How did Row-G start?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada where I attended the International Academy of Merchandising and Design. In the late 1990’s, I returned to South Africa and showed my first Row-G woman’s ready-to-wear collection at SA Fashion Week. The Row-G label quickly earned a reputation for cutting edge design and trailblazing South African fashion, along with my peers: Black Coffee and Stoned Cherrie, who launched at around the same time. I later diversified into menswear. Along with my brother, Shaheed, who is the CEO, I want to consolidate the main pillars of our brand: knowledge, innovation and excellence, all supported by a close-knit family foundation.
Why did you choose bespoke suiting?
I wanted to create a good suit that fitted perfectly. My jackets alone consists of over 80 pieces and require over 100 stages to complete. Each of our suits are individually hand-cut, and finished by cutters and tailors.
Time and experience have become the new luxury. Do you feel this is why men come to you for a custom suit?
In a world of disposable everything, experience plays a huge role in any brands offering, coupled with impeccable craftsmanship and a progressive design philosophy. Experience is a key word here, and it doesn’t just start in the store. Millions of Rands are spent on research & development, and the training and nurturing of the best craftsmen. Hundreds of hours are spent, and a thousand decisions are made, before we launch a new garment.
It’s important to tell this story to our clients, which is why the experience of Row-G begins long before customers enter our showroom. The client has been exposed to our brand for a longer time period than the showroom, and when they finally arrive, we manifest everything they have heard about us through knowledge, design and personalized service. Every member of the Row-G family – from the cleaners to craftsmen, sales ambassadors and technical consultants – are all trained around our brand philosophy. In a world of disposable everything, experience and craftsmanship are paramount.
Your tailors must be true craftsmen, do you struggle to find staff in South Africa?
It was certainly a challenge at first. Finding staff was not necessarily the problem, but finding trained and skilled craftsmen that could produce to our level was. We overcame this in two ways. Firstly, we hold regular ‘Master’Classes’ for all our staff where we bring in a guest master tailor form Italy or the UK to tutor on a specific technique. Secondly, we’ve launched the Row-G Tailoring Academy, still very informal at this stage, but used to train machinists and sewers. Its a win-win situation because students that graduate with flying colours from the academy are offered a position
Many people call clothing works of art, would you agree with this?
I wouldn’t purely call it a work of art. Art has no function other than an emotional resonance with the owner. Our clothes, while certainly containing artistry, are more focused on function. Hence our recent collaboration with the well-known artist Tamara de Lempicka and our ‘Artists and Artisans’ slogan. We are not the same as artists but are inextricably intertwined.
On the couch with Rahim Rawjee:
The well dressed man ….is one who carries chivalry and confidence as their accessories. The hardest part of a man’s wardrobe to get exactly right is …fit. If I could, I would bottle …reverence for life. My dream project would be …A made-to-measure womenswear range, leather goods and made-to-measure shoes. These are all in the pipeline! Oh, and a boutique hotel at Quince Street Lofts – coming soon. My favourite gadget is …my cell phone. The best design advice I’ve ever received is …design means nothing without craftsmanship, quality, attention to detail and flawless execution. My biggest pet peeve is …believing you are the only one on the planet. If I could live in another era in fashion, I would choose …I wouldn’t change a thing. Right here right now. We already get to gleen ideas from every fashion era that ever was. Everyday I wear …moisturizer and sunblock. I start my day with …gratitude.