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The Boston Globe

Style

Suhail Kwatra outfits Boston’s stylish socialites

Suhail Kwatra with Tiffany Ortiz.

Joanne Rathe/GLOBE STAFF

Suhail Kwatra showed a selection of dresses to Tiffany Ortiz for her to choose from to wear to the Sundance Film Festival.

WESTWOOD — There was no need to knock.

Dressed head-to-toe in tailored black, and with a well-stocked garment bag in hand, Suhail Kwatra walked up to the stylish modern home. The front door opened well before the slender salesman could reach the steps.

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Handing the bag to his personal assistant, Kwatra leaned in for double cheek air kiss with his beaming client, Sinesia Karol, a Brazilian transplant and swimwear designer who was in search of something to wear to a friend’s 40th birthday party.

“Hi honey, how are you? How was your trip?” Kwatra asked, stepping into the foyer.

Open doors and open arms are typical for Kwatra, the top salesman for Saks Fifth Avenue’s Prudential Center store. The 31-year-old generated sales in the seven-figure range last year by making personal, high-fashion house calls to top clients at their suburban manses, luxury Back Bay townhouses, or suites at the Mandarin Oriental. Clothing, shoes, accessories — he brings it all, helping his clients decide on the best looks.

“It’s an experience I want to deliver,” said Kwatra, whose big brown eyes and effervescent personality charm his clientele. “That’s why they come to me. You should see my folder. I have the name of the dog, what biscuit they like, what wine the women drink. There’s so much homework and research.”

In addition to Karol, client visits last week included a date with Tiffany Ortiz in Weston where the wife of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz was on the hunt for a dress to wear to the Sundance Film Festival this weekend in Park City, Utah.

‘I have the name of the dog, what biscuit they like, what wine the women drink. There’s so much homework and research.’

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After setting up two portable clothing racks in the Ortiz family room, Kwatra, his assistant Bianca R. Carney, and Ortiz began examining the possibilities.

“I just want to be warm,” Ortiz said. “Practical more than fashionable.”

The mother of three gave a quick “no” to a black and white Pucci dress with a few too many jewels. She then slipped into a red neoprene cocktail dress by Cushnie et Ochs before declaring it “too domestic.”

“This is sexy. Who is this?” Ortiz asked, holding up a body-skimming forest green dress with black piping.

“Stella McCartney,” Kwatra purred. “I love it.”

Ortiz zipped it up and agreed.

“I feel like a bad ass,” she said. “Whatever he puts me in, there’s a certain mood that comes out. I feel powerful.”

Ortiz, who met Kwatra at a Red Sox Foundation fashion show three years ago, enjoys working with him because he forces her to be more adventurous.

“I’m one of the best examples of his work. Without him, I’d be in flannel for most occasions,” she said.

Finally, Ortiz declared a winner: a white knit Alexander McQueen dress and a midnight leather jacket by The Row.

“Success!” she said, handing the pieces to Kwatra, who, in turn, handed them to Carney to write up the sales receipt.

“I still can’t believe I get paid for this,” said Carney, who has been working for Kwatra since October. “These women love him. It’s almost like therapy for them.”

Indeed, some might call him a therapist. Breanna Kirk, a neighbor of Ortiz, thinks of Kwatra more as a “consigliere” to Boston women. The Weston mom has shopped with Kwatra only once — last fall when she needed a gown for Massachusetts General Hospital’s Storybook Ball.

In truth, Kirk was more nervous about meeting the celebrated salesman than finding the right frock. “What does one wear to go meet Suhail?”

Once over her jitters, Kirk suggested Dolce & Gabbana, but Kwatra worried too many other gala guests would be wearing the sexy Italian label.

“He said, ‘You’ll see yourself coming and going,’” she remembered. “He knows what the room will look like.”

That kind of vision has been second nature to Kwatra since childhood when his fashion career began. He grew up in India where his family runs a wholesale apparel company in New Delhi.

“My father would take me to trade shows when I was little, and he’d let me pick sample sets,” he recalled. “I’d go to hotel rooms to meet with buyers. That’s how it started.”

When he was 16, his family moved to Weston, but they returned to India shortly thereafter. Kwatra came back to study economics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, but started working at French Connection on Newbury Street after graduating in 2005. A job in Saks’ contemporary department soon followed, and the company transferred him to its Fifth Avenue store when he decided to attend Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

He returned to Boston in 2008 as brand ambassador for Dolce & Gabbana in Saks’ designer department, and recalled the sale that launched his career into overdrive. A woman, not a regular Saks customer, called in search of a coat by the Dutch label Pauw.

“I said, ‘This is what I would put together with it.’ She said, ‘What else do you have?’ I was walking her over the floor on the phone. It turned out to be a huge sale, about $50,000,” he said.

That relationship endures still, and it taught Kwatra the value of customer service. He started seeking out special pieces, even ones Saks didn’t carry in Boston. Word of mouth spread and his client list lengthened. In August 2012, he styled his first major production, a charity fashion show on Nantucket for Berkshire Hills Music Academy. His “girls,” as he affectionately refers to his clients, walked the runway, and Kwatra dressed them in outfits based on their personal tastes.

“We did $300,000 in two hours,” he said.

Gretchen Pace, general manager of Saks in Boston, said there’s no minimum to spend to work with Kwatra, but clients should expect a partnership that will “push the boundaries of your style.”

“You don’t need a Suhail to get you another size,” she said.

Kwatra said his goal is “to be No. 1 in the company,” though his father still wants him to return to India to run the family business. “It’s an Indian pride thing.”

His clients hope he stays around. Sinesia Karol, who has worked with Kwatra for almost a year, said the relationship transcends salesman and customer. At their appointment last week, Karol scooped up a pair of Givenchy leather pants, a pair of orange, black, and white python pumps by Christian Louboutin and a blue Givenchy envelope clutch.

The sale completed, Kwatra stayed to sip mimosas and planned a lunch date with Karol for this week. Going the extra mile, he said, is worth the trip.

“I’m not 9-to-6 and I’m done,” he said. “My job starts after work, really. That’s when you build that rapport.”

Karol noted his thoughtfulness knows no bounds — or time zones, for that matter. On a vacation to India last fall, Karol got a text message from one of Kwatra’s cousins.

“Before we knew it, she met us at an art gallery,” she said. “She took us to see two amazing fashion designers, and out to lunch. How fabulous is that?”

Jill Radsken can be reached at jill.radsken@gmail.com.
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