Troy Costa on his sartorial lessons in church, the demands of modern masculinity and his next stop, Paris.
TROY COSTA may have some of the most powerful men in the country wearing his suits, but when it comes to building a legacy (a current obsession, it appears), he banks on faith. After all, he has survived the odds and come a long way from his beginnings as a poor tailor in the fishing village of Chimbai in Bandra.
Wearing his Catholic roots and outsider status as a badge of honour, he recalls how more than 20 years of pattern cutting with different ‘masters’ has made him more than ready for VVIP clients like Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When that life-changing call came, back in 2014, to design Modi’s suits for his maiden US visit, Costa’s clientele already included an assortment of famous people —actors, sportsmen and corporate moghuls. But the prime minister’s order made him famous in the far reaches of the country. “Who is Troy Costa?” screamed newspaper headlines. There were accounts of his fine reputation as a tuxedo specialist, how he had dropped his womenswear line a few years earlier to concentrate on menswear, and why he had set up a flagship store in a bungalow in Khar, with luxe trappings like “a fish pond and huge verandah”. It soon became evident that here was a quintessential man of style who understood the anatomy of the suit and its role as armour, irrespective of physical shortcomings. Designing for long-time clients like the well-built actor Hrithik Roshan was a breeze, yet there were others like the unconventional Nawazuddin Siddiqui who benefited from the Troy Costa makeover and went on to cover leading men’s magazines.
It is a habit Costa is not willing to give up—to elevate regular men with a well-cut, exquisitely detailed suit. In March this year, he got Pro Kabaddi League players to showcase his collection of black two-button suits at the Amazon India Fashion Week. It was at the finale that featured seven other well-known names like Rajesh Pratap Singh, Rohit Bal and JJ Valaya. “Everybody was fighting for the best models and I knew I didn’t stand a chance. So I had a chat with a group of kabaddi players I had styled earlier for GQ. It was just an idea, but it ended up being the most talked-about show,” he recalls. Clearly, getting the players to be comfortable in a tuxedo was a challenge. “They had never worn formal shoes before. But they knew how to win. I told them, ‘walk on the runway as if you are walking into a fight.’ It is an aggressive sport after all. They marched toward the seated media, chests forward, full of confidence. It was a huge hit.”
Of many parts
It is an approach you would expect from a man who is not afraid to be emotional. Whose slovenly handwriting was beaten out of him by his alcoholic father, till he went on to win handwriting competitions in Marathi for two years in a row (“I was the only Catholic in the room!”). And who developed his design aesthetic while observing Sunday worshippers in their suits from his vantage point as an altar boy (“they came in their best suits, often repurposed from older suits and British era fabrics”). A young Costa also jived and earned spending money of Rs 501 each time he won a dance competition organised by the church. Incidentally, he met his future wife at one of these dances.
His attention to detail was honed to a surprising degree during apprenticeships with local tailors who specialised in sherwanis and suits. And business tips were shared generously by many he had befriended. “I love chatting with much older people and one of them, a successful retailer, applauded my long work hours and advised me on the benefits of living very close to the workplace.” It is no surprise that Costa is the first at his store, to do fittings himself, and is the last to leave, at 10 pm. Later, after his family of four—wife, two daughters and a toddler son—retire for the night, he gets to ‘designer work’ till the early hours. “I love what I am doing. I am convinced that my journey has a larger purpose. So I am going to plough the land like a farmer and let God decide when it should rain,” he adds, solemnly.
The turning point in Costa’s life, he remembers, came after his mother passed on a few years ago. “I believe she is my guardian angel, watching over me,” he insists. One big break was convincing Didier Grumbach, then-president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, and others to give him a calendar slot at the prestigious menswear week in Paris. “When they politely dismissed me at the interview in typical fashion, I appealed, ‘won’t you judge me for my product, not the colour of my skin or nationality?’ They immediately apologised and interviewed me for over two hours! They loved my story, my fishing village background, and likened it to design duo Dolce and Gabbana’s or Chanel’s beginnings.” Plans are underway at Troy Costa to expand, to showcase at Mens Fashion Week in Paris next year, and to build an affordable brand named after his 15-month-old son, Cruz Troy Costa. He wants stores across India, Sri Lanka and Dubai, and to manufacture in Turkey, Vietnam and China.
Tailor of Bandora
“The next step is Paris, but I want to get it right,” he shares, well aware that getting his name known in the mecca of fashion would take at least four years. “With Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1 crore per season, I would have to spend rupees two crore a year. I don’t have that kind of money to waste, but let’s see,” he adds optimistically. Till then, there is his work with the Woolmark Company and its versatile Merino wool, that is getting him all the attention he deserves. Meanwhile, his signature double breasted windowpane checks suits, and handmade shoes continue to draw Bollywood fans and gentlemen with singular confidence like Saif Ali Khan and billionaire scion Akash Ambani. Costa, however, stays the same, shying away from parties, and from drinking and smoking, to spend his time working in his studio. “I bought the latest Audi this year but come to work in a Honda City. I take care of my father. I don’t want to change. I want my craft to be complex, but prefer to stay simple,” he concludes.
Anatomy of the suit
Well versed with international trends, Troy says jackets are getting shorter to accommodate shorter trousers. “They stop at the top curve of the shoe now, because the trousers are narrower and will not reach the mid heel. They make the legs look leaner and create a V, from the shoulders to ankle. ’’
Shoes and tie
‘‘The double breasted suit has come back, but in a new tailored, slimmer and sculpted avatar. These defined suits will also be seen next year,” he says. While Troy Costa bespoke suits, tuxedos and smoking jackets take anywhere from 120 hours to create, and cost Rs 75,000 to Rs 2,00,000, his store also stocks customised pocket squares, brogues and Double Monk Strap Toledo dual tone polish shoes made in Portugal.
By Rosella Stephen