Chennai: The traditional textile district of Paris, the Sentier district, nicknamed Silicon Sentier for the many Internet companies and start-ups that have settled in the area, is not far from the Louvre. The streets are full of smartly-dressed people. For Jonas & Cie, the location couldn’t be better for attracting customers.
Laurent Touboul, the owner of Jonas & Cie, was already waiting for me; we had an appointment. The entrance area is lined with trophy photos of famous personalities in chic tailored suits. French President Emmanuel Macron has been a regular customer since 2016. “Many of our customers are ministers,” Laurent said, adding that he also caters to actors, singers, presenters and other public figures. The company has been offering suits at comparatively low prices since 1984.
Macron first approached Laurent when he was economy minister under President Francois Hollande. “One of his employees, a long-time customer of mine, contacted me back then and asked if I could dress his boss,” Laurent says. “With pleasure. I told him.” The fact that Macron turned to a tailor the French would regard as moderately priced was a political move. The media paid close attention to politicians’ lifestyles ahead of the 2017 presidential election.
Macron’s strongest opponent, Francois Fillon, who for months was considered a favourite for the office, stumbled into a corruption scandal that also involved his expensive suits. “Journalists widely reported on Fillon’s suits during the 2017 election campaign, comparing them to Macron’s suits,” says Laurent Touboul, who remembers that even then, Macron bought suits at his store for less than 400 euros ($427).
“Fillon’s suits were many times more expensive,” he says, which paid off for Macron. Former presidents including Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac and Giscard d’Estaing spent a lot of money on suits. Today, however, it would be fatal for a politician to buy overpriced suits, Laurent said. Many French people have trouble paying their bills at the end of the month, he said, arguing that when people “see a president or a minister spend 5,000 or 10,000 euros on a suit, they say, ‘That’s impossible! That’s not reasonable. That’s not decent.’” People nowadays condemn such behaviour, he said.
According to men’s magazine GQ, business suits can be had for as little as 100 euros ($106), but customers will have to compromise on the quality of the stitches, material and so on. For a tailored suit, men in Europe shell out anywhere between 200-500 euros ($211- 527) for independent suitmakers and designer labels increasingly looking to sell quality products at lower prices. As far as prices for tailored suits from established designers are concerned, the sky is the limit.
Macron is very sociable during fittings, Laurent said. He has few extra wishes and is open to suggestions. But Laurent usually has to give in on one question of style, and that is the choice of colour. “The president very often wears navy blue suits, with a navy blue tie and black shoes. That’s a bit of the code of politicians and young people entering the workforce, in banks, in finance, in auditing.”
Navy blue is a trendy colour, Laurent said. “Seven out of ten suits we sell are navy blue.” Macron also wore a navy blue suit on the evening of the presidential election. The tailor hopes the re-elected president “can continue his work with boldly and successfully.”