The idea of Camessi as a bespoke shirt brand perhaps began under the discerning eye of my father, Shanker Lal Shroff, of Spell Fashion Pvt Ltd. My father started out as a stockbroker, but life changed for him after he identified the potential of jute exports from India to the United States. Having first forayed into jute trading, he turned to the textile business, and it is in this industry that my family has been for over 60 years. Textile trading inevitably sparked an interest in manufacturing, and this led my father to set up yarn spinning mills in Rajasthan. These spinning mills form the core of our business today.
Our family has its roots in Fatehpur, in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, from where my grandfather moved to Kolkata in the early 1900s. My father still lives in Kolkata, but I relocated to Mumbai in the early 1980s.
Quality comes first
As a young man, my father found that local tailors in India were not always able to live up to his expectations and, therefore, he ended up having most of his shirts fitted in Hong Kong or Italy. After having been so intimately involved in the textile business—over six decades—my father was convinced that our expertise in textile manufacturing and our in-depth knowledge of the product would help us craft truly luxurious shirts in India.
My father and I launched Camessi in 2006, with the singular vision of crafting men’s shirts of international quality. While India was renowned for its beautiful Indian clothing and silk fabrics, the ‘Made in India’ label was still not to be seen in the world of high quality luxury products of the western world. We realised that making a dent in such a market would be a herculean task, and to succeed, we would require persistence and dedication.
We built Camessi on the foundation of quality. The design and infrastructure of our factory, training of our craftswomen, procurement of the best raw materials, the finished garments—they were all fruits of years of painstaking research and deliberation. Our journey began in 2006 with the setting up of a state-of-the-art factory in Udaipur, Rajasthan. We imported latest single-needle sewing machines from Germany and then turned our attention to sourcing the finest raw materials from around the world.
Today, all our shirts are individually hand-cut by skilled artisans, who meticulously balance the design and geometry of the fabrics to preserve the cloth’s integrity. While our sewing capability of 23 stitches per inch makes them almost invisible, the narrow hemline (3 mm) and side French seams make the shirts look seamless. The mother-of-pearl buttons are individually shanked.
My father and I are dedicated to the cause of women’s empowerment. Our craftswomen come from neighbouring villages and usually have no prior sewing experience. Our goal is to provide them with employment in a safe environment, and help them revive a lost skill. Today, garment manufacturing is highly automated, and machines have taken human beings out of the equation; but, nothing can replace a garment lovingly stitched by hand. Our recruits go through a rigorous eight-month training programme.
Bringing bespoke to clients
Bespoke tailoring has been the soul of the sartorial experience for centuries. Our kings and emperors believed in bespoke clothing. With Camessi, we wanted to present customers with the opportunity to experience bespoke clothing in their most authentic form. We consult our clients to ensure the shirts reflect their personalities and requirements. Customers can choose from a range of over 1,500 fabrics and numerous collar and cuff designs. It is only after the client is satisfied with the trial shirt that the final product is tailored.
From shirts to trousers
While Camessi was conceived as a shirt brand, our customers were so impressed by our bespoke services that we were inundated with requests for a complete menswear ensemble. This led us on a 12-month journey to engineer the perfect trouser, and by late 2014, Camessi was proud to offer an exclusive bespoke service for handmade trousers. Assiduously handcrafted buttonholes, manually pick-stitched seams and hand-turned helms find their way into the products that undergo the most rigorous quality inspections. Our full bespoke service is offered in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
Taking the legacy forward
My sons Rahul, 28, and Ameya, 25, have a keen eye for the market. I am convinced they will remain true to the ideals on which Camessi was founded—an unrelenting focus on quality, craftsmanship and elegance—and take the brand to newer and brighter horizons in the future.