We are all just ordinary men with crazy obsessionsOsman Abdul Razak
Dressed like a gentleman from top to toe, the prospects of choosing the field of textile was certainly an unplanned move by Osman Abdul Razak. Having occupied the famous KNK Road in Nungambakkam, Chennai, ‘Gabbana Life’ is proudly owned by the Fashion Entrepreneur. Spearheading his own private fashion label, he was voted under GQ India’s top 100 best-dressed men in 2019. He occasionally writes blogs for leading tabloids and inspires men around the world to look great, while maintaining classic elegance through his social media.
Having pursued the field of Engineering, you chose the concept of Fashion Entrepreneurship. Was it an interest that developed over time or an age-old tradition of joining a similar field as your successors?
My forefathers were into textile and merchants from the Gulf of Kutch. Their journey began from there, all the way down to the South and that is how we moved. Textile has been in the bloodline. Then, by 1999-2000, I finished school and at that time the trend was IT. It was the ‘y2k era.’ Then, I thought that I should move to a lucrative career, which was business and IT. I continued for a few years but then realised that it was very mundane and I didn’t enjoy doing it. I wasn’t a math genius to continue coding. Eventually, my liking grew towards clothing and it wasn’t planned in any way. Then, my friend and I started retail and the passion started growing. I realised that this was coming to me with a lot of ease, than programming and coding. But everything was a very grey area. It was just a retail store and I realised that customisation was lacking in Chennai. For which, we improvised on that and kept evolving.
Be it ‘Gabbana Life’ or ‘South Side,’ your collection has seen different variations over the years. If you had to compare your struggle with success, what would it look like?
Every entrepreneur or business has been through a struggle. It is all about how we overcome it or rather find a balance. The last 13 years have been a constant learning process. We, as a brand, including myself have evolved in this journey. We are making the right noise and gaining the right attention.
During the lockdown, you designed a line of comfortable yet chic clothing. How did you manage to draw yourself apart from renowned designers, across India?
‘Lazy Lounge’ was the concept and easy clothing was the answer for the ‘WFH’ phase. Well, the idea was not to draw myself away/apart from the rest of the fraternity but was merely to tweak my offering at the studio. Everybody else and I got very comfortable in PJs and sportswear during the lockdown. It was great until one fine day, I was done. I started missing my suits and workwear, realised that it was no different, but people just wanted a different perspective. Hence the overshirt, Napoli jackets, drawstring trousers, knitted shirts. All of them were a part of an ‘essentials list’ for every man’s wardrobe.
Moreover, sustainability is the keyword here. It was a way to recycle and re-imagine the clothes we look at on a daily basis.
Your love for loafers has been redefined with the ‘South Side.’ Since it is a recent collective, how did you manage to get hold of specific materials, with the pandemic on the rise?
Southside has been on the drawing board as early as 2019. Belgian loafers happened over a casual discussion with my friend at #PittiUomo Italy, enjoying a late afternoon gelato, staring at all the dapper dressed gentlemen and their choice of footwear. The trend had blown out of proportion and we just had to bring the trend to India. We struggle with prices to import international brands, and knowing what we wanted to offer, we just decided to make them ourselves in Tamil Nadu. The covid breakout merely delayed our plans and we took full advantage of some of the best factories that suddenly had production capacity available due to the drop in exports. I guess it worked out in everybody’s favour.
What is the story behind #DapperDa?
Hahaha! Honestly, the credit to this one goes to my wife ‘Mariam.’ I guess it was a phase where everybody was using hashtags and they became pretty popular. And I just had to have one!
I wanted something unique, it had to be dapper/dandy, well-dressed sorts and it definitely had to be local. And, BOOM! She was always humoured and puzzled with how we, Chennaites use ‘da’ in every sentence we speak. I have got it, she said! It had to be dapper with the most synonymous phrase in Chennai. It had to be #DapperDa.
And thus began our journey on Instagram and other social forums with #DapperDa. I have never missed using it since that day, and I am glad many people use it as an expression of style as well.
As for the wardrobe selection, do ‘bespoke wardrobes’ focus upon wedding/ event dresses or does it change seasonally?
The concept behind ‘bespoke wardrobes’ starts with understanding the clientele requirements or the concept behind a purchase. Our consultations cater to ceremonial based events. They could be a formal business requirement, travel essentials or just a wardrobe update. So basically, understanding the brief, visualising the environment and suggesting to them a wardrobe that is specific to their profile/personality, makes their investment worth every penny.
Post pandemic, what are the changes which will be visible within the Fashion Industry, along with your designer line?
Well unfortunately we are still amidst a pandemic and a lot has changed since 2020. We have always worked on an appointment basis only, and are glad to see clients consciously taking an effort in planning their visit and appointments. Another progression with us and I believe every business has been to increase our digital presence. We plan to host virtual consultations and style trunk shows, and even working closely on launching the #OAR Essentials online.
Since you have mastered the art of ‘Bandhgalas,’ within groom wear, what are the other variations that you have in mind?
Mastered the construction and craftsmanship of fine tailored garments is what we take pride in. I personally love to keep my dressing classic, quintessential and statement driven. Just like the Nawabs from our history gave utmost importance to their appearance and style. I think with classics, one can never go wrong and is always the best way to go for grooms. Of course, the key is styling it to perfection with accessories and essentials. I firmly believe that the clothes we wear affect our behaviour, attitude, personality, mood, confidence and even the way we interact with others.
Shoes and wedding suits have been spread across your social media feed. Apart from this, what are the newer editions that you wish to introduce, with the New Year, not being so fulfilling?
Well, ‘southside’ at the moment is for shoes and ‘Gabbana.life’ atelier studio caters to all Ceremonial & Corporate wear for our clients. The focus with OAR Private Label for 2021 is to build a sustainable and versatile wardrobe offering for our clients. I am all about influencing a personal style that is unique and creates a lasting impression.
Currently, I am working on launching an ‘all-men’s travel essential’ line up which will be based upon our first virtual trunk show for this year. Classic pieces that are worth the investment.
Since the man notices shoes to be the highlight, what are the changes that will be visible in your designer line, with regards to loafers?
The concept with ‘southside’ is one style with many variations. The #Numans as we call our Belgian loafers will be a constant offering with periodical changes on the materials used and the colour palette. The quest to find a great pair of ‘all day’ loafers is where our road truly began. Because everything gets better when you #GoSouth.
With 13-years of expertise in the industry, what would your piece of advice to the budding fashion designers/ entrepreneurs be?
Osman Abdul Razak, the label is known for stylish artisanal menswear, using fine fabrics, exceptional cuts and skilled craftsmanship!
We are in the service industry, after all. At the end of the day, you are providing a professional service to a clientele. So be true to that, giving them your hundred per cent and more, so that people don’t take you for granted and realise that you are here to stay. In my case, it’s the #DapperDa way!