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When’s the last time you thought about your undershirt? Carter & White set out to create one so luxurious it would be a shame to always keep it hidden. Entrepreneur Marwan Bin Yousef Al Serkal tells us about it
Eduan R. Maggo
It’s what’s on the inside that counts, we’re always told. For Emirati entrepreneur Marwan Bin Yousef Al Serkal that means sparing more than a second thought on your undershirt.
“An undershirt isn’t only essential, it can be worn in different ways, whether it’s a for walk on the beach or a night out,” says the founder and director of Carter & White. “The modern man will always find new ways to make it part of their daily attire.”
Launched in September 2016, the brand offers luxury undershirts treated with the respect usually reserved for premium outerwear. “We pay attention to details, providing an exceptional experience. This starts with our bags at first sight, then the boxes and finally the product. We take our commitment to delivering beautiful, luxurious garments very seriously, which also translates through to the stunning and unique packaging.”
The Dubai-based brand has its sights set on the rest of the Middle East, expanding to London, Paris and New York by early next year. Debonair catches up with Al Serkal.
What is your background and why did you decide to go into men’s fashion?
I hold an EMBA from London and my background is in the financial markets, working in international banks and financial institutions. My first startup was a financial brokerage in Dubai back in 2005. After that I went into the F&B market, and now into fashion.
I’ve spent many years trying to understand luxury brands, and why people buy luxury goods. From what I’ve noticed, the product comes first, followed by the experience, service and ambience.
Where does the name come from?
Giza cotton, which can only be found in Egypt, inspired us. Its rare, soft and extraordinary feel can’t be used in many daily garments due to its high price, as well as its lengthy and costly production process. We thought of how we could link what we are offering with Egypt, which lead to the idea of “Carter & White”.
The Carter part refers to English archaeologist Howard Carter, who discovered 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s intact tomb in 1922. And white is derived from cotton’s naturally beautiful colour. We are inspired by bright colours and that will always be reflected in current and future products.
How would you describe the Carter & White aesthetic?
Carter & White not only offers a perfect product, we do things in an exceptional way, especially in our customer experience. The ambiance, people, hospitality and service that we create are our values and what gives us a competitive advantage. We benchmark ourselves with the level of service and the customer experience available across the globe. So we position the brand as one of the new luxury brands that can lead in its exceptional offerings and customer service.
What sets your brand apart?
We believe that the Carter & White experience has it all, from product to packaging and a lifelong link. Our fabrics, made of the finest Egyptian cotton, are softer and feel wonderful. They not only last longer than any other cotton in the world, but they also hold up through years of washing without losing their colour.
This also means the undershirts will constantly drape well on the body and never lose their shape.
Why an undershirt?
I believe opportunities come with experience or with a need. I wanted to have the best undershirt, one unlike any other. Given that the Middle East and the GCC has a warm, hot climate with high humidity in the major cities, it would take you three minutes being outdoors to sweat. This product is a response to that problem.
It took us more than twenty months to perfect the formula. Today, we are proud to have created such a product, especially using cotton that is suitable for all seasons in this region.
Why did you decide to use Egyptian Giza cotton?
Giza is considered the crème de la crème of all cotton, with the longest, thinnest and strongest fibers — as well as the best uniformity index grade at 88.5. This means there are minimal irregularities and it therefore produces a wonderfully smooth and silky look and feel. Giza is exclusively harvested by hand for the best quality cotton. This cotton absorbs the most sweat, which make it the best fit for this region.
Does thread count really matter?
Thread count determines the quality of a product. The higher the thread count, the more expensive the product is. Our undershirts are made with a generous 80 thread count, like no other. The maximum quality you would find in the market is between 25 and 30. It’s really expensive to make an undershirt with 80 thread count; I remember during the initial stages manufacturers were asking who would wear 80 thread
count undershirts! So the combination of Giza cotton and 80 thread counts makes us unique. It’s worth mentioning that no other brands have disclosed their thread counts.
What goes into creating the perfect undershirt?
The perfect undershirt differs from person to person; some people are happy with any type of undershirt, whether it’s 50 or 100 per cent cotton.
In warm climates it’s recommended to wear 100 per cent cotton. Our source materials undergo a long, detailed process where our technicians analyse hundreds of samples to make sure only the best is selected. The cotton is tested in phases to ensure it is truly of premium grade — we make no exceptions whatsoever in this.
You have to look at the details to pick the right undershirt for you. It goes beyond the colour and style. Comfort should be the main criteria, which relates to the. Given that it’s a simple garment, you keep in mind you’d be wearing it frequently, regardless of the weather. It all comes back to comfort.
I believe the perfect undershirt represents a person’s personality. Through this process, I was amazed to learn that some people willing to shell out for an expensive watch, car, shoes or even a phone, aren’t willing to pay for an expensive undershirt. But I think this is psychological and changing the consumer mindset might take some time.
What else is in the pipeline for the brand?
During 2017 we’ll be launching new products, such as socks and underwear, for men and boys. We’ll also launch our first home collection. Thereafter we’re planning on producing an exclusive yacht collection and pyjama line.
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