Co-founders Hisham Khudairi, 26, and Ali Hayalie, 24, started up Suave last year after they saw a gap for high-quality streetwear in the menswear market.
“There’s a big gap in the market where people don’t focus on the fine textures of a garment,” Hayalie says. “The fit is important, but you’ve got to be wearing good fabric for it to look good.”
Hayalie was previously a flight attendant for United Emirates and was inspired by what he saw on the streets of Paris, Germany and the Middle East.
This vision drove Khudairi and Hayalie to establish Suave as an international brand with a strong online presence that could reach all the corners of the world.
“We push a lot of marketing online, with Facebook, with Google. We think that online is the future and you can basically do anything from home. If you have your internet and you have your product, you have no excuses, basically,” Hayalie says.
Co-founders Hisham Khudairi (L) and Ali Hayalie (R)
Part of that initiative was literally putting their clothes on an international stage.
Hayalie contacted Two Chainz and Drake’s touring company, Frontier Touring, when they performed in New Zealand this month.
He explained the concept of Suave clothing and asked if the artists wanted any pieces from the range. They loved it, so Suave sent them about $1000 worth of samples.
Though some might balk at giving away free stuff, Hayalie says New Zealand fashion in the United States is up-and-coming, so having international artists wear their gear is invaluable.
“For us, music inspires us a lot into fashion, it’s both a hobby we love doing and it’s really good brand exposure for us, especially being over here in New Zealand,” he says.
He says a large percentage of their orders come from overseas, such as Europe, the US and Australia.
For Suave to be successful is no small feat, either.
The clothing is streetwear with an edge that is aimed at a niche market and the range is carefully curated, with only 17 items available on their online store.
The clothing was previously stocked in one shop, Clash Boutique in Newmarket, which closed down this month. Clash is now strictly an online boutique.
Being a millennial, Hayalie has a feel for just how much online retailing is impacting on bricks and mortar.
“A lot of people are buying clothes online now, they’re buying clothes from Asos and it’s a bit difficult for shops here to keep going,” he says.
“In the future it’s all going to be online. With music, with fashion, I’m seeing all these things become popular online.”
Hayalie says to be successful in the online world requires beautiful visuals.
The company operates a Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook page and their photos have an uncluttered, monochromatic theme.
“Photography is important if you’re starting up online, as it’s about how you portray the garment. A lot of people take photos of clothes that are too busy, the garments get lost in the background. We look at companies like Apple and it’s [marketing is] so simple but it’s so effective,” he says.
Currently, Khudairi is in Dubai pushing the brand into the Middle Eastern market, and the pair hopes to further advance in Australia, too.
As for the New Zealand market, Hayalie says the pair would eventually like to open a Suave bricks and mortar shop, but for now they’re investing capital online as the company is still young.
He says competition in the New Zealand clothing market is cut-throat, especially with big internationals entering the market.
“Topman is opening up next month in Auckland and that’s going to be a very difficult market for New Zealand shops to compete with,” he says.