educate ourselves and understand what we buy. He may not be a one-man brand, but a one-man staunch believer — a registry you can delve into if you find yourself at the right atelier in Paris or Milan.
Bridging the gap between the global fashion scene and Indian fashion landscape, Hugo and Sonya’s thoughts hammered the same nail on how fast-fashion is wrangling everything and has become the battle of the heavy hitters. When it comes to shopping style, their prevailing message is ‘to buy less but to buy better’.
By adopting classic style little by little and to starting to invest in something as small as a pair of socks or a pocket square, you can then move on to ready-to-wear, made-to-measure and bespoke, as these are the threads through which life’s rich stories are woven. Admittedly, Hugo’s perspective of India wasn’t any different from the general western outlook. The factory visit changed his viewpoint as he first-hand witnessed the crafting skills and met the artisans, and the vast expanse of loyalty and legacy left him highly impressed.
In a nutshell, they concluded by saying, ‘This is what we do and what we stand for, which brings us to our presence here.’ We are always extremely touched and delighted when a company celebrates its centennial ancestral history. We stand for preserving traditions and this is what we call celebrating the sartorial industry. P N Rao is truly a sartorial powerhouse in men’s fine suit tailoring, both bespoke and made-to-measure. We, at TheGlitz.Media, couldn’t agree more.