Robert S Shaw IV, Martin Al Masri and Remon Farag are the trio behind the UAE’s latest homegrown men’s fashion brand, The Victor Closet.
Tell us a little bit about The Victor Closet. How was the company formed and what was the inspiration behind the creation of the brand?
The founders of The Victor Closet are three fashion-loving men who come from different backgrounds and discovered their common passion for fashion and who happened to be friends for a long time before the formation of the company. The idea behind The Victor Closet is to present something different and unique for fashion-forward men who may have few options to choose from in the immediately available retail market.
Why did you decide to choose fashion as a career and what are your favourite parts about your job as a designer?
Robert: For me, this has been a long dream of mine. When I was younger, I would always visualize in my head ways to construct a shirt or dress; I believe fashion choose me. As a designer and someone who wears clothes, the fabric is very important so for me its sourcing and finding the perfect fabric that will either go with your design or inspire you to make a design. After that, seeing those pieces come to life is my favourite part.
Remon and Martin: We chose fashion because we have a natural passion for it. As we come from different professional backgrounds, we contribute our expertise to the company. The creative/design part of our work is at the core of what we do. The journey of design from deciding on the theme to putting together a mood board, choice of fabrics, all the way to creating a prototype is an amazing experience where we put out the passion we have. The feeling that we are filling the gaps in the men fashion market and hearing that from our customers keep us satisfied and constantly committed to do more.
The designs are very avant-garde. How do you design such pieces and was there a reason why you decided to focus purely on menswear?
Robert: Easy, we just took the rule book and threw it out the window. I think, in fashion, women have such an array of options to choose from style and design-wise while men are usually constraint to the typical norm when it comes to designs. I think we all felt that it was needed to provide men options and push their comfort level.
Remon and Martin: As stated above, we think about the needs of fashion forward men all over the world. Fashion trends develop quickly, however, we think the fashion industry does not respond to men’s growing needs as much as it does for women. That is our driving force and we aim to fill this gap. Hence the avant-garde feel we have in our designs because we position ourselves ahead of the industry (design wise).
Could you please describe for us your creative process when it comes to designing a new collection? Do you base your ideas around a central theme, the textiles or something else?
Robert: Starting out with our first collection the process was probably a bit unconventional as we were learning however we have since streamlined our procedures ensuring to keep the fundamentals. We start with what we call an MDM (master design meeting), which covers a period of time such as ‘Fall/Winter’, in which we discuss fashion trends, colours, fabrics, patterns, etc and then ways we can twist it to make it ‘Victor’. From there we put together a mood board and come up with a theme. Next, we set a date in which to review initial sketches and the fun part starts. We each have our own design process which may consist of going straight to paper with a pencil or source fabric to work with prior to. Finally, once we get everything on paper, we meet to review each design in which we will suggest edits, bless off on it or scrap it.
Remon and Martin: Our first collection was an innovative attempt to present what The Victor Closet is all about so it had a variety of designs. It had summer items like our bestselling Triangle T that comes in two colours all the way to our semi- heavier neoprene coats. From the simple shirt and T-shirt to the fashion-forward cosmo coat. We also had quite modest designs like the denim burnout (shirt and coat) as well as the revealing designs like the black circuit and the fisherman’s net. We received amazing feedback from our customers as well as from the fashion industry figures. Currently, we are working on new collections and new items to cater to the needs of our customers. The Victor Closet collection’s creation runs through a series of steps; first being concept design which is pretty much deciding on the collection’s theme, the second step is creating the mood board and agreeing on the colour palette, the third step is fabric choice which depends mostly on the season as well as the market needs and the brand identity; the fourth step is sketching and draping; the fifth step is creating finished prototypes; the sixth step is the most important step in the design journey which is the editing session. The three of us meet and put all the prototypes on a hanger and spend hours discussing, thinking and finally coming out with what should go and what should not; seventh and last step is issuing the final chosen pieces to production.
The garments are all beautifully made. Where do you source your fabrics and materials from?
Robert: We look home first, so most of our materials are sourced in the UAE, however we wanted to find fabrics you don’t see every day so we also source from South Korea.
Remon: There are a number of factors that govern our choice of fabrics; first is season of the subject collection; second is the theme of the collection (that also applies to the print); and finally the brand design guidelines i.e. being fashion forward, practical and comfortable.
On the website you have the ‘Victor ONLY’ line, consisting of one-of-a-kind couture pieces of which only is made. Please tell us the reason behind this.
Remon and Martin: As the brand is more about being unique, Victor Only is that ultimate representation and a promise fulfilled to our customers. Victor Only is a line in which pieces are made only once and will not be repeated. The client will know that he owns a one of a kind garment made especially for them.
Describe for us the fashion scene here in the UAE. Who are your local inspirations and how does The Victor Closet fit into the marketplace.
Remon: The fashion scene in the UAE is as rich and diverse as the country; you have designers, fashion photographers, stylists and buyers from all around the world in one place. The awareness and knowledge are very high as everyone has peers coming from different backgrounds which creates an environment of healthy competition and continuous progress. The efforts of Dubai Design District and Dubai Fashion Council to encapsulate this community and showcase it to the whole world through fashion events like Fashion Forward Dubai is noted and appreciated. Dubai as a city has already put itself on the map of luxury lifestyle which qualifies it to have a significant stand in the fashion world. Although we are an international brand limiting ourselves to no border or locale, we see ourselves as part of Dubai’s journey to be an international fashion city and we are a product of this vibrant and amazing city.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to break into the world of fashion?
Robert: I would say while it looks fun and can be at times, it is a lot of work. You need to have a solid concept and marketing plan, find and work with good suppliers (especially for production) and finally be prepared for the unexpected (thank you COVID-19).
Remon and Martin: Anyone can get into the fashion industry but nobody can stay in without two things; having a true passion for fashion (that translates into a specific taste) and familiarising themselves with the industry key people and entities.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Remon and Martin: Social media plays a huge role in fashion today and even a bigger role post-pandemic with the direction towards virtualising the shopping experience. Most of the marketing tools have already taken on social media platforms, especially Instagram. The Victor Closet is an e-commerce brand; we are true believers in the power of social media and we even have a strong personal presence on various platforms.
What next for The Victor Closet?
Robert: A few new lines and exciting stuff.
Remon and Martin: Next is coming very soon! We are currently working on an underwear line that will be released before the year ends and we’re also working on releasing our first pants line, plus some other surprises – so stay tuned! ✤
GO: Visit www.thevictorcloset.com for more information.