Masters of Elegance: Ashish and Pawan Ishwar of Knights and Lords Dubai
In today’s world, technology seems to be getting the better of us. No matter where we turn, we are flooded with an endless barrage of multimedia that aims to deliver instant gratification, immediate gain and effortless results. No matter the product, we can get it fast. Technology is almost interfering in every market, robbing us of an experience that is no longer seen as valuable, and where the final picture is all that matters. Many of us feel that we are missing out on the process, the quality, and the meaning behind what we do. Yet others claim that technology is no threat. Enter Knights and Lords, the masters of bespoke suiting.
Created by two brothers, Pawan & Ashish Ishwar, who were raised in a family of tailors dating back four generations, Knights and Lords is a clothing brand committed to bringing back the elegant lifestyle of yesteryear. The family began their craft as tailors for British soldiers at a time when suits were essentially a battle dress or a military uniform. With time, the style slowly evolved to the lounge suit that we wear today, inspiring the brothers to learn the art of personalized bespoke tailoring. They accomplished this at none other than Savile Row in London, which has earned a reputation for being the best in bespoke tailoring using traditional methods, founded by tailor Henry Poole in the early 19th century.
On the first day of training, Ashish recounts that he was asked what he could do with his eyes closed. When the masters observed his method for buttonholes, they laughed. The brothers quickly realized that they would need to unlearn everything they ever knew and study each aspect of hand-crafted tailoring from scratch, before they could get to the cutting board. Ashish began as a button-maker, Pawan as the trouser under-cutter.
Once a student is ready to graduate from training in Savile Row, the master tailor instructs him to go out and spread your wings— to spread awareness of the craft to a place where there is no culture or heritage of craftsmanship and to give back to the world. This mission is based on the premise that craftsmanship builds respect for the wearer and creator of the garment (unlike mass produced garments) and the next generation needs to understand the meaning of respect, the importance of being a gentleman and the value of finely crafted items.
With this goal in mind, Dubai was an attractive and challenging location for the brothers to launch their brand. As a quickly developing city where bespoke tailoring was still relatively unknown, it offered the perfect platform to spread awareness about the craft and encourage others to value the traditional methods.
Their name Knights and Lords reflects the background and history of the brand. The brothers believe in the importance of developing the qualities of knights and lords of the past, and that today’s nobility is achieved by being better than your former self. Ashish and Pawan explain that to understand the value of bespoke, we must look at the earlier generations. No matter the challenges or victories of our forefathers, they were always well dressed and did everything with the utmost dignity and respect.
What is bespoke clothing? The word itself is derived from the verb bespeak, meaning to "speak for something"— to arrange for, engage beforehand: to 'order' (goods). Suiting is available in three categories known as Off-the-Rack, Made-to-Measure and Bespoke. Off-the-rack is factory made to standardized sizing that is purchased ‘as-is’, whereas made-to-measure is mass produced by machine and then adjusted to fit the wearer. In contrast, a bespoke suit is about the wearer, not the garment. It is custom-made to the client’s body, handcrafted with his personal preferences, down to the very last buttonhole. A bespoke garment must be made of natural fibers— shirts are cotton, and suits are wool, with silk, linen or cotton as needed.
Both the British and Italian have learnt their craft from Savile Row, and are regarded as the world leaders in bespoke. The traditional bespoke suit commands attention with its structured, form-fitting, close and narrow design, but the Italians have relaxed these guidelines to better reflect their culture and climate, making it less conservative. The military style has therefore become unstructured, with the invention of the drape cut and lounge suit which is more effortless and casual. An Italian bespoke suit is not very tight or form-fitting, has no lining and is more shirt-like: lightweight and casual, with soft shoulders.
Knights and Lords offers the best of both worlds by merging features of Italian styling with the timelessness of English tailoring in their suits, shirts, shoes, ties and accessories. Ashish and Pawan can’t come up with their favorite designer because they are not designing a fashion label and they don’t follow magazines or the latest trends; they craft to the individual’s personality. Their designs are created based on the 90-minute drafting session at which time they get to know their client through conversation. They say that they discover their customer’s personality based on the colors they gravitate to at the first meeting.
Knights and Lords’ clients hail from Britain, Italy, Germany, Lebanon and Jordan. Many start their journey with a very conservative approach and then slowly mature and ease their way into taking more risks. The client’s taste, family background, country and culture all play a part in the decision-making process.
The relationship between the tailor and client is unique and personal, and goes well beyond a business transaction. The brothers tell of a client who was a chronic smoker and excused himself from the drafting session every fifteen minutes for a smoke. Recognizing his severe addiction, the brothers created an internal pocket that was limited to five cigarettes. The customer loved the idea but explained that he needed the space for two packs— a request that the brothers declined to accommodate. After a few months, the customer returned, and proudly shared that he was down to five cigarettes a day. Ashish and Pawan can’t help but feel that they played a part in this change. With time they have learned that a handcrafted garment can bring about a deep dimensional shift in the person’s being. The changes are not always so apparent, but the adage “you are what you wear” certainly rings true.
The small exclusive niche of bespoke tailoring can be a challenge, but this is also part of its draw. Understandably, a garment that is hand-crafted and made by traditional methods is unable to have the reach of the volume of a mass-produced item. Also, in the bespoke tradition, the hands that measure you are the hands that cut the suit from start to finish. For these reasons, Bespoke tailoring lives on as a minority and to this very day, Henry Poole— among many other tailoring houses that are over 100 years old— have only one store. To date, Knights and Lords is the only Savile Row trained tailor in the entire Gulf region. The brothers explain that from a monetary perspective, it’s not very lucrative to shift bases from the Row to Dubai, because the commissions are considerably higher on Savile Row. They explain however, that in bespoke tailoring, the motivation for your craft must be the work itself— with their passion for it and their desire to spread awareness, they have no regrets.
While the brothers do make an active effort to market their brand, they say that they are relatively hidden, and clients need to want to find them (which seems to be the case). Knights and Lords is the address for a host of world renowned clients, the most famous being King Oyo of Uganda. The most expensive suit they have sold to date was upwards of $12,000, where the fabric itself was created especially for the client and weaved with the pinstripes of his name.
The brothers are hopeful about the future because they sense that there is a developing understanding about the value of bespoke. As with any collection (such as timepieces, cigars, leisure items, etc.), they have learnt that a real gentleman is not simply looking to spend money on his wardrobe, but views his purchases as an investment, to reflect parts of who he is. Shoppers are slowly moving away from the ever-changing fashion world, and paying closer attention to personal and permanent everlasting style.
Bespoke tailoring was developing long before technology entered the scene. While we cannot deny that technology is affecting our lives at a rapid pace, the centuries-old craft of bespoke seems to have what it takes to outlast any outside influence. Knights and Lords will continue their important work, as they proudly spread the message of timeless elegance until it is valued and respected the world over.
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