This article was written by Harrison Jacobs for Business Insider
Roshan Melwani and his father Manu are the second and third-generation proprietors of Sam’s Tailor, a wildly successful Hong Kong-based family-owned small business.
Sam’s Tailor has built a reputation over its 60-plus-year history as a world-famous tailor by providing bespoke suits to an impressive roster of celebrities and world leaders – everyone from former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to celebrities such as David Bowie, Russell Crowe and Bruno Mars.
In many ways, a trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without a stop at the Melwanis shop.
The success of Sam’s Tailor, according to Roshan, comes down to one simple plan: Give the client what they want, even when they don't know it themselves.
When 41-year-old Melwani first began working at his father’s shop at 23 years old – after studying business at New York University and working in London for a year – he approached suit-making like an artist, dictating to his clients what he thought they should have. Such an approach, he says, gave him a lot of success early on in his career, as he gained a reputation for producing very fashionable and flashy clothing.
“The more I dictated to them, the more amazing pieces I made, and the more people flew out to see me,” Melwani says.
But as Melwani has matured, he said he began to realise that it was more important for him to give clients what they wanted – rather than what he wanted to give them – and to make suits that clients will feel comfortable wearing once a week rather than once or twice a year.
When clients don’t know what they want, he says, it’s his job to figure out what they are looking for and give it to them. Still, Melwani says it’s important to steer clients in a more stylish direction at times.
“If someone flies 8,000 miles to get a plain grey suit, I try to talk them out of it,” he says.
While he used to make very flashy suits, these days, he says his “message and mantra” is closer to the suit he made for me: a grey suit I can wear to most occasions, from formal to casual, that is versatile and packs well.
Melwani made it more fashionable with a slimming cut, “bird's eye” suit fabric, a stylish Alexander McQueen lining, and other bespoke touches – perfectly elevating what I had in mind.