Sartoria Darzi, a bespoke tailoring business located in downtown Toronto, would never have attained its present success had its founders not quit their day jobs. Ata Ansari, Murtaza Rana, and Jahanzaib Ansari always wanted to be in the fashion business. After they came home from their day jobs, the three of them would work out of different apartments and warehouses to get their side business off the ground.
About a year later, it's no longer just a "side business." Now the trio, who were all born in Pakistan and immigrated to Canada at a young age, run several studios across the country, and are headquartered at 161 Bay St .
"We want to change the shopping experience for men when it comes to clothing," says Ata Ansari (no relation to Jahanzaib), a 26-year-old former researcher at St. Michael's Hospital. "We want to provide affordable attire for young professionals who want to look good and save money at the same time." The tailor shop puts together a wide variety of high quality suits as well as overcoats and leatherwear.
All products are made of material sourced overseas, selected by the customer, and cut expertly by experienced tailors. Prices start from $450, which includes a 2-piece tailored suit (a 3-piece costs $500). A higher-quality line goes for $500 for a two piece, and $550 for a 3-piece. Additionally, the company also makes tuxedos for $650 and full canvas suits for $750.
The trajectory of Sartoria Darzi (Darzi means "tailor" in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan) is a reflection of the life stories of its founders, who all gave up stability in pursuit of their dream. Each had their own problems with family who were skeptical of such a move until they saw the dedication to the project.
The three friends have known each other since high school and had always dreamed of working together on something related to fashion. Their initial start-up did well enough to convince the partners to commit to the business, which bridges Toronto and Pakistan. Sartoria Darzi's clothing is manufactured in Karachi, where Ata's cousin oversees local operations.
"It's very much the immigrant dream or story," says the 25-year-old Murtaza, who quit a cushy full-time position at the Royal Bank. "Our parents all had to struggle to get us opportunities that they never had, so we've always seen this as a way to honour their legacy."
This is a common sentiment among the three, who represent a new kind of entrepreneurial spirit from second or third generation Pakistanis in Toronto. Their motivation is derived not just from a passion for business, but also from a sense of family history and destiny.
The trio say that a personal experience is central to their business model. A client books an appointment and receives a hands-on consultation, where the he decides on the kind of suit he wants. Over a dozen measurement are then made while the client goes on to customize the product (eg. lapel, double breasted, etc.). The order is then given to the Karachi team, who tailor the final product.
Sartoria Darzi's clientele has grown from extended family and friends to a lengthy list of young professionals, working mainly out of the GTA. According to Murtaza and Jahanzaib, who also used to work at RBC, Torontonians are beginning to experiment with their style, mixing traditional attire with more fashion-forward thinking.
"One main inspiration for me is the coming together of traditional ideas and an increasingly street-friendly style," Murtaza says. "People are still wearing and looking for formality, but they'll dress it down with a pair of boots or something."
"We're at the point where our operations are big enough for us to hire more tailors and apprentices," Ata says. "This is also a way for us to give back to Pakistan, which is a troubled country, and it breaks out hearts."
The three are turning their Karachi warehouse into a vocational school for future craftsmen tailors, where experienced hands can make a living through their craft, and younger apprentices can gain experience. "That's what we can never let go off, our roots and our families' roots," Jahanzaib says. "It's where we started, and it's where we return in order to give back."
Writing by Steven Zhou.