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Iganatious Joseph’s Journey to the East

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Mr Ignatious Joseph is a menswear veteran and entrepreneur who have been attending Pitti Uomo for over two decades with his signature red shoes and impeccable classic style with his own “twist”. After many years in the international hospitality business, Ignatious Joseph decided to pursue his passion for elegant menswear and established his shirt company Ign. Joseph more than two decades ago. A group of small and medium-sized artisanal enterprises in Italy are selected by Mr Joseph to make his ideal shirt, labouring at the junctions of craft and quality materials.

 

Born in Sri Lanka and based in Dusseldorf-Germany, Joseph is a globe trotter who travels between the West and the East constantly. Just returning from his latest journey to India, Mr Joseph shared with Agnes Select his thoughts about this journey to the East and his secret about travelling in style.

Journey to the East

Words: Iganatious Joseph

There are roads, lanes, and ways that take any attentive, ambitious or simply curious person by air, land or sea to the reaches, both far and near. The journey to the East or to the West begins in the soul and follows the sun or the stars. Every voyage only enriches when the spirit is free to absorb the lessons of movement from the familiar to the unfamiliar, thereby making it familiar, too. Perhaps it is a cliché that one has to travel afar to learn what is home.

After more than three decades of discovery, beginning in hospitality and arriving at the haberdashery, I launched my bark—in fact, I just got a plane ticket—and set sail—in fact, I slept most of the trip—to begin my re-exploration of the Middle, the space between silk and linen, between the fabric of my birthplace and the stitching that shaped my profession.

 

In the 16th century, a troupe of marvellous characters with a variety of talents and weaknesses combined to seek the essential wisdom of the West. Although they did not have Italy in mind, I undertook my own journey to the West, which brought me from the subcontinent guarded by the Alps and back to the continental landmass south of the Himalayas. Like those adventurers Wu Cheng’en described, I found myself in the most fantastic and curious situations.

 

On the one hand, I was searching for the sources of style, the sincerity of artisanal labour capable of creating and sustaining my desire for effortless elegance. On the other, there was the more mundane pilgrimage for the best curries in the vast Indian Union. I confess that I am not a conventionally religious man. However, it is impossible to travel from Mumbai to Chennai and be oblivious to the gods and faiths that drive everyday life. So in Mumbai, I kneeled before the kitchen gods and the deities responsible for the safety and well-being of those around me. 

The railroad was certainly not as miraculous as the flight of the Monkey King. However, the railroads were a remarkable link between the state’s complements, the tuk-tuks and rickshas that conveyed me from door to door and hotel to temple.

From Goa—where the Portuguese traces are still found, if well diluted, to Tamil Nadu, the centre of the Tamil culture that so strongly influenced my native land across the Palk Strait, to its capital, Chennai, I wandered on wheels rather than by foot. Everywhere I found mysteries I could not have penetrated in the short time available.

 

My journey to the East was as inspirational as that journey to the West—Wu Cheng’en’s and mine. I discovered that the source of style is always a relationship to where the sun also rises.

7 Questions about Traveling in Style

1. How do you pack your luggage for warm and humid destinations?

The first rule is to keep your kit to the minimum. Carrying also generates more sweat, and that means more changes. The great problem with hot and humid is that the heat doesn’t dry. Only air circulation will do. So don’t pack too much and leave lots of space for things to “breathe”.

2. What's the essential piece you must bring when travelling?

Common sense. It does not come in a jar, screw-top bottle or online. Paying attention to one’s real surroundings and not those little hand-held screens is also enormously helpful.

3. The colour palette of your wardrobe is rather vivid. How do you master the combinations, and do you always feel fearless in adopting bright and high-contrast colours for your look?

Most of the “South”, except perhaps a few places overrun by missionaries in the last two centuries, have always combined colours and patterns. Sometimes these had ritual or iconic aspects. However, they were not burdened by our religious and military uniformity. Objectively, conflicts arise in the West because of overdressing. If all you wear is a sarong or a sari, then there is little competition. Someone trying to combine shirt, tie, trousers, and jacket has far more work. Ultimately the solution starts with knowing for whom one is dressing and where one is.

4. What inspires you the most about this journey to India?

Five hundred years ago, India and China were the centres of the world economy. When I was growing up, Ceylon and India were colonial backwaters. Now I see what must have been the power of this country in the past. When giants wake…

5. India is known for its textile industry; do you find any style inspiration on the street?

I find style inspiration everywhere. Not every inspiration leads to creation. There is style everywhere in India for those who look.

6. While always been captured dressing in Western tailoring pieces, how do you balance the culture of your roots in the tailoring context?

By staying fit. I watch what I eat and drink and walk a lot. Staying trim means my tailors can work more easily when fitting my ideas into fine clothing.

7. What is your secret to travelling in style?

Discretion, discretion, discretion.

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