Imperial couriers and the art of casual dressing
By Ayesha Singh
23rd September 2012 12:00 AM
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Herodotus, 500 B.C.
One fine day, Joe Middleton had an epiphany. If Rihanna can pay more than $10,000 to her stylist, why not something affordable for men who do not have a personal stylist? And for those who do not have the time to visit or consult one, or live in jungles of Borneo or the savannah of Africa, why can’t the mountain go to Mahomet?
Thus Chapar came into being: an online personal stylist who will put a man’s look together for him, source the clothes and courier it straight within days. The Chapar were the legendary couriers in history.
As the Persian empire gradually expanded over the 4th century to rule large swathes of the world, Emperor Cyrus the Great decided he needed couriers to deliver secret messages to its far-flung outposts. He established the chapar system: long-distance, high-speed horseback couriers who carried imperial documents. Darius expanded the role of chapars as royal couriers who carried all confidential documents and decrees throughout the empire. The couriers travelled along the 2,500-km Silk Route between ancient Sardis to Susa, stopping at various “Chapar Khaneh”—tents that finally evolved to proper stations—after rides that could last 48 hours non-stop. In a way, the chapars were the most frequent flyers on horseback, establishing what was to become the most important trading route between China and Europe. It took extraordinary skill and courage to be a chapar since those were dangerous times and even imperial representatives were not immune to bad weather, bandits and enemy soldiers.
Sixteen centuries later, today couriers do not face greater dangers than a delayed flight. The company Middleton founded was based on the simple principle that every customer’s wish is treated like an imperial decree, and delivery of his needs had to be done post haste. It is also based on the somewhat underlying principle that men do not like to shop, but as Internet shopping and boutiques are changing purchasing modes, Middleton zeroed in on a simple concept— a members-only ‘personal styling service for men’. The process to become a Chapar client is as follows: First join as a member. (www.thechapar.com/register). Chapar will give you a personal stylist, who will do an online ‘style profiling’ or over the phone. A half an hour chat later, the stylist will then create a ‘look’ from clothes tailored accordingly from brands they stock—classic to modern: Albam, BD Baggies, Brooks Brothers, Chucs, Dockers, Emmett, Henri Lloyd, Hentsch Man, Pantherella and more—premium shopping similar to “House of Fraser, John Lewis or Selfridges”. The Continental look is frowned upon. Chapar will deliver a trunk with the ensembles to your home or office as desired. Within 10 days, you have to choose those you like the best. Chapar will send their courier to pick up the clothes you don’t want. You pay only for what you keep. The Chapar trunks normally contain around 10 garments, though this number may vary according to your stylists’s choice. The Chapar recommends ordering a trunk every four months to stay updated according to styles of the season.
All of the Chapar’s personal stylists are chosen for their vast industry experience as personal shoppers or fashion journalists and stylists. If you are in London, you can be meeting your stylist as Starbucks. The stylist almost courts your biography, learning about your personal style—favourite styles, current favourite brands, about your lifestyle and preferences—thus slowly building up an image of you in his or her mind. You need to know your measurements such as chest, waist, leg and collar. The stylist is also concerned with what you don’t like: are prints and patterns fine? Any colours you hate? Cuts or styles you think are unflattering or old-fashioned?
The Chapar lookbook is an extensive guide to various looks, created using the brands that are in their stock. The trunk that contains clothing ordered is a large white box with the Chapar logo on the front and lined with their trademark orange tissue paper, containing clothes presented and packed aesthetically. In case a size is too large or too small, you can request a required fit. The Chapar does not cater to the formally clothed, “for the time being”, sticking to what they “know best and that is casual wear”—essentially weekend and evening wear.
The USP of the Chapar is that the stylist comes free, and you get the expertise that will keep your wardrobe updated. The fashion novice can start with the basics and build on it by ordering more elaborate trunks. The fashionista can shop for what’s au courant trendy. The classic look—simply shorts and a T-shirt or polo shirt teamed with bright white sneakers, pumps or espadrilles—gives a relaxed vibe. Geek chic needs many accessories to get the package right. A button-down shirt in either a pale shade of pink or blue or one with pinstripes is tucked into chino shorts, in a shade brighter than the short. Glasses are cool with this look and shoes here, too, can be sneakers, Pumps, Espadrilles, boat shoes or boots. The Chapar stylists know that no matter how expensive or trendy clothes are ordered, if the fit is bad, the result is a total spoiler.
Blazers should fit your torso snugly, following the body’s natural silhouette; but not so tight that you have to draw your breath in to button up. Tweed and corduroy blazers have made a big comeback.
The service is only available in London. So, it’s better to have an online chat first before ordering.
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