Friday, July 11, 2008

Delhi in Stitches

A ‘To-Do’ List in Delhi runs not very long. Guides will drag you to government buildings, monuments, craft markets set up for the tourist trade and where the guides collect commissions, tombs, mosques, temples, gardens, and Old Delhi, all easily ticked off in 2-3 days. You can spend time in the world-class art museum, home to an astounding and exhausting amount of traditional artifact, but fatigue from so much good stuff quickly sets in. People go to the Indian capital city for government business- or just ‘passing through’ en route to other destinations in the North. So, how to spend the long zones between running here and there, mostly confined to private vehicles? Eat, shop, or visit the tailor.

Tailoring is a bargain in India, owing to the low cost of labor, or what is locally referred to as “stitching.” India also boasts remarkable, reasonable home-grown textiles, excellent silks, linens, wools, fine cottons and cottage industry cloth of traditional woven patterns. Recently producers even introduced new ayurvedic fabrics, infused with therapeutic herb dyes. Typically the tailoring customer buys the cloth first, then pays additionally for the stitching. The prices beat Hong Kong, Thailand and Korea by miles, with the level of skill often on par. While one needs to look carefully at the aspect of workmanship –specifically thinner threads used for the finishing- the fast turnaround and Saville Row style of cutting makes New Delhi a sweet surprise for the sartorially sensitive. Most top-tier hotels have in-house tailor shops, but prices there can be competitive to similar establishments in other big cities in the world. The best strategy is to find an established local tailor at one of the traditional markets. The other insider trick: copying your own favorite garments which you bring along for the ride.

Perhaps the best custom-made clothing value in Delhi can be found at Grover Cloth House, located at the Khan Market. A family business for over 30 years, Om Prahesh Grover, his brother, son Bobby and nephew operate a low-key shop with an excellent reputation. For surprisingly reasonable prices most garments can be made up overnight. Grover’s client list includes top Indian politicians, Chelsea Clinton and family, Cherie Blair, CNN correspondents, and even President Bush and his entourage. A recent price list for stitching: Gentleman’s Jacket Rs 3000 (US$72); Suit Rs 3500 (US$84); Trousers Rs 550 (US $14); Shirt Rs 300 (US$7.20). The shop stocks a fine assortment of cloths for shirting and suiting- remember that this is an additional charge to the stitching! Material for suitings can cost $16/m and up, shirtings begin at $10/m. Figure a length of 3.25m for a suit, 1.25m for trousers, 1.8-2.5m for shirts, depending on the width of the cloth.

One other lovely detail at Grover is a vast selection of silk and pashmina scarves, all at excellent prices. These low-cost, low-weight, low-volume items make superb gifts, easily transported home in the bottom of your traveling bag. But it is the custom-made garments that really satisfy, both for their uniqueness and quality. In a world of mass-production, what greater pleasure than wearing something made specially for you, to your own measurements in a matter of hours, an enduring souvenir from a romantic and exotic foreign capital?

Grover Cloth House

47A, Khan Market

New Delhi 110003

+91 9810026788