After just a few minutes of speaking with Jason Sarai, personal stylist, image consultant, and CEO of Style by Sarai, I suspect one always leaves an encounter with him feeling inspired. Personable, passionate, and totally engaged in our discussion, Jason seems to genuinely love every minute of being an entrepreneur.
Jason started Style by Sarai in December of 2012, but according to his Mom, was into fashion even as a little kid, refusing to wear something if it didn’t match properly. He recalls using clothing to make a personal statement in late high school. Soon, his older brother began stealing his outfits. In fact, you could say that Jason’s brother was his first client.
“My brother was actually the driving force for starting,” Jason tells me, “He lives in Chicago, and when he flew into Vancouver, would never bring more than one outfit with him, because he would just wear all of my clothes while he was here.”
As a busy professional and young Dad, Jason’s brother offered to pay Jason for help buying clothing and putting together outfits. Soon after, whenever someone needed help with styling, they would be sent to Jason for advice.
Everything seemed to be pointing Jason towards this career. He credits friends and family with giving him that push to get the company started, and supporting him along the way. With their help, Jason started brainstorming business names and concepts. Ever since, it’s continued to evolve and grow, and he’s enjoying the journey:
In addition to running Style by Sarai, Jason also has a partnership in Catalyst Kinetics, a gym located in Burnaby. Catalyst is a new, multi-disciplinary, fully integrated approach to health, fitness and wellness that launched 9 months ago.
Jason actually has a background in finance – “I was advising clients to save, and then on the other hand, telling people to spend money on clothing!” he laughs, “It was a bit of a contradiction for a while.”
Some may see the connection between these careers as a bit of a stretch, but Jason puts it perfectly:
With two new businesses on the go, one would be right in assuming he has a pretty full schedule. Jason’s typical work day starts at 4:45am. He heads to Catalyst, where he spends most of the day before focusing on building his style consulting business, meeting with clients in the evenings and on weekends.
When I ask him how he manages all of that responsibility, he says: “I am new to the game, and am so appreciative of every opportunity that comes my way. Eventually, I’ll need to scrutinize my schedule more and say “I just can’t take that on”, but right now, there’s so much to learn.”
For Jason, the first step with any new client is to find out a bit about who they are and what they want their clothing to portray. In an initial discovery meeting, he inquires about their work environment, what they do after-work, and what’s important in their personal lives.
Jason believes that style is all day, every day: “Whether you’re going to work, to a function, picking up the kids, or grocery shopping – you need to be dressed appropriately.”
After learning about the client’s lifestyle and what they’re looking for, Jason goes through their existing wardrobe, piece by piece.
“That’s an interesting exercise,” he chuckles, “I always tell them to leave their closet the way it is – don’t clean it before I get there! I want to see how you normally have it.” So guys, take note – no last-minute, tidying!
Anything not meeting the style vision gets donated to charity. Then Jason really gets to work to fill any gaps in their wardrobe. He’ll send outfit photos and inspiration to his client for discussion, even before he begins pulling clothes. Spouses often get involved at this phase, weighing in on the inspirational looks.
At their next appointment, to ensure they use their time together effectively, Jason will set aside pieces beforehand for the client to try on. Based on what I’ve witnessed of men’s shopping habits, this is a huge benefit to working with Jason. Get in, try on the clothes, love them, buy them, and get out. No leaving a mall or department store 8 hours later, exhausted and frustrated.
Guys will also appreciate that after the shopping is done, Jason provides clients with photos of outfits, demonstrating what pieces in their wardrobe work together. Clients can keep the images on their phone to reference later for guidance.
“It makes dressing really easy, and they can take those and make outfits on their own because the template is worked out for them,” says Jason.
I asked if clients have a hard time letting go of favourite pieces during the clean-out process (as I ask this question, the image of a faded 90’s punk rock t-shirt pops into my head). Jason noted that he always asks if there is anything of sentimental value that needs to be held on to – whether stylish or not, it’s important to respect that.
“But one of the funnier things is when I go back to a client’s house after, and something from the ‘throw out pile’ has somehow mysteriously made its’ way back into their wardrobe,” he says, “I always catch them, and we joke about it!”
It’s important to Jason that the process be enjoyable. There’s a lot of good-natured banter – “It’s meant to be fun, and they all end up shopping more,” he says.
Jason’s approach seems to be working. He has established ongoing relationships with many former clients, and will even receive photos from them while they’re out shopping, asking for his opinion before buying.
“It’s great seeing how much they enjoy it, and how much they take away from our time together and do it on their own.”
So, if you’re a gentleman living in the Lower Mainland and are looking to up your fashion game, Jason offers image and style consulting services at various levels. And it sounds like he and his clients have a great time during the process.
K: Is there an outfit or a piece that you gravitate towards on big days or for important meetings and events?
Jason: There are definitely a few power suits I go to. A couple blazers and pocket squares, too, and some lapel pins that are my favourite.
For an important day, I’d have to say my go-to is this plaid, rainbow coloured tie. It definitely gives me energy. I always get compliments on it when I wear it. I was looking for it based on a photo I saw. It took me three years to find, so when I found it, I bought a couple. I have a back-up, just in case.
K: If you had to give one piece of fashion advice, what would it be?
Jason: I have two things, if that’s okay.
1) Make sure it fits.
Being in the fitness industry, I hear time and time again from the people I’ve helped that they’re holding off buying new clothes until they get to their desired goal.
That’s no reason not to look good in your current state. It comes down to fit. Find something that fits your body, and you’ll be amazed at how much of an impact that has.
2) Be your own style icon.
It’s great to look to celebrities for inspiration, but, figure out what makes you happy and what you like, and dress to the best of that ability.
If you feel good in it, it doesn’t matter what other people think. If you’re happy, then what else really matters?
It was a sincere pleasure getting to know Jason, and I look forward to witnessing the continued growth and success of Style by Sarai.
Personal Stylist & Image Consultant
Images courtesy of Jason Sarai. Photographer: Alex Kwok