The phone rings and the front desk says, “Hitesh the tailor is here.”
“Yes, please send him up.”
A few minutes later I open the door. Hitesh Chhabria is standing in the foyer with two bags and a black and red garment cover bearing the logo of his shop, the Immediate Boutique. We shake hands and I invite him in. He takes off his shoes and we talk for a moment about our days and life in Mumbai.
Hitesh removes my new suit jacket from the garment cover and two shirts from the bags. I try on the blue dress shirt first. He has changed it from the currently popular shallow spread collar to the deeper point style I prefer and tightened it a size. I fold back the mitered French cuffs and put in a pair of plain, antique silver cufflinks I found a few months ago down in Colaba. I tie a silver blue Grenadine tie with a simple four-in-hand knot, put on the suit’s trousers, and Hitesh helps me into the jacket. The suit is a rich navy blue, a linen and silk blend that resists wrinkling better than pure linen and has a subtle sheen without being the least flashy. This is the third fitting. I had asked him to take the jacket out just a bit. It is a subtle difference but the extra half-inch or so makes it perfect. The jacket is well fitted, with a gently suppressed waist, a single vent, a ticket pocket, and working sleeve buttons. It is a linen suit, but with the more formal cut I prefer, perfect for business in the tropics or a night out. We look it over. I wear it buttoned and unbuttoned, stretch my arms, turn from side to side. The suit follows me without binding or bagging.
“It looks perfect, Hitesh.”
“You look very good, sir.”
The other shirt is a white formal one with a subtle weave in the cotton fabric, spread collar, mother-of-pearl buttons hidden beneath a placket, and mitered French cuffs. It fits perfectly.
My wife comes out and tries on the jacket to the tan linen suit she is having made. Hitesh makes a few notes and puts the jacket back into the garment bag to adjust the waist and sleeves. We chat for a few minutes more and I see him out.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, sir.”
Hitesh Chhabria is a native Mumbaiker. Mumbai, the once and present Bombay, has a long history of textile manufacture and fine tailoring. His father and grandfather before him were tailors and, as Hitesh said, “I am the third generation and I have been doing this since I was 14-years-old. I started out ironing pants for my Dad when he had a heavy work load. One day I burned some trousers for a client who was flying in the same day! My Dad yelled at me, “Do you know how much work this is!” I was crying but I learned a lot about how you have to be meticulous, pay attention, and always think about the customer. Not too long after that I cut and sewed my first pair of trousers. They were for my father, the world’s toughest critic. He kept teaching me. It took years to learn. The thing about this job, if you love clothing, if you love making people look their best, then you are always learning more, always trying to be better.”
This seems to be Hitesh’s motto. This is the difference between buying a suit off the rack and having a real tailor sew one for you. We were making a two-piece suit in lightweight blue wool, a bit brighter than navy, with a subtle windowpane pattern. The jacket, with three-roll-two buttons, looked perfect but was binding slightly when I raised my arms.
“We can do better, sir,” said Hitesh.
Hitesh has a small shop in the old Colaba neighborhood of South Bombay. Immediate Boutique is a modest storefront in one of the city’s best neighborhoods, a block or two from the Taj Palace Hotel and just around the corner from Café Leopold. You can stop in during the day, but Hitesh will call on you at your apartment or hotel, measure you, do the fittings, and bring samples of suiting and shirting.
“I like the classic styles,” says Hitesh, “classic but contemporary. My specialty is suits and shirts, mostly for men, but I tailor for women as well. I have a great service, door to door, and my suits are all over the world. I do a lot of work for people from the U.S. and Europe in Mumbai for business and a lot for the diplomatic community. I like the idea that my clothes are being worn, are in closets all over the world. Clients tell me about complements they get wearing my suits in Washington, D.C. or Paris or London. An American businessman told me he was walking down the street in Rome and someone asked who had made his beautiful suit. I consider that success.”
Hitesh can be contacted by phone at +91 022-2282 4629, by e-mail at email@example.com, or, the next time you’re in Mumbai, just find him at his shop at 7th Akbar House, N.F. Road, Mumbai opposite the Bademiya Restaurant, near Leopold Café, and behind the Taj Palace Hotel… FP