Saad Tariq is the founder of 22Ahead, a luxury fashion brand for men and women with a sustainability mission.
Born in Pakistan to an entrepreneurial family, he was inspired to become a businessman, although he remains a director and shareholder in his family’s company which manufactures and exports surgical instruments.
Mr Tariq, 28, who lives most of the time in Dubai’s Business Bay, had travelled to the UAE frequently since 2001 and studied in Dubai and London before establishing 22Ahead, a brand embracing projects to benefit the environment and community.
For every product sold, it plants a tree, donates to water conservation, while using certified organic and recycled fabrics, as well as recycled and recyclable packaging.
Customers can also return used 22Ahead garments for donation to people in need in return for store credit.
Did family shape your fiscal outlook?
Everyone was doing business, on my mother’s side, my father’s side, so it played a significant role in my attitude towards money.
Growing up, I had access to money, I could get anything but at a very young age I learnt the value of being responsible with money.
My parents taught me how important it is to be financially secure, to understand how money works, spending, how you should save, what you should and should not do with money.
In what way did this happen?
Examples and conversations. During the early years, we used to live in a small house, not because we didn’t have money but the whole family used to live together. It was in a poor area, so I would see people from all walks of life.
I had friends who were rich and friends who could not afford to eat twice a day. We used to play cricket and football, I could see the problems, and that this could also be me. I needed to work hard and be financially secure.
When were you first handed a wage?
After my studies, I had a job at my family’s business. I was 26 and used to sit in the lowest level, with people doing basic processes like polishing.
My dad taught me that if you want to learn something, you have to get involved 100 per cent, start at the bottom, learn all the processes and have a grip on everything. That was my first job, for about eight months, for less than Dh1,000 ($272) a month.
I also had the benefit of travelling to medical exhibitions and trade fairs globally with my father, met a lot of people, successful businessmen, Fortune 500 companies, billionaires.
You caught the business bug?
Since I was about 10, I’d been accompanying my father, sitting in his office, watching how he was operating and I learnt a lot.
The eldest of the children is expected to join the family business and I would have been happy, comfortable with money but from very young I wanted to do something on my own that I could be proud of in future when I have kids, that I built myself, not something I was given.
My father has been very supportive. Most initial investment in this business came from him.
Why fashion in Dubai?
From a young age, I’ve been in love with the city. I wanted to move to the UAE one day to set up my base and business.
I thought I could make a difference with fashion and clothing. I don’t want to make regular clothes, I wanted to make it more environment-friendly, for the everyday buyer to wear anywhere.
It’s not just about money. I see problems the world is facing, I want to make an impact, so we moved towards sustainability, giving back in some way ... tree planting to make a positive impact for the environment and we partnered with a reputable organisation to donate Dh10 per product sold to water conservation in different areas around the world.
There is a lot of good innovation coming into the fashion industry but we are still far away.
Do you spend or save?
I’m a spender, mostly on travel. I like to explore. Every year, my father would take us to a country in Europe. I’ve seen different people, different cultures and communities. It is my habit. I’m always excited to travel, no matter where.
It helps me realise the problems and get new ideas. I see small things happening in different places and then imagine what we can do to make it better. Because of work, it’s getting a bit difficult to travel but when I travel for work I have two days extra to explore.
Where do you park your wealth?
I’m an old-school kind of investor. I tend to play it safe and believe in assets, in real estate.
I have an apartment in Dubai, a property in Pakistan and plan to get more. Financially, I’d say my best investment has been property. And I reinvest back into business.
Any financial milestones?
Earning my first money from selling garments, it gave me satisfaction. Currently we are online and we are in talks with shops to get our clothes in there. We are near breakeven.
The sustainable side of things gets a bit more expensive, the fabrics, the processes – a sustainable T-shirt with organic materials would cost you about one and a half times more.
But our prices are pretty affordable, compared to some brands. Sustainability is relatively new in terms of fashion, so we try to spread more knowledge. More brands are coming towards this.
Does money bring happiness?
I don’t know any person who doesn’t get happy when he has money but it’s not about the amount, it’s what you do with it.
It could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing, generally it depends on what you’re spending on. For me, it’s a good thing … to get more experiences, more adventures.
I don’t like to keep a lot of money, I usually spend it on travelling or I invest.
And I have complete confidence in me; I know I can make money. You work hard on everything, anything, it will get you money.
Are you mindful with your funds?
I don’t socialise too much, go to fancy restaurants. Travelling … sometimes I spend more than I need to but what matters is the satisfaction it’s giving me because travelling stays with you forever, it’s not some materialistic thing.
I don’t go for very expensive clothes. I buy what I need. I don’t look for brands, or for the price, I look for comfort.
Until now, we have planted about 300 trees and plan to plant a lot more. It is my responsibility.
In future collections, we plan to do more innovations, minimise the impact, move towards renewable energy.
We also want to make suppliers who work with us move towards these kinds of things … 2023 has been declared as the Year of Sustainability.
My personal goal is financial independence, to be able to live comfortably, a nice home, not to be a billionaire.
Success is not about money, it’s about making the brand … money is just an additional benefit of working.