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Issue Date: 8/1/2003, Posted On: 8/1/2003


He makes shoppers out of men
Store owner even wears a suit to mow the lawn
Christine Walsh
Naresh Mansukhani, owner of Fairfield Clothiers, likes to know about a man's lifestyle, profession and personality before fitting him in a suit. His boutique aims to make shopping a pleasurable experience for men.
Naresh Mansukhani, owner of Fairfield Clothiers, likes to know about a man's lifestyle, profession and personality before fitting him in a suit. His boutique aims to make shopping a pleasurable experience for men.

Mansukhani, right, helps put the finishing touches on a suit for Neil Jain, the owner of a land surveying company, who is on his way to a town meeting.
Mansukhani, right, helps put the finishing touches on a suit for Neil Jain, the owner of a land surveying company, who is on his way to a town meeting.

FAIRFIELD, Conn. - Presenting a professional and conservative image is critical to the success of Pfizer sales representatives. So when senior manager Fred Lord was preparing a video to show trainees how to dress, he turned to Naresh Mansukhani, the owner of Fairfield Clothiers. It's Mansukhani's job to sell and tailor fine suits. He sees it as his vocation to make men feel - often for the first time in their lives - so comfortable and stylish in their clothing that it's like wearing a second layer of skin. "For most gentlemen, until they meet us, until they come to us, clothing is a chore," said Mansukhani, 44. "Once we do what we do for them, it becomes fun and pleasure for them. After that, they love to shop for clothes." What could Fairfield Clothiers do for men that actually makes them love to shop? The experience begins the second a gentleman - Mansukhani never fails to use the formal term - walks through the door of the downtown boutique. Before the customer begins browsing pants and shirts, Mansukhani or one of his two employees spends about a half hour asking questions. "The first thing we want to find out is about their lifestyle, what kind of business they are in, their personalities, their body type, the colors that will be best for them," Mansukhani said. "All these things we take into consideration before we recommend any garment." The store's customers range from doctors and lawyers to businessmen and the self-employed. Some come from New York City to let Mansukhani dress them. The suits are primarily manufactured in the United States and Italy. Ready-made suits cost between $500 and $2,500, while custom-made ones start at about $900 and can run to more than $6,000. Occasionally, a man arrives at Fairfield Clothiers already sharply dressed, say in a $3,000 Baroni suit, but it does not befit his body or personality type, Mansukhani said. "It just doesn't look right on him ... so all that money, as far as I'm concerned, is wasted," he said. On the other extreme, there are customers who show up wearing jeans and T-shirts. Mansukhani does not snub these people. "I look at him and I look at it as an opportunity to do the right thing for him," he said. "We don't judge you by your appearance." Fairfield Clothiers goes beyond finding the appropriate suit. Men learn what kinds of boxer shorts to wear and even how to tie their shoes properly. Comfort is the goal. "When you are comfortable it's a very liberating experience," Mansukhani said. "You don't want to come home at 5 in the evening and take your shoes off and tie off." Mansukhani himself insists his suits feel so good that he wears them even while mowing the lawn. He staunchly defends the story in answer to a skeptic's questions. No, he doesn't worry about getting dirty, and no, he doesn't get too hot because he dresses in lightweight summer cashmere. "I would not have it any other way," he said. Key to the store's success is its emphasis on quality rather than label names, Mansukhani said. He prefers to sell clothing that is made well from high-end fabrics. Fashion trends are also ignored in favor of classic, traditional looks. Rather than tune into the fad of the moment, Mansukhani works to build an image for his clients. Once a man finds the style that fits him best, the way he looks becomes his trademark. Mansukhani, who considers himself a style consultant, says building a good wardrobe is a scientific process that takes about five years (unless, of course, money is no object). A native of textile center Ahmedabad, Mansukhani says he was born with the fabric bug. He never went to school for fashion, but got his early training on the job as a custom tailor. He traveled around the world measuring diplomats for clothing that would be made in a Hong Kong factory. From there, Mansukhani settled in Barcelona, Spain, where he spent 10 years importing silk from India for Spanish designers. He says he became known for his taste and sense of style and often served as a personal shopper. In 1989, he came to the United States, settling down in Connecticut's Fairfield County and marrying his wife Magdalena. He first opened In Style, a small store in Bridgeport that sold a variety of men's and women's clothing. After about seven years, he moved to his current, more upscale location in his hometown and launched a Web site, which sells his readymade men's clothes. Several years ago, he added some women's clothes to Fairfield Clothier's collection. While he would not disclose sales figures, Mansukhani said they have typically grown between 7 and 10 percent per year, except for this past year when they remained steady.
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