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Knot Standard For Men’s Tailoring

Looking good is part and parcel of UAE life for many of the almost 10 million people living here, increasingly so for men with a keen eye for sharp suits and designer shirts. But if you thought suits were just about fabric and buttons, think again. “We’re in the business of creating pride,” says Tarig El Sheikh, co-founder of bespoke tailoring company Knot Standard. “We monetise that by giving people access to great fitting, custom-made suits just for them. And we compress the value chain to allow sustainable pricing, so anybody can afford a quality suit.” Knot Standard, launched by a trio of partners in 2010, aims to change perceptions of what a suit is for the modern man. Based on the notion that quality, custom-made clothing should be – and can be – available to everybody, the company combines the personlised tailoring experience of old Dubai with luxurious tendencies of new Dubai. “We’re revolutionising and bringing into the 21st century one of the last things to bring into the 21st century – men’s tailoring,” continues El Sheikh. “Entrepreneurs are always looking to improve something, and that’s what we’re doing with Knot Standard. There are big improvements to make and we’re the people who are taking the lead in doing that.” According to El Sheikh the business came into being through “serendipitous events” which led him away from the business of finance that he had known for many years, and into completely new territory. “I used to be an evil investment banker at evil Lehman Brothers,” he explains. “When Lehman Brothers collapsed, I went down with the ship, and I thought to myself ‘I’ve had enough of this’. I wanted to do something different – something more. “I grew up here in Dubai and would get tailored suits made for me. They were cheap but I really looked the part. People thought I was being paid too much because they thought I was wearing expensive suits, when I wasn’t at all. “After the collapse of Lehman Brothers I met two American guys who had gone through similar experiences – Matt Mueller and John Ballay. Without wanting to sound too rude, they were your typical ‘fresh off the boat’ Americans, wearing big, baggy suits. “No, not suits – more like pyjamas. ]“We made fun of them a bit and then took them to Bur Dubai for their first real suit experience, and they went crazy for it. It was an ‘a-ha’ moment for them – that you can wear a custom made suit and the price isn’t a burden. “That got us thinking about whether we could use technology to bridge the gap between east and west. We decided we could, and the rest – they say – is history.” The trio stepped out into the world of entrepreneurship and began the process of raising capital for their new business. El Sheikh admits that “some people thought we were crazy,” and that “others said nobody would buy a suit online,” but their perseverance paid off, and through their own savings as well as the support of others who they had worked with in the past, the company launched to almost immediate success. “In the past eight months alone we’ve had a clip rate of 30 percent month on month,” El Sheikh continues.“In March alone we had six-digit sales. People are becoming more aware of the benefits of what we do, and how we can provide them with something special. “They will come first time, see all of the options online, and maybe be a bit overwhelmed as it can be very new for a lot of people. But we take them through an education process straight away. “The first time, a customer will get on average two customisations. They will come back six months later because they love the fit and want to replace everything else in their wardrobe. They will get five customisations, pushing the envelope a bit more. The third time, a few months later, they will get nine. “So things are continually on the up.” Success, however, brings with it other problems. Scaling, hiring, and logistics all need to be improved as business grows. “It’s like trying to change the parts of a car as it moves,” says El Sheikh. “It’s a lot of fun, but it’s really hard work.” One of the changes Knot Standard has recently made to enhance the business is the addition of charismatic tailor Richard Benettello, who arrived in Dubai earlier this year.

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