Little Red was started in the 50s by Aziz Fazal’s grandparents, who handed it over to his parents who then handed it over to him and his brother in the 80s.
It started off as a second-hand shop but then in the 1970s — as luck would have it — the government banned the sale of second-hand clothes.
His mother then left for England where she imported men’s clothing thereby setting the pace for the retail avant-garde men’s fashion outlet that the brand is today.
In October, they will be opening three more world-class stores at Two Rivers Mall which is set to open later this year. We met at the Yaya Centre store.
What have you learnt selling clothes to men?
That the most important thing is customer satisfaction, that you have to know who you are selling these clothes to and, most importantly, to understand their needs.
Our women are always moaning that Kenyan men are sloppy dressers. Fact or propaganda?
Well, that is now changing radically. You see because of the booming economy, the Kenyan man is today well-educated in the finest institutions and has travelled extensively or maybe lived in many parts of the world. As such, he is aware of the trends that exist and seeks them!
I think Kenyan men are today with it.
You are not just saying that, Aziz, are you?
Of course not! (Laughs) Tell you what; not too long ago, it was not very difficult to get Kenyan men in trousers with pleats, today, try giving someone a pleated trouser, they won’t wear it!
And, of course, the slim silhouettes are all very in vogue, fitted, curved shoulders are also in and the Kenyan guys are so with it that, in fact, in our stores now we hardly have any regular fitting merchandise anymore. Everything is slim cut and of true, real fashion.
We don’t limit ourselves to colours anymore; we used to say that the Kenyan man wants to be conservative when it comes to colours. Well, not any more.
I see you are rocking a pink polo shirt (it was Friday), what is your sense of style?
I love simplicity, the finesse of fabric, well-cut merchandise that makes your body talk. Your clothes have to really make you, they have to fit your body, because it’s the finesse and definition and the tailoring of those clothes that define who you are.
Is it true that clothes maketh the man?
I would agree with that. You see, that’s what Italian tailors are known for. They make clothes that transform you as a man. Their clothing can change a figure by tailoring the right shirt, or jacket, to fit that body and transform it into a beautiful body.
When you took over from your parents, how did you develop this product into what it is today?
When my brother and I came back from university (him from Canada, me from California) in the 80s, we started pursuing international brands that were making global headlines worldwide.
Hugo Boss was a huge name then, still is, and I remember when we first contacted Hugo, we were told Kenya was an insignificant country - that we were too small to deal with but we kept on trying until one fine day we were granted an appointment with Hugo Boss and since then, we have never looked back. We now stock some of the highest brands that you would find in any men’s store in major fashion capitals of the world.
What are men currently buying in this shop?
You know, you will be surprised that the fastest moving items are accessories; shoes, briefcases, belts, wallets, ties, jackets, things that go around, little things that make a man’s profile which is really good.
When you talk of a woman’s handbags, it speaks of the woman and this is the same as a man’s shoes, belt, type of wallet, business case or even laptop bag. They define who the man is.
Who is the one politician whose sense of style you most admire?
Oh they are so many. Uhm, today so many politicians are so young and flamboyant….(Pause). I can’t think of one but they so many.
You have kids?
Two boys and a girl.
Do they love clothes like daddy?
Oh yes, very, very passionate. You know, from a very early age whenever I went on business trips or talked about fashion – what’s coming in Christmas 2015 or spring\summer of 2015, we talk about them in their presence, we also take them for international fashion exhibitions in Italy or Paris or Germany. We have exposed them to the business of clothes.
What is the most challenging thing for you about selling menswear?
Generally, Kenyan men are not very well articulated with the different types of quality of wools available. Because up to now, you look at a super 100 wool or super 150 wool and you think it’s very fine quality but that’s not a fact.
Plus you have fakes floating around. And so I find myself spending a lot of time explaining to a client why a suit is of a certain price because of the type of wool that has been used.
What’s the rule of thumb then?
The lower the micron, the finer the wool and the more expensive it is. Another challenge is explaining details of a suit, when you have open sleeve buttonholes of handmade products, or certain qualities of lining and inter-phasing between the upper and inner parts of a jacket.
I don’t know if you are aware of the fact that in a suit, there are eight different types of materials that go between a lining and outer wool. Did you know that?
I’m tempted to lie, but no, I didn’t!
(Laughs) Well, you’ve learnt something new today! Other challenges are keeping men abreast with the latest styles. For example, when men try to pull up a low-waist pair of jeans up to make it a high-waist and explaining that certain jeans are made like that. (Chuckles). Low-waist jeans have a small crotch and it’s a little slimmer. That is the trend now and men are getting used to it.
In terms of fashion faux pas, what is the one thing you would definitely never be caught dead wearing?
A man should never wear baggy suits or shirts. Or anything that looks oversized on you because it looks awful, it looks really, really bad! It looks like you borrowed someone else’s suit and it cheapens your profile.
When you open your closet, what’s your most treasured clothing in there?
It’s all my made-to-wear suits. Bespoke Sumisura suits. A suit like that can go for upto Sh700,000.
That’s the price of an OK car. I’m curious, when I meet you wearing a suit like that, where will I know you are going?
I love wearing my tailored clothing to formal functions. It gives me a kick. You know, when you are passionate about dressing, you enjoy the finer details in a suit. For example when you have your sleeve button holes, it shows a sign of made-to-measure suits, the way the jacket fits your shoulder and waist and the way the trouser is cut, it makes you feel amazing.
Why Little Red. Why not Big Red?
It’s always been a Little Red? (Laughs). But that’s a very good question. In the early 80s, my dad acquired a shop opposite City Hall, a very small shop – only about 300 square feet…very small. At that time, we had a guest staying with us and when my dad asked her what she thought he should name the shop she said, “Little Red”.
Since then we added “Unmistakably” after it to make it “Little Red Unmistakably”.