Rahim Mitha

Be your Own Style Icon: Jason Sarai

Rahim Mitha
Be your Own Style Icon: Jason Sarai

On this episode of #BLUEPRINT, I had the pleasure to interview Jason Sarai, the Founder and Creative Director of Style by Sarai and SARAI BESPOKE.

Style by Sarai started out as Jason's creative outlet and passion project, evolving into one of Vancouver's most luxurious bespoke design as well as image and lifestyle consulting businesses. Through working as a corporate professional interacting with high net worth clients, and representing Canada’s biggest investment firm, Jason experienced – for the first time – a daily emphasis on suiting and personal presentation within the affluent space. However, growing up having an interest in style and being keen on aesthetics made Jason’s transition into that world smoother.

The Style by Sarai mission is to empower individuals to feel strong and confident in their personal style and the brand achieves this through providing the tools and frameworks necessary for a client to be their own style icon. Ranging from bespoke garment creation and personal/corporate consultation and partnerships to hosting exclusive soirees, you can count on Jason and his team at Style by Sarai to deliver a truly unique and personalized experience.

Jason’s work in the financial sector as well as in both the health and fitness industries with a high net worth clientele equipped him with the skills necessary to build strong and meaningful relationships that are directly translatable to his business within the clothing and image world. Philanthropy is also another pillar of Jason's life as he is the Co-Founder of 1KARMA alongside Breakfast Television Host, Riaz Meghji, to foster lasting impacts and support organizations and charitable causes. Since inception in 2012, Jason has not missed a year in Covenant House’s Executive Sleep Out, a cause in which the members collectively raised over one million dollars to support disadvantaged and homeless youth within Vancouver in 2018. Currently serving on the executive committee of the Covenant House Sleep Out, Jason is looking to continue this on for the years to come.

Q.1. Style by Sarai started as a passion project, what does it mean to you to have your passion and work intersect? 

I think how I look at it now has really evolved from how I looked at it when I first started out. When I started, I had no intent or notion that this passion project would become my full time work. I was looking for a creative outlet and something that would satiate my artistic passions.

The genesis of Style by Sarai came about thanks to my brother with the primary recurring theme being the film Crazy, Stupid, Love. He would visit us from Chicago and ask for my help when he was looking to build out his wardrobe and professional style. As an optometrist, he was busy and did not have the time to go out and curate the particular style he wanted. At the time I was wealth manager and advisor in the financial industry, so the idea of creating my own brand and bespoke clothing line was not in my mind at all. However, following a consecutive set of events that kept directing to Ryan Gosling’s character in Crazy, Stupid, Love I decided to finally watch the film. The character played by Ryan Gosling was helping Steve Carell’s character build out his wardrobe as well as adhere to a consistent fitness schedule. These are the two silos of style that are superficial and can usually be seen. However, when I began the personal and corporate image consulting business on the side, my focus was also on strength and confidence from within. In the autumn of 2012 this side project began to kick off and I had the opportunity to grow the business and brand into more than a consulting business and into a bespoke clothing brand, ‘SARAI BESPOKE’ (then titled ‘Jason Sarai’). Early on I realized that few people get to pursue what they love every day; if I was going to be one of the lucky few, I knew I would have to start investing a significant amount of my time and energy in order for it and myself to grow.

I departed from the finance world to pursue Style by Sarai and Catalyst Kinetics full time. Through dedication and trusting my gut I was able to keep up with the workload and I am grateful for the opportunities that presented themselves. I had the chance to start my own custom suiting line through Coppley and Baracos + Brand, learning the entire process of building customized ready to wear and made to measure suits. However, gaining clients’ trust is crucial within a space that is focused on what we hold close to us – health and wealth. If I hadn’t gone through Innovative Fitness, RBC Dominion Securities, and Catalyst Kinetics, then the foundation I have developed in fostering real, genuine relationships and connecting with distinguished and successful clientele we would not be where we are today as a business.

During that period, I was working 300 hour plus months, splitting my extensive hours weekly between Style by Sarai and Catalyst Kinetics. The reality of periods such as those pushes individuals to sleep less and work more, which is not something I boast about as it is not ideal. Working like that and missing out on valuable sleep time leads to lower levels of performance and is detrimental to one’s health. However, we cannot expect to wait for life to present us with ideal situations and scenarios – that was the reality of turning my passion into something tangible.

The reality is, if you are going to pursue something you have to give it your 100% to see what its true potential is. At some point you have to make the jump from passion project to full time and in order to make that jump successfully you have to really do your due diligence and make sure that you can sustain your lifestyle. Three years ago I made that jump, turning Style by Sarai and SARAI BESPOKE from my passion project into my full time work. The journey was not easy, but I could not be happier with where we are today. 

"We cannot expect to wait for life to present us with ideal situations and scenarios"

Q.2. What has been the biggest obstacle that you have faced on your journey and how did overcome it?

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I think the biggest obstacle in pursuing Style by Sarai and SARAI BESPOKE was leaving the finance world and the associated stability. In my late twenties to early thirties I was working as a Wealth Management Advisor at RBC Dominion Securities for high net worth families and corporations and I had just reached the five year mark. In that line of work the five year mark is when the momentum is solidified and relationships begin to develop even more so. Of course there is a large element of risk involved by shifting my focus and leaving that field but it felt like the right thing to do – albeit daunting. Although, before I made the transition, I began to do things within finance that were different such as hosting art events and crafting experiences. This broadened my creative and artistic limitations as well as joined the two worlds together in an intriguing manner. I then had the opportunity to leave finance and go back into fitness and entertain style to a greater capacity. Seemingly leaving all that I had built over the last five years in the financial industry and starting back from ground zero was not an easy decision. I think the biggest hurdle was deciding to do what felt right and going out on my own, taking full responsibility for my destiny and passion. From that experience, I learned that as long as I work hard and take care of my clients, and have the support of my family, close friends and mentors, that is really all I need to be happy. Working on one's passion is a true privilege.

Q.3. What traits or beliefs that you have adopted have most positively impacted your life?

One thing I really believe in, is chasing opportunity. I love the idea that there is no end to the potential of a certain craft, art form, business model, or overall learning – there is no finish line. I have never chased money; it has always been about following what feels right and making people happy. A lot of people think that form of thinking is too general, but I believe you can really measure it. When you are creating a genuine human interaction and emotion, there is something very tangible, you just cannot quantify it. For me, creating that feeling is far more long lasting than just conducting a transaction. Having the belief and trusting that the pursuit of happiness and doing right by other people will create good results has always been a belief of mine. Additionally, I believe that work ethic trumps everything. It is easy to say work smarter not harder, but you have to make things effective before you can make them efficient. We live in a time where everyone is all about making things efficient before they make them effective, but a lot of the time that is just avoiding the hard parts of the work. The value of working hard was instilled in me by my parents from a young age, they worked hard to provide for us and afford many learning opportunities and doors in life. Consistently putting my best effort forward every day will allow for growth and positive advancement. You want to be able to shift and pivot accordingly and have a certain threshold of flexibility as well. Lastly, I am a big believer in “your network is your net worth”. Creating genuine friendships, being honest, and having integrity are crucially important. I truly believe that friendship comes first. 

"I have never chased money; it has always been about following what feels right and making people happy."

Q.4. If you could go back to your undergraduate self, playing varsity soccer and studying hard at SFU, what advice would you give to your younger self?

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I would have told myself to focus more on school and to hone in on being a better student. I would have joined more clubs on campus and done a semester or two abroad. Travel can create such a profound impact on one’s life, something I wish I started from a younger age. I would also say to focus more on developing hard skills and becoming skilled in excel, accounting, and programming or coding. I think being a little more well versed across all domains of life instead of mainly focusing on sports would have served me well. Developing those skill sets and habits from a young age really benefit you in your career and personal life down the road. Also, the sooner you can get back into the mentality of being philanthropic and giving back the better.

Connect with Jason here on LinkedIn, Instagram or at https://www.stylebysarai.com/. If Jason's thoughts resonated with you, share this on LinkedIn with #BLUEPRINT and follow along with this series!