Karsan Stakes Claim for Refined Style in Men’s Basics
Rahim Karsan has had a dual life. During the week, he has been assembling marketing campaigns for growing tech and higher-education clients.
But during his free time he has been ensconced in front of a sewing machine, trying to assuage his dissatisfaction with the clothing he found in stores he thought would look better with extra details or embellishments to nudge them toward a unique look.
Karsan was serious enough about this extracurricular activity that for two years he employed a tutor to teach him the finer points of tailoring from his home base in Toronto.
“I’m still learning. I’m an okay tailor,” he said. “It’s not about perfecting a garment. It’s about trying to communicate a vision.”
After collecting a number of compliments on the clothes he restructured, he thought he’d try the fashion business by contacting family friend Karim Noor, who works in the Los Angeles fashion business.
In December, they released an elevated men’s streetwear and basics brand called Karsan, which is designed in Toronto, where Karsan sews the brand’s samples, and then the line is manufactured in Los Angeles, where it undergoes more design development. “The first sample is always 60 percent to 70 percent good. But it’s not ready to take to market,” Noor explained.
Garments are made in limited runs of about 50 to 100 pieces to boost the brand’s exclusivity, Noor said.
While Karsan hasn’t quit his day job as the founder and chief marketing officer for Blueprint International Marketing, he is serious about developing his brand.
Karsan focuses on categories that have been called high-end streetwear and elevated basics—a competitive fashion categories that receives attention from prominent fashion forecasters such as WGSN and various fashion blogs.
Karsan’s line is made from high-end fabrics, which is why Karsan’s retail price points are relatively high, ranging from $298 to $398 for hoodies and $88 to $108 for T-shirts, which are made of Supima cotton and MicroModal fabrics.
“The price is a sticking point. We’re costly,” he noted. “But we use the highest-grade fabrics in the U.S. That alone is expensive. It is manufactured in Los Angeles. The custom dyeing we put the garments through puts in layers of cost. But when people touch, see and feel the product in person, there’s an ‘aha’ moment when they realize the quality. It’s the reason why we’re going into wholesale quickly rather than waiting for a year. Once we get it in front of the customer, they realize why the cost is high.”
The brand also hopes to create a unique look with its T-shirts. Tops feature raised seams that go down the center of the garment’s back and also have raised seams on the sleeves.
Karsan’s tees come in three styles: a modified boxy T-shirt that aims to be the halfway point between a slender cut and a baggy silhouette, a top with a scooped hems, and a performance T-shirt made of technical fabrics that wick away sweat and have anti-microbial properties.
Shirts are custom-dyed in hues that include charcoal, military green, black and white. After they are dyed, they are put through a silicone wash to make them softer.
Hoodies also have added elements. One of the brand’s hoodie styles has a zipper shield made of lambskin leather placed under the zipper. Hoodies also feature high-end metal Riri zippers.
The Karsan brand aims for a clean aesthetic. When the brand started out, it didn’t use any graphics on its T-shirts, but that changed when customers requested them.
So Karsan and Noor made a logo out of the brand’s initial, which is an upper-case K placed next to a backward K.
“The brand’s logo stands for fashion from all angles. The brand creates something, but the customer wears it in the way they want to wear it. It’s about them being true to themselves and using the brand as a vehicle to do that,” Noor said.
In February, the brand began its wholesale program by exhibiting in Las Vegas at the Project trade show’sN:OW section for established and emerging brands that are “culturally relevant.”
Currently, Karsan is sold on the brand’s website, karsanclothing.com.