The Traditionalist: Mahir Ali, Ascots & Chapels

Mahir Ali, the Ascots & Chapels Operations & Brand Artistic Director Middle East and South East Asia, has over 130 years of bespoke tailoring heritage to live up to.

learn more about Fida Chaaban

By Fida Chaaban

Ascots & Chapels

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"One of the most difficult and unusual requests I have fielded is when a client called me to his home, and handed me a box of 10 Hermés scarves and asked that we install the scarves into his jackets as linings. You know the cost of each Hermés scarf- these needed to be cut properly so they looked proper when installed as inner lining of his jackets. It was tedious, time-consuming, but also exciting." Mahir Ali, the Ascots & Chapels Operations & Brand Artistic Director Middle East and South East Asia, has over 130 years of bespoke tailoring heritage to live up to, so when he's presented with singular client demands he really does have to rise to the occasion. "The most repeated request which we often hear is "make it unique.' We try and often succeed in pleasing them by giving personal touches in their garments. One example is that we managed to inscribe a client's signature in pure gold thread in his suit jacket."
Image credit: Ascots & Chapels

Ascots & Chapels first launched in the UAE in 2007, and their Qatar outlet launched in Doha situated on The Pearl in 2013. Having come from German mainstay Hugo Boss, and now in his eighth year with Ascots & Chapels, Ali says that heading up operations for the prestige tailor is altogether a whole different client: "Hugo Boss targets and lures the young and sporty gent who parties a lot and loves to flaunt unapologetically. Ascots & Chapels targets the gent who has reached a certain maturity level and wants to express his personality through his clothing without being too pretentious. To flaunt is something which any gent loves, but an Ascots & Chapels client will only do so through his carefully chosen details incorporated in his clothing." These carefully chosen details include fabrics, embellishments and linings, and of late, accessories like interesting silk pocket squares and lapel pins stocked by the brand. A standard work suit by Ascots & Chapels from the Buckingham Collection begins at a reasonable AED2,850 with an extra pair of trousers, and tuxedo prices begin at AED3,000 depending on fabric choice, although there is one in particular they have designed and developed for evening attire. One of the highest priced fabrics presented by Ascots & Chapels goes for AED115,000, but this particular material is run with gold thread. Suits typically take three to four weeks from initial meeting to delivery, and the entire process is extremely personalized. "We service an ego, so we need to be very careful with what we offer our 24 carat clients. It's exciting and challenging to maintain the palette of colors and fabrics for the ever-demanding high-end client."

Mahir Ali. Image credit: Ascots & Chapels

Taking on a tailor for better menswear is an intimate arrangement, more so than most niche client luxury industries, and in addition to being able to fully trust in a tailor's skill, the consumer must also be confident that the company itself is discreet. The Ascots & Chapels "24 carat" customer are above the significant spend threshold and can rest assured that even internal staff members aren't privy to their identities should they wish it so. "In such cases I personally attend to them, which is when they open up about garments they seek. Such clients always need someone to confide in and relate to what they are looking for. Mostly, with these clients we only mention their initials on internal use order forms," says Ali. Outfitting heads of state, dignitaries and corporate titans, the brand prides itself on attending to the finest details and their customers expect nothing less.

Exclusivity and loyalty permeate the brand's ethos, and that includes the areas of strategic marketing and prive events by invitation only. "We regularly have high tea events at DIFC and other venues around Dubai where we talk about color, fabric, styling for the season, and we also address about men's grooming. Clients find this interesting, and it's a great way to interact with our patrons. We have [beverage] tastings for our 24 carat clients where they also network and hobnob with others who are of their caliber. These events help us convey to them that we respect and value their patronage towards Ascots & Chapels, and it's an effective way to keep in touch with them." The brand also markets through suitable sponsorships of sporting events frequented by their target demographic, yacht and golf clubs, and business councils. The referral model is important to their overall business, and Ali candidly admits that while some clients happily tell their social circles about the master tailor that crafted their bespoke suit, others prefer to keep a good tailor to themselves. "It's known that finer things or services have gained popularity through great word of mouth- be it a restaurant, a jeweler, a lawyer, and of course, a tailor." He does note that the executive crowd is more likely to refer Ascots & Chapels to their contemporaries, primarily because they want their teams to cut an impressive figure in the boardroom- appearance does count, after all.

Educated at Seneca College in Toronto and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, Ali advises men seeking a fine wardrobe to firstly adopt clothing that suits both lifestyle and work environment, express themselves subtly through their attire, and to stick to flattering colors that work for them without being conspicuous. "Shades of blue always make you stand out in the boardroom or in a power meeting. Do not wear lighter shades of grey in winter, as they are suitable for summers." Ali's diploma in Fashion Merchandising & Management and his degree in Apparel Production Management are both put to work for Ascots & Chapels patrons, and it's with no shortage of pride that he describes the strong, long-term alliances they have with their clients, and the warm responses that he himself and their master tailors receive. A few key hallmark points of a good tailor-client relationship: "Go to a tailor who listens to you and understands what your need of the moment is, does not mandate, but instead suggests what would suit you better, and someone who asks you questions, so they can put a good wardrobe for you together."

Fida Chaaban

Chief Communications Officer, KBW Investments

Fida Chaaban is the Chief Communications Officer of KBW Investments, a privately held Dubai-based investment concern that works across multiple sectors. Prior to her most recent appointment, Fida was the founding Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East and Entrepreneur Qatar magazines. She is a big believer in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region’s startup ecosystem, and endeavors to use both print and web to positively encourage development in various entrepreneurial spaces and across industries. Based in Dubai, UAE, Fida is a social media enthusiast and sees it as the medium of today’s effective enterprises.

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