Pals Ryan Smith and namesake Calvin have combined their passion for fashion to reach the top of the luxury tailoring sector in the UAE.
The pair joined forces two-and-a-half years ago and their vision and energy have quickly established Suited & Booted Dubai as the go-to provider of quality suits for both men and women in the Middle East.
Their tailoring services are renowned in the area, with the likes of Brazilian footballing legend Ronaldinho and former boxing world champion Amir Khan among the celebrities to knock on their door in the past year.
It’s all a far cry from 2016 when Ryan, 28, left his hometown of Saltcoats in Ayrshire to pursue his dream in the playground of the rich and famous.
Having identified a gap in the tailoring market, he set up a mobile service which saw him visit clients’ businesses and homes, with the production of suits outsourced to a local company.
It was while trying to establish the business that fate brought him in contact with Calvin, who was already in Dubai operating in a competitive sales environment having left Edinburgh around the same time.
There was an instant business connection between the pair and the venture really began to make its mark in Dubai when they teamed up.
Fast forward to today, and the dynamic duo has created a respected luxury brand, employ a staff of 30 including a team of specialist tailors, and can rightly claim to now be the market leader in the area after changing the way people experience tailoring in the Middle East.
There are approaching 200 tailor shops in and around Dubai but the ambitious Scots have earned a reputation as the best with their approach to tailoring whether it be business, formal, wedding or casual.
“We have grown the business organically and that is something we are very proud of,” said Calvin, 29.
“A lot of our business comes from referrals which is great and that tells us we are doing the right thing. People are surprised we are dominating the sector but we set the tone from a style consultancy perspective, trying to give customers a very personal experience which is unmatched by our competitors.
“In the early days of Suited & Booted, when Ryan first came over, he was working around the clock to be successful, overcoming numerous hurdles by sheer hard work. A lot of people in his position wouldn’t have carried on but credit to him, he persevered and came through the other side. I saw that tenacity and that’s what helped me make the decision to get involved as I wanted to help take it from just a company making suits to an actual brand.”
A significant six-figure investment in new premises saw them establish Suited & Booted Dubai in a prime location on the main road connecting downtown with the marina.
It’s fitting the duo can count Khan and former two-weight world boxing champion Carl Frampton MBE among their biggest fans as they had to roll with the punches delivered by Covid not long after opening their doors.
“That was a tense time,” said Ryan. “We took the shop unit on, spent our last pennies on renovations, and were ready to go when lockdown hit.
“It certainly helped that we were young and ambitious as failure was never an option. Although it got tough, we never contemplated throwing in the towel. We were determined to make a success of it.
“We kept all our staff on during the pandemic. Lockdown just lasted 2-3 months and that’s when we diversified a bit into bespoke casual clothes as folk stopped going in the office.
“One of the big positives from Covid is that it was a great education for us as entrepreneurs. For that to happen at such an early stage of our careers, really taught us some great lessons about managing a business.”
The long-term goal is to expand the business internationally, including locations in Scotland, but for now the young men are enjoying everything Dubai has to offer.
Calvin said: “One of the things that struck me about here is there are a lot of self-made wealthy individuals who are willing to help others be successful.
“There are no ulterior motives with folk which is refreshing. There is a real entrepreneurial spirit among business people here and they genuinely want to see others do well and go out of their way to help.”