As the saying goes, you learn more from failure than you do from success. Adam Raby certainly agrees with that statement. “A client from Haiti was interested in placing an order and urgently wanted the shorts before the holiday season. She even offered to pay more for early shipping. Everything was going smoothly,” says the designer and founder of Mazu Resortwear, “until she never paid for her goods. It wasn’t a big order, but it was a big learning curve.”
For every aspiring designer who dreams of being the next big thing in the competitive, often-fickle fashion industry, let it be known that payment and press aren’t always on time. When we first met Raby, circa 2014, he had just launched his Hong Kong–based luxury men’s swimwear brand and a scant few predicted its survival.
The former rugby player, who has also worked in advertising, was educated in Britain and carries our city’s can-do spirit easily on his Eurasian shoulders.
On a business trip to a garment factory, he saw the possibilities that lay in the manufacture and construction of garments. “I had been working on the idea [for Mazu] for almost a year and a half, making sure I would release a product that I’d be extremely happy with and one that [would show] the passion that goes into it.”
So how does he manage in a world where designer behemoths – with their hefty war chests, mass-media campaigns and celebrity endorsements – rule the roost?
“That’s a very good question! I’ll answer it as Adam Raby, the rugby player,” he says. “Like in any major competition or tournament, you want to be playing with the best in the world. Train hard and practise, and eventually you will be at the big boys’ table.”
So here we are four years later and Raby’s colourful swim shorts and resort wear are available in 32 stores across nine countries, from department stores like Lane Crawford to hotels like Amanpuri in Phuket and COMO Cocoa Island in the Maldives.
Comparisons are inevitable and the one he hears most is Mazu’s parallels with Vilebrequin, the nearly 50-year-old French – and more expensive – brand. “Vilebrequin actually inspires me a lot,” Raby says. “If you look at that brand’s history, there’s nothing stopping Mazu Resortwear. Let’s touch base again in 20 years. We’re just getting started.”