“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
This statement has been repeated for generations, but people still use it because of the truth it imparts.
Mamadou “Ben” Diallo wants every man to be able to make a good first impression, whether he is meeting a potential employer, networking among professional peers or presenting a favorable image to that special lady.
That is one reason why Diallo, a clothing designer and entrepreneur, operates J. Benzal, a men’s boutique located near downtown.
“If you’re looking for something stylish and affordable, you should check out this store,” Diallo said. “When you buy a suit, we do the alterations and everything complimentary, because I want my customers to look good.”
Diallo’s store is stocked exclusively with merchandise sold under the J. Benzal label. The name of the clothing line comes from Diallo’s nickname (Ben) and the names of two friends, who have worked with him in the industry.
Diallo creates the designs for J. Benzal suits, then sends those designs to companies in Europe and Asia that manufacture the suits.
J. Benzal suits are known for their bold, stylish designs, fine details such as stitching on the lapels and rich colors. Diallo has been inspired by designs from Europe, particularly those from Italy, which utilize quality fabrics and stylish cuts.
Diallo was born in the West African nation of Guinea, and developed an interest in fashion as a child after always seeing his uncle, a businessman, dressed. He studied the textiles business in Morocco and Togo before moving to New York City to participate in its fashion scene.
“I’ve always loved fashions, and being from Africa sometimes it would be 90 degrees outside, but I would see someone wearing a three-piece suit,” Diallo said. “People just love to dress up if they can afford it.”
Diallo desired a college education, and came to Indianapolis after friends told him about Butler University, where he graduated with a degree in telecommunications and business.
Diallo also met his wife while studying at Butler, and then returned to New York. However, after the couple had their first child, they decided to move back to Indianapolis, citing it as a better place to raise a family.
As much as Diallo liked the Circle City, he had one major problem with it: He could not find a place to purchase the kind of clothes he liked.
“I had to go to Chicago or New York to get what I wanted,” he said. “That’s when I decided to start my own clothing label and store.”
When Diallo opened J. Benzal in January of 2009, the nation was in the worst phase of its recent recession, but he decided to push ahead.
“I had plans to open the store before the problems with the economy began, so I decided to go through with it. I knew that if I could make it through a recession, I could survive anything,” said Diallo. “Fortunately, sales have been good and I’m happy about the way things are going in the store.”
Still, the business owner would like to see more sales, and has considered a variety of options to make J. Benzal not just a local fashion oasis, but a national cultural phenomenon.
“The long-term goal is to get into a high end department store such as Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, expanding into new markets and opening stores in other cities,” he said. “We have some great products that most people will appreciate.”
Check it out!
What: J. Benzal
Location: 739 Massachusetts Ave.
Merchandise: Men’s apparel and accessories
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information: Call (317) 222-1216 or visit www.jbenzal.com.
Quick fashion tips for guys
n Make sure clothes fit, hugging the curves of your body without being tight.
n Wearing a full suit for a meeting can make the right first impression.
n Never wear jeans or sneakers to work.
n Invest in a very good pair of shoes.
n An undershirt is meant to be “under” a dress shirt or sweater. Do not wear a wife beater, v-neck, or crew-neck undershirt by itself with jeans.
n Ties should be worn more. Experiment with unconventional color and designs.
n Use the same brand of after-shave and cologne. Your fragrance lasts longer.
n Dark colored pants will make you look taller and thinner.