18 Nov 2017
5 min read
Requests for incorporating extremely uncommon elements in a custom-made jacket are nothing out of the ordinary for Bilal Ahmed Shah. In fact, making highly customised jackets is the exact model his business, Latido Leathers, is based on. But when Saurabh Jyoti, the director of Jyoti Group, made a request for a jacket with the Superman insignia, Shah knew he was in for a challenge: it would be very difficult for Shah's team to make the insignia pop out (it's much easier to imprint a design on a jacket). Shah hesitated initially, but he decided to take up the challenge; soon, his team was able to deliver a sleek black leather jacket with the superhero's symbol on the chest, much to Jyoti's delight. That was not the first time they'd come across such a unique request, and they know that it will not be the last. With a business where customisability is the selling point, Shah knows that being able to come up with solutions for design ideas that their customers have envisioned is how the company will stay ahead of the game.
In a market dominated by readymade apparels, Latido Leathers is a company that focuses on bespoke leather products--jackets, bags, wallets--designed according to the varying needs of customers. At Latido Leathers, customers can handpick the materials and components they want and don't want used in a product; customers can play around with the placement of pockets, the colour of the zippers--even the overall aesthetics of the product. "This company was built to cater to the demands of those who love leather and want to wear designs that they have come up with in their minds, designs that no one has worn before," says Shah.
Long before Shah established Latido Leathers, his father had been involved in the leather-manufacturing industry. The business model that Shah's father followed had to do with simply producing standardised jackets and selling them in the wholesale market. However, the leather market later got saturated with apparels made of cheaper synthetic leather imported from China. "The business had a difficult time competing with vendors selling imported leather products, which the customers saw as the cheaper option," he says. "That was the reason my father decided to shut the business down."
But in 2014, Shah--who had grown up around leather products being made and sold--realised that he could do something different with authentic leather, and that's when he decided to start Latido Leathers. He was a 20-year-old college dropout from an engineering college in Bangalore with no knowledge about the corporate world, so Shah decided to devote his first year in the company carefully analysing the market and planning how he would execute his leather business. Even coming up with the name for the company took Shah a good two months; he finally decided to go with 'Latido', the Spanish word for heartbeat. And he spent the greater part of 2015 studying in granular detail how the market here worked, so that he could establish a strong foundation for his company.
Out of all the products on offer at Latido, customisable jackets are what sell the best. To purchase a Latido leather jacket, customers have to first place an order and provide Latido with details such as their body measurements and the modifications they want incorporated into their jacket. After the specifications are confirmed, the customers then get to choose the type of leather they want their jacket to be made out of; they can choose between buffalo leather (which is mostly used in biker jackets), goat leather and sheep leather (which are used for more casual leather jackets), all of which are sourced from a supplier in Chennai. Latido's in-house tailor then cuts the leather according to the various specifications and sends them in individual bundles to other tailors, who sew and stitch the jacket and further fine-tune its details. The jacket is then delivered to the customer for a trial. In case a customer feels dissatisfied by any element of the jacket, the customer can return the jacket to the factory, where tailors will rework the jacket so that it perfectly meets the customer's demands. The price for a customised jacket normally ranges from Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000, while the more heavily customised ones can cost anything from Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000.
"No matter how outrageous the requests regarding the jacket's designs, we never say no. We always try and make sure that the customers get what they have asked for," says Shah. "We once received a pretty unconventional order. The customer wanted a jacket made out of really thick leather, a material that's usually used for making bags. We had to deploy three tailors to work on the piece, and we somehow managed to deliver exactly what the customer wanted."
In an industry where skilled manpower is hard to come by, Shah is grateful that he works with a team of seasoned tailors, most of whom also worked with his father. Latido's survival and success completely depend upon the skills of these tailors and the relationship between them and Shah. Shah is deeply involved in the production process and the close relationship his workers share with him that has helped them stay motivated over the years. "I've shared with them the vision of my company, and they understand that no matter how difficult an order, we must work on the problem together, as a team," says Shah. It is owing to this employer-employee relationship that the Latido team can work their way through the trickiest of orders, with everyone offering potential solutions. And during periods when the demand for their products is high (especially during winter) the tailors at Latido can choose to work extra hours every alternate day (this is not compulsory), with Shah always present to oversee the operations and assist the tailors with their work.
Shah understands that Latido Leathers is where it is today because of the quality of its products and excellent customer care--and he will not change those fundamentals. "We owe our growth to our customers and the positive referrals they spread," says Shah. Even in the few instances when the company receives negative feedback, the Latido team makes sure that they rectify the problem and use the feedback to improve what they are doing. Today, Latido Leathers has grown so much that the company even receives orders from Nepalis living in Australia, the US and New Zealand. For such orders, the customers communicate through social media platforms such as Facebook and Viber.
For now, Latido Leathers will focus on crafting customised jackets and bags, but they hope to soon add leather wallets and gloves to their product lineup. They want to first build a solid base within Kathmandu before taking the next step: expanding beyond the Valley.
Fitted like kings
"A suit is all about the perfect fit," says Bibhusan Sherchan, who himself loves dressing up in perfectly fitting bespoke suits. The owner of Siyo Dhago, Sherchan is a man of exacting tastes when it comes to fine threads. It so happened that in 2015, he couldn't find tailors to design suits according to his specifications, and that's when Sherchan decided that he should start his own tailoring company that would craft premium bespoke suits. To make it easier for his customers, Sherchan also decided that his tailors would go to the clients and get themselves measured, rather than have them take time out of their busy schedules to drive all across town, just to get that part of the bespoke process out of the way.
Bespoke suits are created from the ground up, and can take any shape, have any design, and incorporate as many intricate details as a wearer wants. Unlike in made-to-measure and ready-to-wear suits, bespoke-suit clients can opt for any type of pattern, cut or stitch depending on the client's tastes and requirements--this gives room for the client to make his or her suit as nuanced--and as personalised--as possible. At Siyo Dhago, everything is customisable: from the kind of jacket style you want--single-breasted or double-breasted--to what kind of trousers you want--straight legs, angled pockets, back pocket/no back pocket.
"For any business, the foundation is very important," says Sherchan. "And our foundation is based on a very simple model: to provide premium, customised, hand-stitched suits that our clients wouldn't want to swap for anything else. And we believe that our clients shouldn't have to put up with any hassle regarding the making of the suit. That's why we measure them at a place and time of their choosing."
If you want a Siyo Dhago suit, you need to first call Siyo Dhago and get in touch with Sherchan's team, who will visit you to take the necessary measurements (of the chest, shoulder, sleeve length, waist and trouser particulars), brainstorm design elements with the team, and select the fabric, among other particulars. "Our clients appreciate how we involve them in the design process. And of course they like how we've changed what getting measured out means. The traditional way of going to a tailor to make a suit can seem like a chore for most clients in today's busy times, what with Kathmandu's traffic and lack of parking spaces. But with Siyo Dhago, they don't have to worry about all these incidentals. All they have to do is call us and we will get everything done."
The suits at Siyo Dhago are all hand-stitched by local tailors from Bhaktapur, where Siyo Dhago have their workshop. All their suits are made from Italian fabrics such as merino wool. Merino wool is one of the best types of wools for suits. Siyo Dhago makes use of superior Italian wool from brands like Loro Piana, Lanificio Fratelli Ormezzano SPA, LSR and Luciano--all of whom work with wrinkle-resistant, lightweight wool, and have excellent quality. The prices of Sherchan's suits start from Rs 22,000 and can go up to around Rs 80,000, depending on the type and brand of fabric used and the design of the suit.
"Whatever business we get, we get through customer referrals. We do not even have a showroom or an outlet as such," says Sherchan. "And although today social-media marketing is of utmost importance, we have, for now at least, refrained from using these mediums for marketing purposes. For now, we want to solely focus on creating a limited number of suits, but of the highest calibre," says Sherchan.
"In a country like Nepal, where labour is still relatively cheap and products that require that handmade finesse have a lot of potential, bespoke suits have a huge market. It's all about crafting that perfect suit that creates a perfectly satisfied customer," says Sherchan.