Suits you, Sir: the wonderful world of Mr Raja Daswani

Hong Kong tailor, Raja Daswani, always makes for an interesting discussion point at my copywriting seminars. I treasure an advertisement I found a year or two ago, in which he announces a visit to the UK and reassures lady readers that the men in their lives can be transformed through the purchase of bespoke suit. The language is curiously olde worlde and colourful, with phrases such as “fear not” and “significant other” making an appearance. At one level, I produce the ad as an ice-breaker, to demonstrate how quirky and idiosyncratic copy can actually be. The initial reaction of most students is to assume that Daswani is simply an eccentric and rather immodest businessman from Kowloon, whose grasp of English idiom comes from a formal schooling in a bygone era. Perhaps that’s true. But over time, I admit that I am beginning to doubt this rather simplistic explanation. Could it be that Daswani is simply very clever in his application of advertising creativity? Is it possible that he – or those who advise him – realise that the more exotic and foreign he sounds, the greater the chance that customers will take an interest? It’s his very eccentricity that provides his unique selling proposition.

A recent advertisement in The Sunday Times seems to confirm my theory. “Would you rather pay the same sum for a single, off-the-peg, chain store suit cut by a computer or sold to you by a spotty boy who thinks side vents are to be found on a Lambretta scooter, or for two bespoke, custom cut, hand-stitched suits, measured and sold to you by a man for whom suits are a lifetime passion?” That’s a sentence and a half. It produces serious green wavy lines in the Microsoft Word grammar checker, as I prepare this blog entry. Not the kind of English easily constructed by a man who was schooled in strict rules of grammar forty years ago. More the kind produced by someone who’s trying deliberately setting out to create a piece of copy that is exotic, amusing and memorable.

By the time you head towards the end of the ad, you get a sense of a man who is having some fun with the newspaper’s readers. Daswani promises customers “the full Kowloon monty” and finishes with a real flourish. “It now remains to see whether the Raja revolution, with its inspired mix of artistic flair, entrepreneurial genius and digital technology, will see the end of the off-the-peg British chain store suit. On price alone, it’s a sartorial solution that will even please the Suits in accounts.” The suits in accounts? Suddenly, we have a level of colloquialism and wordplay that even many native British writers would find hard to match.

A quick web search reveals that Daswani is not only the chosen tailor of a number of British celebrities, but also running a highly profitable business. This kind of success almost certainly comes from nous, rather than naiveté.

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is an advertising creative director and lecturer.