Cad and The Dandy, Sri City

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Cad and The Dandy’s suit factory in Sri City


Kamini Mathai, Behind the natty Men in Black jacket is a TN fisherman, September 3, 2018: The Times of India

When Chris Hemsworth suits up to fight crime — no, not as Thor but as Agent H in the upcoming Men in Black 4 — he will have no idea that his impeccably tailored jacket has passed through the nimble fingers of Thamizh, a fisherman from Tamil Nadu who is among the master tailors at the Cad and The Dandy suit factory in Sri City.

Thamizh hasn’t a clue who the actor is either, all he knows is that a dozen suits pass through his hands every day, from this SEZ 50 km north of Chennai. Just as Saranya, a 29-year-old housewife doesn’t know that in the last few months, she and the rest of her 150-strong crew have tailored suits for actors like Kelsey Grammer (of Frasier fame).

For three years now, British suit-maker Cad & The Dandy has been running out of its 12,000-sq-ft container production unit in Sri City, tailoring over 400 bespoke suits a month, each taking 60 man hours to create.

“In England, I found I could only stitch up to 300 suits a year. We just don’t have enough skilled tailors there,” says James Sleater, a former banker who co-founded the firm with Ian Meiers after the 2008 financial crash. In just a matter of ten years, the tailoring house has become one of the largest on London’s famous Savile Row, and expanded to New York and Stockholm.

Sleater, 37, says he set up the Sri City factory, quite literally a stitch at a time. “Three years ago, there wasn’t much infrastructure in Sri City. It was just a big road and empty land. We sat on the sidelines waiting for the city to develop,” says Sleater, explaining that he first set up a tailoring school (in 2013) ten kilometres away from his factory. “I cycled around the villages and noticed there were sewing machines in some of the households. The skill is lost in the UK, where the culture is so consumerist that no one picks up a needle and thread anymore. It took us just three years to train the people here in tailoring, it takes five in the UK,” he says. Sri City is now home to over 160 factories from around the world.

While the silhouette is designed in Savile Row, and material sourced from around the world (“not India, as the textile does not make the grade,” according to Sleater), the patterns are printed out at Sri City. A test suit made of canvas is shipped to England for trial, sent back with alterations, the final product tailored in Sri City, and then shipped overseas to customers. “It’s eight weeks start-to-finish to create suits that are priced between 1000-2500 pounds (Rs 1 to 2.5 lakh),” says Sleater. While he had initially set up a manufacturing unit in China, Sleater says wage inflation and communication issues because of Mandarin made him move locations.

In India, he says, he manages an annual 25% wage hike for his staff. “Over here, the most confounding HR problem I have faced is when the younger women suddenly fail to show up for work one day. I’m only told, ‘marriage’, and I never see them again. It used to throw me off a bit, but not anymore.” Download The Times of India News App for Latest Home News.

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