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Updated: May 22, 2014 16:48 IST

Stitched in Chennai, worn in Cannes

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Omar Sait (right), Director Gatsby Showroom and designer Kaushik will have their designs showcased on the Cannes Film Festival's red carpet. Photo: R. Ragu
The Hindu
Omar Sait (right), Director Gatsby Showroom and designer Kaushik will have their designs showcased on the Cannes Film Festival's red carpet. Photo: R. Ragu

City retailer Omar Sait’s collection will vie for red carpet A-listers’ attention at the world’s best-known film festival

“Come to the Oscars.” He had the invitation, he had the opportunity. A chance showcasing of his collection at the Prime Dubai exhibition had ensured that Omar Sait’s garment brand Aliph generated enough curiosity among Dubai’s clientele. Many interested queries followed, the most important being from Glen Harris, a journalist, who invited Omar to display his brand at the 2014 Oscars. “But the Oscars were in three weeks. With a pregnant wife and logistical concerns, we couldn’t make it,” says Omar.

 Just when he thought he’d lost the chance to make Aliph’s presence felt at an international platform, he got a call from Harris, this time for the Cannes Film Festival, followed by a call from Nathalie Dubios, head of the VIP lounge at Cannes. Omar was asked to send his collection for a selection process and Aliph made the cut. “It’s our attention to detail that got us noticed,” he says. And now this brand from Chennai will be present at the lounge of the Carlton Intercontinental Hotel, rubbing shoulders with global luxury brands and vying for the red carpet A-listers’ attention.

“Twenty other brands will be present there and celebrities will be brought in to interact with us and take a look at what we have in store for them and decide if they want to wear it or not,” explains Omar. “This is how Elie Saab got discovered, and before that Oscar de la Renta.”

Aliph is the first brand from Tamil Nadu to receive an invite to Cannes. “It probably is the first from India,” adds the 30-year-old, whose family has been in the clothing business for 107 years. In 1991, his father Rafiq Sait started Gatsby. It did well. Then as big brands came in, Gatsby took a back seat but resurfaced after reinventing itself, this time focusing on bespoke and premium products. Once Omar came back from the U.S. after completing his studies, he joined his father’s business. That was seven years ago. Last year, they launched Aliph.

 At the plush Gatsby showroom, which functions out of a basement in Nungambakkam, Omar and his team of designers and specialists are pacing about bleary eyed. “We’ve been working till 5 a.m. and barely getting any sleep,” says Omar.

The 110 pieces of menswear bound for Cannes are being neatly packed in cloth bags bearing the Festival De Cannes logo.

Accompanying him on this momentous expedition between May 14 and May 25 will be 23-year-old Kaushik, the star designer of the brand. He only talks design. “This is made from dyed elephant grass,” he enthusiastically waves a cloth with an intricate pattern in front of me. “And this is chain stitch with metal embroidery and this...,” one loses track as he goes getting into the technicalities.

Next, Kaushik shows some of the jackets, suits and bandhgalas that are Cannes-ready. This entire collection was put together in 22 days with the help of three designers and 25 tailors. With Intrecciato weaves (something Bottega Veneta made popular in the late 1960s), running stitches, paint stroke embroidery and innovative lapel designs, these hand-crafted outfits are mostly in black and white with a few in cobalt blue and charcoal grey.

In a year’s time Aliph has already managed quite a clientele here. Talking about Kollywood there is Kamal Haasan (who has been wearing suits by Gatsby/Aliph for the last three IIFA Awards), Prabhu Deva, Simbu, Jeeva, Anirudh Ravichander. Even cricketer R. Ashwin.

So what about Hollywood? Omar says he is sworn to secrecy and can’t disclose who the red carpet celebs are going to be. However, if he had his way, he would like to see Adrien Brody, George Clooney and Ryan Gosling in his suits.

Having invested all their time and energy on creating unique wardrobe choices for the actors, it’s ironic that Omar and Kaushik haven’t decided on their own wardrobe yet. So what are they taking along? “The brief given to us was ‘bring your best’ and we are taking our best for everybody,” says Omar.

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