Who is the TikTok Tailor? The Viral Roshan Melwani of Sam’s Tailor in HK
December 07, 2022
In his twenty-two years of service for his family’s tailoring business, Roshan Melwani has established a mammoth record of celebrities and dignitaries for who he has measured and fitted suits for.
“I have created suits for President George Bush Senior twice in person, President Clinton multiple times, President Bush once. I have worked with Oscar-winning actors Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, and Sigourney Weaver, and, of course, footballers Harry Kane and Alan Shearer,” Roshan stated in a chat holed up in his small office.
Before the pandemic, Roshan traded handshakes and pleasantries and designed suits for the world’s politicians, celebrities, and athletes out of Sam’s Tailor, a bespoke tailor located in the depths of Hong Kong’s hectic Kowloon area.
As COVID-19 restrictions greatly affected tourism in Hong Kong from early 2020, Roshan has had to innovate, marketing himself, Sam’s Tailor, the suits, and star clients to the world online. The Hong Konger claims the affectionate title of the "TikTok Tailor", popular for his zany reviews of custom suits and his clients.
Located within a nondescript office in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood, Sam’s Tailor has stood for sixty-five years, with four generations of the Melwani family manning the store, beginning with the family’s matriarch Sam Melwani in 1957.
With grandson Roshan creating suits alongside Sam’s sons Manu and Sham, Sam’s Tailor has transitioned in its iconic history to embrace the vogue trends of marketing with TikTok videos and Instagram reels when COVID-19 shut Hong Kong’s borders.
Roshan’s recent followers are familiar with his minute-long videos featuring his clientele wearing his wacky suit creations, often interspersed with comical and recognisable quotes now synonymous with the Hong Konger.
“Beautifully gift-wrapped", “let me unwrap this boy”, “look at his ass”, “let me touch you”, “are you over 18?” Roshan utters in his videos standing beside a client, looking straight in the camera as he fits his clients with final drafts of suits.
“I don't have producers or writers for the videos. It’s all unscripted,” Roshan says, “You have to have the confidence to roll with things.”
“Videos are made with clients that I've really connected with and understand what banter is. They are willing to allow themselves to be put in that situation. It takes a lot from someone. It means I've really touched them.”
Before COVID-19, Roshan asked one in twenty clients to film a video with him. Now, it has reduced to one in four, with weighing the demand for his comedic snaps online. “They know what’s coming. My performance is tempered when it needs to be. If I know them well, I go all out. The audience knows it's unscripted.”
“I think it's hilarious,” Roshan says about his signature comedy style, “I don’t like loose stuff. I love gift wrapping myself and my clients. When I get to gift wrap someone, I want everyone to see their asses. Generally, men don't have good asses. I can show off their ass’ and admit to them how good they look.”
"If I get to make the stuff the way I want them to look, then of course, I'm even more ecstatic. And that comes out in the video. I want every man and woman to want to feel their ass, because it looks so good in my suit.”
“I want everyone to say, oh my god, he looks so good. I can't wait to rip that jacket off. And I get to do it. I think it's awesome.”
In a matter of two years, Roshan has essentially hacked TikTok uploading such content, to tickle a global growing fan base of Sam’s Tailor and his humour, with even comedians Joe Rogan, Tom Segura, and Christina Pazsitzky catching onto his antics.
“Suddenly, through people finding me through TikTok, I was working with brand new clients who had found me on Tik Tok from anywhere, Dubai, Boston, Melbourne, Jakarta, you name it!”
In early 2020, before TikTok was shut in the city due to security concerns, Roshan saw a swathe of Hong Kong teens quickly begin to track his every TikTok video and move, soon following Roshan to his store, eager to get pictures and adopt him as a local icon. “They called me the TikTok tailor!” The title has stuck for him.
Roshan’s reasoning for producing his series of sarky and idiosyncratic TikTok’s is simple: business marketing and education. “People make funny commercials all the time. If the suits didn't look good and the customers were unhappy, I wouldn't be selling suits. If people were not attracted to what I'm putting out, they wouldn't be coming here.”
“At the end of the day, everything I do is [to] educate the public that we should not be boxed in by rules, and that dressing up is a tradition.” Roshan now recounts daily instances of people grabbing him on the street, at the cricket club, restaurants, or at his children's schools for selfies with the TikTok tailor.
“This recent journey is just a microcosm of the entire journey for our entire family, 65 years in the business, with my father leading the helm.”
Roshan has worked at Sam’s Tailor for 22 years, joining his father and grandfather at the family business at the turn of the century in an act of continuing the legacy built by his father.
His father Sham has produced suits for President Donald Trump and Barack Obama, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Harry, Desmond Tutu, Bruno Mars, Michael Palin, Kate Moss, Boris Johnson, and Craig David.
Sham was knighted by the King of Belgium in 2007, received Hong Kong’s Medal of Honor from former Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa in 2002, the Justice of Peace medal by Donald Tsang in 2005, and again from Carrie Lam in 2021. He is set to collect an MBE award from the British government in early 2023."Celebrities usually hear about me from somewhere else. You come to Hong Kong, and one of the things you can do in the city is get a suit made. It’s not about the best suit, it’s about who you can trust.”
Roshan tells the tale of how Kevin Spacey first found Sam’s Tailor to get a suit when he was based in China and Hong Kong in early 2010, while shooting a movie, with the actor referred to Roshan by both President Clinton and Chinese actor Daniel Wu.
“You need someone who knows who the celebrity is, the magnitude of them, and how they work. That trust is built year after year and reinforced brick by brick, and is a seed laid by my father, and I'm just continuing that."
Roshan works with six “dream team members”, hailing from Hong Kong, Philippines, Nepal, and India, to run the “TikTok mail-to-order operation.”
“I help with in-person clientele work every day, they will do design and take notes. My team are very dialled in and trained in my persona, they have the free will to design and create. I just man the ship.”
“I’ve created a massive amount of goodwill for my business in the last three years. Our fun, silly, unique, one-of-a-kind advertising [on TikTok and Instagram] has infiltrated everywhere and everybody.”
“I am not a TikToker where I need to groom myself. There is no video without the client, no product, no sale, no adventure, and no story! This is all about the client! My job is to work with my client, it's all about my client.”
The online adventures Roshan has charted follow a familiar path to both modernise the face of Sam’s Tailor and to bring the family business through more years of success.
“TikTok has given many people globally insight into our capabilities. It has given us a free window for the whole world to sit in and peer on us. What social media provides you with is a free library for you to furnish and showcase what we do. I'm a historian. I'm carrying on my legacy.”
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