So Hunter researched, we conferred, and on the first day of our visit to Bangkok we strolled down Sukumvit Road to meet Mr. Bobby Gulati.
Nestled among the ex-pat beer patios, aggressive hustlers, and blinding neon lights of Nana Plaza sits his Raja’s Fashions, acclaimed and widely accepted as the best tailor in Bangkok. We arrived at his door weary from travel and intimidated…neither Hunter nor I have done the custom suit thing before.
We walked into a suprisingly tiny shop covered carpet to ceiling in bolts of beautiful pinstripes, windowpanes, and solids. The left wall displays hundreds of options for suits and sport coats. The right, hundreds for shirts. Tiny aisles boasted dozens of options for jacket linings and dozes of floral prints for cuff and collar. Style guides throughout provide inspiration while a a few employees scurry about entertaining, waiting upon, and taking the measurements of those fortunate enough to know this place exists. It is a small, unassuming place of beauty, creation, and absolute baller-ness! And it was, for my demeanor at the time, overwhelming. I motioned to Kavitha, gave the international sign for “abandon ship,” and made for the door. An outstretched hand stopped me.
“Good Afternoon. I’m Bobby. How can I help you today, Mr…..?”
Bobby offered us a drink. Still feeling slighly out of my league and travel-rough, I declined his offer (those with insight know that this indicates the presence of true discomfort). He shrugged, and introduced me to his sister, Rupa, who became my keeper. She led me around the store…rather, spun me in place…helped me pick a fabric, and guided me through the process of creating my perfect, ideal suit. And while we grew up in places thousands of miles apart, Rupa and I speak the same language:
Rupa: “Ok, Brad. What can we do with this beautiful fabric selection? A suit, you said?”
Brad: “Yeah, let’s see. I’d like side vents…”
Rupa: “How high? Short, regular, or riding height?”
Brad, smiling: “Regular to riding; let the measurements decide. A functional placket…”
Rupa, prempting punctuation: “…Is standard. 3, 4, or 5 buttons?”
Brad, really smiling: “umm…4? No, wait…yes. And flap besoms…”
Rupa: “which we’ll slant to compliment your figure. Ticket pocket?”
Brad, one foot beginning to shake. “Ohhh, YES! AND…AND…”
Rupa: “soft shoulder, notch collar, pique stitching, full lining, and trim cut?”
Brad, vision bluring: “…Vest?” It sounded more like a gasp than a word, spoken with the inhale and scraped across my vocal chords. I was dizzying.
Rupa: “Of course. Collared is a little dated but we’ll add one to it, happily, if you prefer.”
Brad, bracing himself against the swatch table: “Bobby, how bout that drink?”
HB and I nursed our beers while Kavitha played soccer mom and scheduled our follow-up fitting appointments. It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time…a complete and unrelenting moment of fashion zen. Second and third fittings followed (these are mandatory), and I’m now the proud owner of the items shown below. They fit perfectly because they were, throughout the course of a week, built around me. At the second fitting, the blazer lacked both a collar and sleeves. But I wasn’t afraid. With the experience complete and products on hangars in the hotel closet, I’ll tell you this: When you go to Bangkok, go see Mr. Bobby Gulati. You’ll have a blast! And take the drink…you’ll need something to toast your investment in awesome.