Entrepreneur and former model Martin Al Masri, 31, launched Dubai fashion brand The House of Victor in December 2019.
It includes collections for men and women — the latter revealed during Middle East Fashion Week — and features couture, streetwear, as well as fragrances.
Egyptian Mr Al Masri, also an image consultant, is involved in all stages of design and creation, including content, marketing and photography.
A Dubai resident since 2012, he also co-founded Infinity World Models & Events, The Victor Closet, a magazine, and lives with four dogs in The Springs.
Was there money in your upbringing?
I was born in Port Said and come from a very well-off family. My mother was a homemaker. She died in 2010. My father was a trader, importing and exporting fruit and vegetables.
We were very disciplined; just because you have an abundance of certain things, that does not give you reason to be spoiled or look down on anyone.
Your brain is what makes you above or below, not what you possess.
When I was 17, I left my parent’s house, moved to Cairo. I was kind of a rebel. I paid for my own education, rented my first house.
I didn’t want to be 20 and still take money because in my mind that was limiting.
How did you make that sustainable?
I worked part time in a hotel spa. It was mostly to support what I was learning in hotel management, something practical. I wanted to bring in my own money.
What did your first modelling job pay?
It was for e-commerce (clients) and I was paid Dh2,000 ($544) for a full day, in 2014.
A crazy figure I got paid was in the Netherlands, a campaign for underwear; €30,000 ($31,800) for seven days.
What brought you to Dubai?
I came for a weekend with Dh400 in my pocket, and never left. I was jumping from one campaign to another, doing business development, socialising and networking.
As a part-time job, I was doing image consultancy. I like to create an image, a product and build platforms.
Something changed around July 2019. I started looking at things differently, seeing another side of life, and felt this was the right time to start my own business.
What is your spending outlook?
My life is a bit expensive but I am not a lavish person. I never show off, I don’t have the urge to.
People do it for validation. The new rich is always saying: “Look at me, I made it in life, look at my car.”
I don’t need to buy a bag or another brand — I only wear my own — to show you I am rich.
I treat myself really well, take care of my health. I dress well, my brand is expensive and my dogs have to be healthy and happy.
My house is nice. I like to travel but 90 per cent of my life is not on social media. The best life you can offer yourself is the life not seen; it is lived, felt and a personal journey.
The more I grow and the more I make, the more I see that. It is not about how to impress others.
Do you budget for the future?
I think I spend wisely. I know that tomorrow is more difficult, more expensive, so I need to make sure that if something happens, I cover my expenses at least 10 years ahead.
Assuming that I will not earn a single dirham today, I need to make sure the next 10 years are well taken care of.
The business generates money, spends money on itself.
Money sitting in the bank is decreasing in value, because what you can buy for $100,000 today will be worth $70,000 in three years.
Saving in a trust fund is a great idea, but not spending or investing at all is wrong.
Do you diversify?
You have to because one thing is no longer enough, you cannot just be a fashion designer, a model, you have to be many things.
I live my life knowing everything about one thing, and one thing about everything.
I invest in people, first. I invest in myself. I invest in real estate and other up-and-coming businesses I believe have a future.
Are you motivated by money?
No, I am motivated by what I build with that money — my company, my magazine, my modelling agency.
We all get excited about some number, by a certain milestone … simply put the focus on what made that money, not the amount you made.
Always focus on the source, work with the source and be the source.
Is there a key financial milestone?
When I got a bulk order from the US to buy the entire collection — 100 pieces per design — last year.
Any cherished purchases?
I have great appreciation for materials. I love when I am holding fabrics or accessories because in my mind I know what is going to be produced from this.
The best purchase is when I buy material to create something bigger.
If you want to talk bigger (purchases), the first time I bought my own house in Dubai, which I haven’t sold.
Does money make you happy?
I make me happy, because I made the money.
I get happier when I make a new collection, bring new models into town and I am doing a photo shoot with them.
These things spark me, but my happiness is always generated from me. I am happy when I play with my dogs, when I travel, when packing to go somewhere.
Money comes and goes … I never give value to something being printed every day. It is a facilitation, a tool to produce, or to distract yourself.
Are you wise with cash?
You have to be. If you are rich and your aim is to show others how rich you are, you will never be satisfied as you are living to impress others. That is the worst thing you can do.
I don’t need to impress anyone. I compare myself to yesterday, not to anyone else.
Any spending weaknesses?
Shoes. I don’t know the exact number, there is a whole room (full of them) in my house, but I need them all; I am a fashion designer, a public figure.
I am not buying them to take selfies with; I need them for work.
Fashion should be a reflection of what you want to send out to the world. Fashion is a translation of your identity.
If you don’t have an identity, then wear one. In Victor, we do not make clothes, we make identities.
What are you happy spending on?
I like to meet new people, have new experiences, and when I travel, I travel well, I don’t travel on a budget.
I am doing it for me because it is a way to recharge. People only see the photo shoots, the final product, but when I was creating the collection, I was staying in the office until midnight.
My health is (also) an open budget.
Any future goals?
I want to own a hotel, to open my first store, in Dubai, and an office in Europe and in the States.
The House of Victor … it is an Emirati brand from Dubai, for the world. I am promoting where my brand was born.