by Suzanne Huntzinger | photos by Driss Hadria

Indianapolis is known more for the greatest spectacle in racing than it is for its fashion runways. But there’s a local fashion house that’s putting the Circle City on the fashion map.

Catou has been turning out chic head turning styles for nearly 20 years. Founded by top designer Berny Martin to outfit the professional set with custom business suits or “corporate uniforms,” as he calls them, the label has since grown to include four lines. The showroom in Carmel is like a hidden secret for the city’s fashion forward set. Spend just five minutes there and you’ll feel like you’re in a New York City fashion house.

The showroom continues to feature its flagship line of custom-tailored business suits for men and women, complete with dress shirts, ties and scarves, and other accessories. Now, Catou has expanded to offer a women’s fashion line, wedding and formal wear, and casual wear. It’s no surprise that Martin’s label has become so successful since he’s no stranger to the catwalk, but his path has held some unexpected turns.

His grandmother, for whom Catou is named, introduced him to sewing, but he pursued a Computer Engineering degree at Purdue University. Fashion was the farthest thing from his mind. Then during the summer before his senior year at the university, everything changed.

Martin’s friends from Brooklyn, New York came to visit, thinking their friend was living a miserable life, far away from the excitement of New York. His friends, who were involved in the entertainment industry, came up with the idea to put together a fashion show. “It was just an experiment. It wasn’t my idea, but I went along with it. We made lots of mistakes, and I feel like I’m still correcting my mistakes,” Martin says.

The friends from Brooklyn returned to their home, and Martin was left to plan the fashion show alone. So, with some funding from student loans, a group of people willing to model, a runway at Fletcher Point and the help of an alterations service to sew the outfits, the stage was set for his first fashion show. Only 22 guests attended, but the event planted the seed for what would later become an internationally acclaimed clothing brand.

Martin graduated from Purdue and began working, but soon realized where his true passion was. So, he returned to New York City to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. With solid training under his belt, he returned to Indianapolis, and began to put together another fashion show.

With persistence and creativity, Martin set out to build a label that reflected an appeal to the conservative dresser but progressive enough to set trends. He not only set trends, but he also became an acclaimed designer and founded the Midwest Fashion Week. Martin’s Catou designs can be found on the runways of international fashion shows as well. Top celebrities sporting Catou include Tom Payne of Walking Dead, Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory, and actor Billy Porter, who broke Yahoo News records with his picture in Vogue Magazine sporting Catou.

For folks who are beginners to the fashion world, Martin has some advice. “Build your wardrobe with a lot of bright, vibrant colors in your palette,” he says, “Use hints of oranges, reds, greens and lavenders, and you’ll have a good foundation.”

Whether you’re planning a visit to fashion hubs like New York City or just staying in Indianapolis, you can be runway ready in Catou. Visit the showroom by appointments only at 600 East Carmel Drive, Suite 245 in Carmel, or go to