Introducing… Keyvan Nosrati
Written by Tracey Duke, Photography by Pip Andersen
At just 27 years old, and with premises in both Exeter & London’s exclusive Savile Row, Iranian born entrepreneur Keyvan Nosrati is deep in plans for the expansion of Zebel Outfitters; a bespoke tailoring experience for both established businessmen and young professionals alike.
With a recent move to new, larger premises on Exeter’s Fore Street we caught up with the young entrepreneur whose reputation for outstanding customer service, price points and attention to detail, has attracted the attention of some of the world’s most discerning clients.
Keyvan, what an amazing achievement! Not only do you have the store here on Fore Street, but you’re also based in Windsor and London. At 27, that’s really quite impressive! How did it all start for you?
Honestly, it all started with someone taking a chance with me and opening a door. I’d tried for weeks, straight out of college, to get an interview with Moss Bros in Princesshay, but to no avail. It was only when I actually went in and hassled the manager, to give me a job, that he gave in and agreed. He’s since said that taking a chance on me was one of the best things he’s ever done and we’re really very good friends now.
During my time with the store, I was promoted to London to run the prestigious Regent Street store. From there I went to Oxford Street; their (Moss Bros) flagship store, to run that.
Is that where you developed a taste for luxury fabrics?
Yes! I used to have my lunch on Savile Row. Whilst I was there, I’d take some time to meet with cloth merchants & tailors and actually go to look and see what the high-end stores were offering. It fascinated me that showrooms like Holland and Sherry would have visiting tailors who were able to offer a completely bespoke service for their clients.
It wasn’t long before I starting thinking that actually, I could do this too; I could get a client list together and start my own business with the experience I’d gained from Moss Bros, rather than working for someone else. It just took off from there and I’ve never really looked back.
So you took the leap and followed your gut feeling? Was it a sense of wanting a purpose that drove you?
Absolutely! It also meant that I wasn’t working for anyone else! When you see an idea come to fruition; when you see your customer walking out with a beautiful suit for either business or a wedding, knowing they’re happy, knowing they’re going to come back because of the service you gave them; wow, you can’t beat that!
Once we got going, we were visiting clients in places I’d never dreamt of going to! When you’re heading to a meeting at the Shard, because you’ve been recommended to a CEO, working there, by another CEO; that’s an incredible buzz!
Sultan Batchu; the owner of two Hilton’s, was one particular businessman who became a much-valued client; he also put us on the right path, opening doors & introducing us to other very wealthy, successful businessmen in London. He also became a very good friend to me.
We’ve talked previously of the story behind you meeting the Sultan; it’s really quite humbling and definitely a lesson for us all.
Yes, it is. So I was working in Moss Bros on Oxford Street at the time. He walked into the store and I’ll be honest; I completely misjudged him. He didn’t look particularly wealthy and I wasn’t convinced he’d be spending much if anything. I was there to do a job though and I went through the motions of serving him. It was only as I was doing so, that I realised what a gentleman he was. Long story short, he ended up spending around £7K with us that night.
So with that experience of having judged a client, how has that changed your approach to serving clients now?
Well, it’s the old cliche; you just don’t judge a book by its cover. I treat everyone exactly the same. It doesn’t matter if they come into the shop with ripped up clothes or designer clothes; you treat everyone with the same respect and without any kind of prejudice.
And what about challenges? What you’ve done, at such a young age, has shown guts and initiative. But we both know that success is never a straight line from here to there. What are the biggest challenges that you have faced stepping out on your own?
When you start your own business, cash flow is not great; you need to keep a tight reign. The biggest challenge would have been not taking a wage for a year and living off savings. You have to cut back on certain luxuries whilst you’re building your business.
The other one is that I was living in a great place in central London but we (my girlfriend and I) gave it up to move to Exeter to open up this shop. And yes, that was a challenge in itself.
When you do anything like this, it’s a risk. If it pays off it pays off. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But you only live once and if that gut feeling is strong enough, you have to go with it.
I think that so many of us live our lives wanting to take a risk but being afraid to do so in case it doesn’t work out. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given around risk-taking?
The most successful businessmen I’ve ever met & worked with, have all said if they had never taken the risk, they’d never have the success they have now. Bottom line; you’ll never know if you don’t try. That’s absolutely the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given; to take calculated risks. You have to have the numbers and the paperwork; if it is looking promising, then do it! Take the risk.
So was it a risk opening in Exeter? Are things working for you here?
I love Exeter; it’s a little quieter; a little more chilled but there’s an amazing vibe in the city right now. London is great for a certain kind of socialising, but Exeter has a great buzz and its own culture. From the point of view of Zebel; we have a fantastic client base; honestly, it’s booming!
Ok so speaking of culture, I have to compliment you on the store; it looks amazing! It’s almost as though you’re stepping into another timeless world, away from the hustle and bustle and away from technology almost. There’s a very traditional sense of skill and craftsmanship here. Where do your influences come from?
Thank you! This is very much us and we take huge pride in creating that overall experience for our clients.
With regard to influencers; I take my influences from different places. Someone with a good fashion sense will always get my attention. One of my biggest role models is British model David Gandy; he’s a bit of an entrepreneur too and has developed some great apps. That’s an area of technology that I am also moving into in the new year.
You’re clearly buzzing with ideas and plans, but creating and running your own company is a lot of work. When does the hard work stop for you or are you always thinking about the next big thing?
The hard work for me never stops and yes, I’m always looking for the next big opportunity. I would like to build a company and create a system that’s easily transferable from business to business. After the building process, I can then take a step back and move on to the next project safe in the knowledge that, with a great team behind them, the companies could almost run themselves.
Building a strong foundation for your business is always going to be a challenge. Motivating yourself during this process can be tricky but at the end of the day, the final result is worth all the hard work. Once you start seeing your business grow, it only pushes you to work harder.
So what do the next six months hold for you Keyvan?
We’ve just moved into our new store, as Zebel Outfitters; we’ll be offering both hired and ready to wear suits, as well as keeping the bespoke aspect. Our clients will be offered exactly the same level of attention and service whatever they’re looking for.
We’re also planning an expansion in London with a bigger showroom, again offering bespoke, hire and ready to wear.
We (my girlfriend Jen & I) have also just opened a vegan juice bar on Fore Street. It too has a chilled vibe where you can come down and get your juice, grab your soup in the winter, porridge in the morning and visit the other independents on Fore Street whilst you’re here.
It’s a great time to be in the city for sure and I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead.
Follow Keyvan on Twitter @ZBespoke
Or get in touch with Keyvan on 01392 758742 / www.zebel.co.uk