IT’S A SUIT ONLY IF IT SUITS YOU: RATNARAAZ
Mr. Raaz is showing me the various designs the brand has come up with. He pulls out a beautiful grey double breasted jacket and my immediate reaction is “oh that’s cool.”
“Do you see the details?” He quizzes me.
“Yeah, the lapels are super wide.”
“No, you’re not looking hard enough.”
“No, see, the lapels, they’re peaked, as well as notched. Some days you can just wear it as is as a peak, other days, if you’re not feeling it, just flip the two back and you have a notch lapel jacket.” It was this moment that I realized how Ratna Raaz is taking the men’s wear game to the next level. See, men’s fashion is deemed to be a limited playing field. Street wear is taking off and androgynous looks are becoming, but when it comes to suits and formals, this bit is painfully true. There is only so much one can do with colorful socks and weird tie knots. And seeing this kind of innovation is refreshing as well as optimistic.
Ratna Raaz was started two years ago by Mr. Rajeshwor Raaz Shrestha and Mr. Prashraya Ratna Tuladhar. And by taking their full names, the reason behind the brand’s name is apparent. With one fact aside, the following conversation is a snapshot into what the suiting initiative is all about.
GIVE US A PROLOGUE. WHAT WAS THERE BEFORE RATNA RAAZ CAME TO BE?
When he came back from Australia, Rajeshwor was working as the brand manager at Skechers and Nike and the marketing was handled by Ads Market, Where Prashraya is Co-Founder and Creative Director. We had only talked to one another through email and had met formally to clarify key details of campaigns and the sort. It was only during Prashraya’s cousin, Bipashi Tuladhar, who introduced them to one another and things just took off from there. We found ourselves to be compatible and enjoying each other’s company and just bonded ourselves into a brotherhood. People have actually mistaken us for being actual brothers. We’re that close.
AND HOW DID THE IDEA OF RATNA RAAZ COME TO BE?
Most of it comes from Rajeshwor. And most of what he has comes from his dad. He grew up seeing his father in suits all the time and aspired to be as sharp as him. When he went on to Australia for his studies and worked at Hugo Boss and Armani, this fascination of his just amplified. Prashraya with his brand marketing and advertising background and sheer passion of men’s styling and suits, creating a luxury brand with both of their middle names combined started making more sense and thus the business module was developed. This love affair with suits evolved into the luxury brand and studio you see today.
SPEAKING OF THE STUDIO, THIS IS A WEIRD LOCATION. WHY IS IT SO FAR INSIDE IN A PLACE LIKE DURBARMARG? WOULDN’T YOU GUYS BENEFIT OUT ALONG THE MAIN STREET WHERE PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU?
We had thought of that but we decided against it. And we have thought a lot about the way our studio actually is. If you look around, you can see that you can’t see anything. There are no walls of fabric nor elaborate art pieces to distract you. And that distraction is what we want to eliminate. See, when you get an appointment with us, you come in not just to be measured up, but interviewed. We want to know who you are, what you do, what your lifestyle is like, what sort of events you attend, what sort of event you are going to with the suit, and then only talk about the suit, all because the one we make for you is the one for you.
THIS ALL SOUNDS INTENSIVE AND HIGHLY DETAILED AND I’D IMAGINE THAT YOU WOULDN’T WANT ANYONE WALKING IN ON YOU AS YOU DO ALL OF THIS?
Precisely. We want the least bit of distraction.
THIS LOCATION MAKES A WHOLE LOT OF SENSE NOW. WITH THAT BEING SAID, WHERE DO YOU THINK THE SUIT STANDS IN OUR NEPALESE CONTEXT?
When we put ourselves against the international market, we realize that we have a lot to learn. We’ve seen it prevalent in so many, regardless of how long they’ve been wearing it, regardless of how it’s their first suit, regardless of how they own a hundred suits. They do it sinfully wrong. We’ve come to learn that this is all due a lack of knowledge. We don’t know how our body is shaped, how our posture is, how we walk, how their skin’s shaded, and how all of these contribute to what looks good on us.
We have a long way to go. And to help it be a bit swifter, we’ve come into existence.
AND AS A BUSINESS, HOW DO YOU FIND THE WHOLE FASHION INDUSTRY OF OURS?
We would repeat the same answer; Nepal has a long way to go. You see, there are three things playing here, one is fashion, one is trend, and the other is the following. Fashion, trend, and follower. There is someone creating the fashion, there are people who are making it the trend, and there are people who follow them. And what we have in our country are followers. We hardly see designers and houses coming up with their own ideas and craft. Yes, there are a few that are doing their own, but they are on the handful only. That number needs to, and will, go up. We are catching up, slowly, but we are.
I GUESS THIS GOES TO SHOW HOW PRIMITIVE WE ARE WHEN IN COMES TO FASHION. HAS THIS POSED AS A HINDRANCE TO YOU?
For that, let’s jump back to 8 years ago. As soon as Rajeshwor returned from Australia, he wanted to make a tuxedo. And he wanted it to be impeccable. He had already experienced the top sensations of Boss and Armani, so he was not ready to settle for less. He knew his fabric, his cuts, his aesthetics, but they didn’t. He went to a number of tailors here in Kathmandu and they didn’t even know what a tux was!
This proved as a challenge as he was looking for something that didn’t even exists. Thus, he had the notion to start his own gig that’s a business as well as an education. There’s only so many’s tie and pocket square we can fix after all. Then again, we did get told off when we tried to fix them up when we started out.
HOW DID YOU COME TO CONVINCE THEM THEN?
We knew what we were, and are, talking about. What we do is put the bad thing next to the good one and what’s to be noticed will not go unnoticed. One may deny it at first, but when they try it on, it’s apparent. Salt will look like sugar until you try it.
SO WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THIS SORT OF EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT?
This all comes down to these similar sounding words: know, and no. If you ‘know’, you will never get a ‘no’ from anybody. But if you ‘no’ then there is always a ‘no’. So knowing is always good. Education is always good. Not only in fashion or in suits, if you just ‘know’, there will be a less chance for getting a ‘no’.
“If you ‘know’, you will never get a ‘no’ from anybody. But if you ‘no’ then there is always a ‘no’. So knowing is always good.”
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR RATNA RAZZ?
We wouldn’t say we’ll be growing massively as a business, nor would we say a lot of people would be wearing us. However, whoever wears us will definitely look good and be proud. In terms of business, we will be launching our new Corporate Suit line in a few months, and it will be completely exclusive. We intend to grow like that. What we want for ourselves is that when people see our names, we want them to feel like wearing our collections. Afterall, Ratna Raaz is not a need, it’s a feeling.
FINALLY, GIVE US A CONCLUSION.
Prashraya likes to put it gently: It’s a suit only if it suits you. Rajeshwor’s a bit aggressive: if it doesn’t suit you, it’s not a suit.
Interviewed by Nirveek PPJ Shah Photographed by Gaurav Xhompante Sunuwar