Right at the centre of Breach Candy, formerly Mumbai’s toniest shopping stretch, stands the Raymond store. It has stood here for decades — and almost everyone from my generation has accompanied a father or a grandfather here. But when it was once simply a “suiting-shirting” store with bales of black and navy cloth stacked across its walls, and a salesman calling a tailor out for measurements, its renovated avatar resembles one of India’s swish malls. Each of its three floors is earmarked for a specialty label. Park Avenue, Parx and Color Plus at the first level and the bespoke Made to Measure studio on top, where one can choose everything from colour to collar.
The interiors of this flagship store isn’t all that’s changed here. Raymond is evolving and reimagining itself to find a connect with a younger audience. This is a customer who has the world on his smartphone and is in the loop of what’s happening sartorially across the globe.
After all, the menswear market has never seen such a boom. The suit is now an everyday uniform, not just for lawyers or corporates, and the colours and styles are both imaginative and functional at once. Trends, colours, fabrics and cuts — the new customer is far more informed and equally demanding. “Rebranding and innovation is actually a continuous effort,” says Gautam Singhania, chairman and managing director, Raymond Group, at his home office in Mumbai’s Altamount Road. “Even though our values of quality, trust and excellence remain the same, we need to showcase our cutting-edge technology too.”
The new Raymond advertising campaign is for its high-end customised Made to Measure line. The advertisement lets go of its signature sentimental “Complete Man”, created by Enterprised Nexus under the legendary Mohammed Khan over 20 years ago. The new campaign uses an international model and is shot in a cutting studio that resembles a laboratory. Created by Famous Innovations, the slogan says, “Where Craft Meets Science” as if in obeisance to cutting and tailoring techniques.
“It’s time to continue to delight the modern-day customer with innovative products via innovative story-telling and media interventions,” says Raj Kamble, founder and chief creative officer, Famous Innovations. “Every single day a new international brand is stepping into India. Our vision is to compete with the world.”
Most importantly, the company assigned designer Vito Dell’Erba as its creative head last year. The Italian Dell’Erba brings with himself a wealth of experience, he has worked in the design teams of Miuccia Prada, Helmut Lang, Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy and Costume National. “The CEO Sanjay Behl had heard of me and invited me here. I was excited to come to India because I was fascinated by Asia and how the luxury businesses were working here,” Dell’Erba says, while showing us around the Breach Candy store. “Raymond is a heritage brand, like Burberry or Ermenegildo Zegna. I want to takes its mass stronghold and make it more contemporary and international in its look.”
The ideas start with Dell’Erba and are given to design techinicians, who then take it to the tailors. He says he has sometimes gone to the tailors directly to show them how he wants his jackets cut. “There is a decrease in the market for tailoring and more of ready-to-wear, and Raymond is providing for that in the best way,” he says.
Dell’Erba has taken his creative team to trade shows in Paris, Florence and London for research. He also tries to realign the different sub-brands in categories like work, leisure, club and ceremony. “While club is the big market for the future, ceremony is always an important category, especially in India,” he says.
Dell’Erba’s main task is to introduce and promote linen as the fabric for India. “I didn’t see that climate was a consideration for menswear in India,” he explains, pulling out a beautifully faded blue flexi jacket from one of the mannequins. This is a light summer jacket with deconstructed details and no lining. “It weighs as much as a shirt, and fits sharp,” he says.
A very big deal for Raymond is acquiring the Super 250 count Merino wool fabric from the Australian auctions. “I bought the whole bale,” says Singhania. He recounts that he went to a luxury label boutique in Milan to enquire about their suits and when the salesman was showing him their Super 250 weave, Singhania was compelled to correct him. “We’re the only ones in the world to sell it,” he asserts. The 250 count wool is the highest quality of wool available as yet. Most luxury labels use a count of 150 or 180. A suit made from this count starts from Rs 8 lakh and is sold at Raymond’s regular suiting floor.
Raymond still has its fabrics woven in Vapi, Gujarat, and Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh. But their tailoring is done in the stores and their large Thane factory. A large state-of-the-art plant in Bangalore takes care of Made To Measure, ready-to-wear and their exports. The big menswear trend of colourful suits has also made them launch a national “I Love Wool” campaign last December where wool is celebrated as an all-season fabric available in varied colours. In March this year, they also launched Raymond Linen, a brand new range that boasts of the finest and purest linen.
The Raymond store at Viviana mall in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai, won the Best Store Design at last year’s Retail Design Awards. It is designed by Gensler, a San Francisco-based architecture firm. Dell’Erba says, “It’s a different sort of store where space is the most important idea. There are very few pieces on the floor, it’s just a unique open and empty space.” In the next few months, Raymond is showing off its high technology retail prowess with their Indira Nagar, Bangalore store. Also, designed by Gensler, this will be a store dedicated to visual media, with large screens inside, a moving video screen as its window, and everything sold on an iPad.
If the international luxury labels have set the styles for India, their numbers don’t bother Singhania. “They cater to a small market that believes anything imported is better. But at the macro-level, we have the numbers,” he says.
With the company’s sights firmly trained on innovation in fashion and fabric, they’ve got a new generation’s attention already.
The article first appeared in The Indian Express