Sreejith Sreekumar would have been one among the many doctors pitching in to help the Covid-infected during the peak of the pandemic, if he had got an MBBS seat in the first allotment after the medical entrance examination in 2004. That did not happen.
But when the pandemic paralysed normal life and lockdowns became a way of life in 2020, Sreekumar was stitching together a menswear brand -- destiny had pitchforked him as a top fashion designer.
A native of Kollam, Sreekumar, 36, launched his menswear brand Giacca & Abito Sartoriale Fashion (G&A) in 2020 after quitting Raymond, where he was having his second stint.
In a short span, G&A, based in Kochi, has worked its way to be among major menswear brand players.
With a wide range of suits and blazers, G&A has become one of the top-tier menswear brands in Kerala, with over 100 counters in leading fashion retailers.
Fashion comes calling
Sreekumar had a rather surprising tryst with the fashion world as a teenager. He chose to apply for the NIFT course due to his interest in drawing.
It was a tough decision that irked many of his kin, but Grandma dear put her foot down to back him to pursue a passion -- fashion designing was hitherto unheard of a profession in family gatherings.
Armed with a bachelor's degree in fashion design from NIFT-Bengaluru and a Master's in Menswear from the Istituto Marangoni, Italy, Sreekumar started his career in 2008 with Raymond.
In 2014, Arvind Lifestyle Brands appointed him the Category Head of Arrow, their Premium Menswear Brand. In the meantime, he graduated from IIM Bangalore with a degree in General Management. Later, he received another invitation from Raymond as General Manager of the company's Park Avenue brand. He launched G&A after quitting Raymond after Covid struck.
“We started with "T the Brand", the idea behind which was to launch super-premium products at affordable prices. We started during the Covid time. When nobody was manufacturing, we thought let's go ahead and manufacture. We knew there will always be takers for quality products. At the time of Covid if it was a demand gap, we expected a supply gap later on. So when the market opened up we had the right products and we are ahead of probably all the old players in the segment. That gave us the initial leap,” Sreekumar told Onmanorama at his office located in Kochi's Vyttila.
Sreekumar always wanted his entrepreneurial initiatives to be rooted in Kerala.
“Whenever we talk about a brand, we remember the companies that were established at least a quarter of a century ago. The reality is that many businesses come and go in the menswear industry, with the quality and consistency generally poor. There are no successful suit and blazer brands from Kerala either. The creation of the new startup was inspired by these factors, along with recognising the competitive market.”
Now, G&A owns the "T the Brand" which caters to work wear segment and the "Bare Brown" brand for casual wear.
G&A's business strategy looks different from other startups in the field.
The company is not spending much on advertisements. It has also deliberately stayed away from discounting promotions and online trade. “By directly competing with top brands, G & A became well-known as an individual brand. This significantly contributed to an increase in its value and credibility,” its promoters say.
The brand also aims to ensure that every ordinary person has access to the best products without sacrificing quality. The dream is for G&A as a brand to become every man's habit, like a tasty cup of tea. It is from this notion that the brand of suits gets its name, "T".
The company also has a consultancy that provides expert assistance to apparel business aspirants. The Tea & Tailoring consultancy will handle the formulation of a brand, including its launch and operations. As it enters the next fiscal year, the company aims to generate Rs 20 crore in revenue. A new brand for ethnic wear is also in the pipeline. The brand has already established its presence in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar within a year.