It Happens

Bespoke, Yet a Misfit

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A Savile Row quality tailor in Kolkata has few clients left
Ajit Singh is 84, and his hands shake occasionally. But the moment he starts to cut a suit length, his passion, profession and stimulant for the past seven decades, the same frail hands turn into a magic machine. Connoisseurs of sartorial exclusivity rate Paris Tailors in Kolkata’s New Market, which Ajit Singh inherited from his father Yaswant, on par with the very best in bespoke tailoring anywhere in the world.

Singh has been working at the shop since 1946, but his world changed following a visit to the famous Savile Row in London where he learnt the craft as an apprentice in the 1950s. He recalls his father telling him, “Kuchh karna chahte ho toh pahile accha tarike se seekh lo ( if you want to do something, you must begin with mastering it).” Since then, Singh has maintained the quality, cut and fit that have distinguished Savile Row’s tailoring. A New York Times columnist recalled in 2012 that a suit Singh had made for him fit better than far more expensive suits he had ordered from Savile Row.

“We would not have enough time to have lunch… [we] used to receive 15-20 orders a day,” Singh says of the global demand for his suits in the 40s and 50s. “But those days are gone forever… nobody has time anymore Everybody runs for the cheap thrill of a readymade suit.”

Only a patient man deserves a top quality suit, says Singh. To this day, he takes detailed measurements, including your armpit and muscle patterns. There could be more than one trial until he has satisfied himself that the product is worth delivery.

Unfortunately, his wizardry will in all probability die with him. The neighbourhood, once the finest market of Kolkata, has now turned into an old bazaar with hawkers and nouveau riche shoppers. The next generation of Singhs are in other professions.

His brother, Harbhajan Singh, however, returned from New Jersey recently to help him out. Harbhajan Singh says, “The shop is his son, his soul, you could say.” Ajit Singh has no complaints. He will keep making suits till his last breath.

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