Oscar Udeshi. / SUR

'I wanted a life to fill a novel, a movie with a prequel and sequel'

From working as an international banker to becoming a Savile Row-trained tailor, Oscar Udeshi speaks to SUR in English about a moment that changed his life and how he ended up in Marbella

ASH MAER

It's fair to say that Oscar has had a fairly colourful upbringing.

Born in 1974, his mother is Austrian and his father is from Zanzibar - but Oscar grew up in Hong Kong, which was still a British colony at the time.

But he also spent his holidays in Austria and Mumbai visiting relatives, giving him something of a unique outlook on life.

Speaking to SUR in English, Oscar, 47, who has both Austrian and British nationality, said: "Hong Kong back then was dynamic, entrepreneurial, and if you worked hard, you could achieve whatever you wanted. It had a "can do" attitude, nothing was impossible. It was also a culinary capital, with the freshest ingredients from all corners of the world, before overnight shipping existed. It made London look like a provincial town."

Oscar went on to study Economics (BSc) and Philosophy (MSc) at the London School of Economics, before moving into the world of finance, where he worked in London, New York and Frankfurt.

Car crash

But fate had other plans for Oscar, as at the age of 23 he nearly died in a car crash in Scotland.

He explained: "The car landed upside down and skidded on the roof for a few hundred feet. I remember the ambulance coming and taking me to the hospital and being told I was very lucky to be alive. Only when I saw the wreck the next day, did I realise how lucky I was. My life did not flash before my eyes, but what if it did? I only had a few thoughts go through my head. That was not enough. I wanted a life to fill a novel, a movie with a prequel and sequel, and have stories to tell my grandchildren.

"So, I quit banking, bought a one-way ticket to India and went to an ashram (a spiritual retreat) for a month. I found a list I made as an 18-year-old of all the places I wanted to go in the world and started on it. I went surfing in Hawaii, ran with the bulls in Pamplona, visited architect Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Chicago, lost money in Las Vegas at the roulette wheel and a few other things.

Trained to be a shirt maker

"I also realised I enjoyed creating things with my hands rather than sitting in front of computer screens at a desk. So, I trained to become a shirt maker under one of the last masters of Jermyn Street (an area in London known for gentlemen's fashion, especially bespoke shirts)."

Since then, Oscar has spent two decades as a tailor and designer - opening workshops in both Mayfair and Milan.

In 2002 he experienced the proudest moment of his life; he became the youngest menswear designer at Paris Men's Fashion Week at the age of 28, just three years after sketching his designs on the back of a napkin.

His life in the fashion world also saw him dressing famous faces such as English actor Gary Oldman.

As for what brought him to Marbella, Oscar continued: "I had lived on and off in London for 25 years. Brexit came, and in my heart, I am probably European first, and it was just time for a change. We were looking for somewhere warm, by the sea, with infrastructure in place such as a good airport, good restaurants, healthcare etc. and the Costa del Sol just comes out on top."

And since moving to Spain in 2017, Oscar hasn't put his feet up - he got married and had a daughter in 2018, opened a tailoring business this year (called Udeshi and based up near the Refugio de Juanar) and learned how to make a few Spanish dishes.

Asked how he felt when he first arrived on the Costa del Sol, the dad of one replied: "We were painting our house and I was in my shorts drinking a coffee and smoking a cigar outside in December looking out on to the sea. You cannot do that in London. We felt a sense of calm, and that we were in control of the pace of our lives, away from the rat race."

Collector of cigars

In his spare time, Oscar describes himself as a 'passionate' cigar collector.

He said: "It is almost like the Panini stickers of our youth where you try to collect as many different ones as possible. We also try to visit a different part of Andalucía on the weekends so we can see and appreciate the wonderful place we live in, and try the local specialities.

And as for his plans for the future, Oscar explained that he would like to travel more.

He added: "When the world is somewhat calmer, and one can travel more freely, I intend to visit my friends and relatives, the ones who actually made an effort to stay in touch, and eat my way around the world - depending on which restaurants have survived.

"As we haven't gone out to eat in a while - having a small child also does not help - I have no qualms about making the restaurant and dining experience a destination, even a pilgrimage. I have dreams of apple strudel and hot chocolate in a cosy cafe in snow covered Vienna, or a porterhouse steak at Peter Luger's in Brooklyn."

And as to whether he has any regrets so far in life, he continued: "Not really, as life will throw many things at you, it is how you deal with them at the time. As long as you do it with an open heart and the best of intentions and ability, then you have nothing to regret. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but you don't have that at the time."