One of the first things I picked up about Shawn is his passion and understanding of the men’s formal wear market. “To be relevant, one must consistently strive to be world class” he tells me, in a matter of fact tone.
It all started with working in retail stores selling designer men’s wear. That exposure made Shawn realize that there is a gap in the market, and that realization led to the birth of the Shawn Marshall brand. When pressed further on this “gap in the market” notion he points out that the gap is actually two-fold, firstly, most leading menswear brands are European in origin, which often makes them a bit removed from the South African buyer with his unique specifications and needs. The second part is that the price point is not friendly for the average South African buyer. Shawn’s favourably priced tailored garments make stylish menswear accessible to those who may feel limited by the shortcomings he has identified in the formal retail space.
Coming back to his unique offering Shawn informs me that he sources his fabric from Italy, before his garments are created either in factories based in Italy or Hong Kong, depending on the type of garment. All his suits are made in Hong Kong and for shirts and coats he prefers to use factories in Italy. There is a clear method to his process and an acute attentiveness to detail, evidenced in his refreshingly simple but elegantly designed garments.
Clad in a Shawn Marshall blue shirt and blazer Mr Marshall responds in almost poetic fashion, when I compliment him on his impeccable outfit; “It is all about fabric. Fabric has life, different fabrics react differently over time. The clothes you wear become some sort of physical repository for your memories, the jacket you wore to an interview, or the shirt you had on the day you kissed your lover for the first time.” Here is a man with a burning passion for what he does. I was the least bit surprised when he told me he wants to be the next Tom Ford!
So I ask him how he manages to compete with big name retailers who have historically serviced the same market he is selling to? “Traditional retail is changing, not just in South Africa but globally. The social media shake up has made stuff easily comparable. Add to that, the clients I deal with do not normally have the time to be walking around looking for clothes, so there is a need for creating stylish clothing which is not only accessible but convenient to purchase as well.”
Here is a man with a game plan and serious passion for his vocation. Becoming the next Tom Ford does not sound like a ridiculous dream at all.