There is an expression in the world of business attire: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. There was a time not so long ago when suits were the standard in the workplace, and it was a source of pride to walk into the office looking polished and put-together – think Don Draper of the popular TV series “Mad Men.” Whether you’re going on a first interview, conducting an important meeting with clients, or attending a conference, style experts agree – if you’re in the corporate world, you should always were a suit and tie.
However, with the advent of “casual Fridays” introduced to corporate culture over the past decade or so (and now “casual everyday” in many companies), “power dressing” is a way of the past … or is it? Many corporate professionals are still required to wear a suit to work, even in Grand Cayman, despite the tropical climate. Bermuda shorts with blazers is never going to be a trend here, let’s face it, but there is no doubt that wearing a bespoke suit screams “successful” and should be considered a professional investment.
One reason for the high demand of custom-made suits on island is because finding a store here that sells a well-cut, off-the-rack suit is next to impossible – if not impossible. That is why many businessmen turn to master tailor and owner of Noble House, Vijay Wadhwani, who travels to Cayman four times a year from his Hong Kong headquarters and has been doing so since 1996. He also makes stops in the U.S., Tokyo and London, while he sends other tailors on his payroll to various cities across the globe.
In total, his team flies to 80 cities throughout the year. According to Wadhwani, there is also a big demand for custom-tailored “casual” attire. “Suits are definitely coming back. However, with casual attire our business hasn’t really declined. Clients place orders for custom-tailored dress pants, dress jackets and dress shirts, and most of our clients will wear jeans, Dockers or very casual shirts on the weekends and holidays,” he says.
While most of his clients include bankers, insurance agents, accountants and lawyers, the majority are men, but he estimates that women represent 1 percent to 2 percent of his clients in Cayman, and 7 percent to 8 percent in the U.S., with jackets, pants, skirts, and shirts the most requested items to be made. His biggest clients, not surprisingly, hail from the U.S., with one client from Miami buying 150 pairs of pants and 18 suits during one fitting, and another client from Boston paying a whopping $10,000 for one suit.
Wadhwani books a room at the Marriott resort on Seven Mile Beach for each visit, spreading his wares, which includes thousands of swatches of material in every color and texture imaginable – from Merino and superfine wools to silks and cashmeres, tweeds and Gabardines.
He suggests you wear your favorite suit for your one and only fitting, at which time he sketches on paper your individual patterns from scratch based on an average of 30 measurements taken, including various height and weight measurements, as well as pictures of your posture to see your shoulder and standing position. Your personal patterns are then drawn onto fabric back at the Noble House headquarters, where a master tailor will then set to work on the suit.
The average suit takes five to six days to make. The paper patterns are kept on file, so re-ordering is as simple as picking up the phone or sending an email. A record of every garment made is also kept.
Wadhwani’s suits cost on average $650 to $1,800, depending on the fabric, and the average client spends around $950 per suit. In Cayman, specifically, his clients will buy an average of two suits a year, plus shirts and separate pants and sports jackets. Wadhwani believes that a man should have at least six suits in his closet, and due to Cayman’s year-round hot weather, he recommends natural fibers, super-fine light-weight wools and Sea Island or Egyptian cottons.
“Definitely no polyester mixes,” he says, adding, “Selecting the right fabric is very important, and it shouldn’t be about following what’s in fashion, as fashion changes too often. For example, wider lapels are the current fad but will be out of fashion soon. From my past experiences, trends change very quickly.”
He prefers a classic lapel so that the suit does not look dated and will last for years, and although he sees a lot of demand for very slim-fitted suits, he prefers to steer clients toward a classic European fit. Of course, in the end, it is up to the client’s desires and tastes.
There are some important things to keep in mind when buying custom-tailored attire for the workplace. Common sense dictates that you don’t want to stick out too much or out-dress your boss. So this means no bright or loud suits or ties for men (or short skirts for women). And although the norm for suits is still conservative navy blue and varying shades of gray wool, Wadhwani says earth tones such as tan and khaki are also popular, especially in warmer climates.
You can still put your personal stamp on your suits with custom details such as contrasting buttonhole stitch colors; patterned or colorful lining for suit jackets; unique cuff links; or having your name or initials monogrammed into your inside jacket pockets or shirt sleeve cuffs. These types of embellishments will be the equivalent of a secret handshake with stylish coworkers (or clients) who will take subtle notice.
When it comes to dressing for success, there is no getting around it – people do judge others on their physical appearance. After all, to make a lasting impression, you need to hem them in first.
Wadhwani will be at the Marriott from June 3 through 5. For more information or to book an appointment, visit www.noblehouse.us or contact [email protected]