Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004





In Fashion…The Bajaj summer

Ravi Bajaj’s studio comes with coffee. In New Delhi’s upmarket Greater Kailash, his atelier is part of an elegant café, called, well, “Café”. Not surprising though, for Bajaj is renowned for his sleek styles, classic cuts, fabulous finishes. In a single word, elegance personified.

A Ravi Bajaj suit
Graduating from the American College of Applied Arts, he set up shop in New Delhi a long time ago, consistently improvising and daring to get into the unknown. Bajaj was one among the first to enter the prêt line, one of the first to style corporate wear (Jet Airways was one) and one of the first to design Western clothes for Indian figures.

It sounds apt when Bajaj quips “a life without variety is like a year without summer”. He adds in his characteristic understated style, “I tried to make this summer beautiful in my own way.”

And for Bajaj, this can well mean an Italian summer. “For the past three years, I have been manufacturing my clothes in Italy”, he tells me during a recent chat at Café. There is some stuff that Indians cannot produce. Jackets, for instance. We are poor at constructing them.

Similarly, the Italians make superb neckties and shoes. “I am not going to reinvent the wheel”. It is very simple.

Admittedly, Bajaj has come a long way since he began styling clothes 20 years ago. He does make a decent jacket now. But he is humble enough to admit that it is still not on par with a Dunhill or a Hugo Boss, and an essentially young clientele with an awful lot of spending power will not think twice before rejecting a Bajaj jacket. So, Ravi – wisely – gets the jackets done in Italy.

In any case, for a decade now, Bajaj has been buying his fabrics in Europe, and it then makes sense to have the garment tailored there as well.

But how many can afford to be a Bajaj, buying fabrics in Europe and having them stitched in Italy. Fashion is a highly capital-intensive business. You can no longer start one with ten sewing machines in a garage. You need crores for marketing alone. And, one has to constantly evolve.

Bajaj has a tough job at hand, a job that necessitates continuous change. “Today, I am struggling to cater to a young crowd and a not so young crowd that wants to look 15 years younger, sexy and seductive”, he smiles.

Therein lies Ravi Bajaj’s challenge.

(Webposted July 31 2007)