“‘I will never sit in a yellow Porsche’, I said to Abba when I saw the 911 for the first time... Well I drove it for a few kilometres and quickly changed my mind.” Arie Fabian puts his arm around his Abba (it's Hebrew for father), who smiles gently and replies: “The car is a real work of art, a Picasso of motor sports.”
They’re talking about a ‘74 911 S, which has been owned by the Fabians for over nine years. It was purchased by Arie’s father Jeff, a gift to his son who was also born in 1974. “Tradition is everything,” Arie explains. “My father is a role model for all my values.” Jeff comes back with a wink: “I was never one of the crowd. If everyone marched to the right, I'd turn left.”
It’s a philosophy that has shaped Arie, who grew up as part of a third-generation fashion dynasty. His Jewish grandmother emigrated from East Prussia shortly before the Second World War and sailed to South Africa on one of the last ships out. In Cape Town, she opened a small clothing store in the then multi-ethnic centre of the city, District Six. Her son Jeff lost his father at the age of nine and, at just 16 and against his mother’s wishes, he founded his own fashion store. On a shopping trip to Italy in 1978, where he visited the legendary fashion brands of the time, his hosts always mistakenly addressed Mr Fabian as Mr Fabiani, and this was the birth of the Fabiani brand.
Jeff’s son Arie was born into this fashion dynasty. At the age of 20 his father sent him to Germany for further training. “Abba knew Werner Baldessarini well, who was at that time Creative Director and CEO of Hugo Boss,” says Arie. The educational trip proved to be a stroke of luck. In his first month at the brand's Munich Holy's store, Arie was the most successful of the 25 salespeople. “I only spoke broken German and was by no means better than others, but I was open in my approach to people.” This helped when Tommy Hilfiger, whom Arie did not know, entered the shop and Arie sold him goods worth 40,000 German marks after a guided tour. “Today, that would be called a successful customer journey,” he says with a smile.
Over numerous long-distance calls with his father at home in South Africa, it became clear that what the family needed was its own brand. Arie returned to Cape Town, took up the position of Managing Director and within a decade built Fabiani into South Africa's leading luxury men's tailor. “We were in the same league as the brands we sold in our shops: Prada, Armani and even Hugo Boss,” he says. During the expansion, it was important to him to open each individual shop and to train the entire sales team personally.
In 2011, Arie initiated the sale of the Fabiani brand to the Foschini Group. Although for his father Jeff it “almost broke his heart”, he let his son go his own way, to make that all important left turn.
Today, father and son still see each frequently when Arie picks up the 911 from the family garage. It is in good hands with Jeff, who describes himself as a “car fanatic with a pronounced passion for collecting classic vehicles”. He won’t say more about his collection, only that it is kept in a garage far away. The space at home is reserved for the 911.
Although Arie admits he didn't inherit this “car maniac gene”, he doesn't regard the 911 with any less emotion: “My father has petrol in his blood, I'm a brand fan. A Porsche naturally conveys feelings while driving. But it goes beyond that. I see the Porsche brand as inspiring, sexy and successful. Even as a six-year-old I found the shape unique and drew a Porsche pulling a caravan and told my father that I dreamt of driving a Porsche and being independent. About 30 years later Abba gave me this 911. It symbolises our common history and our unique bond in such a special way. When I drive this 911, I feel everything I have experienced.”