Meet the dapper creative and social innovator behind Fixin Dairies, Hussain van Roos
Hussain wants to get one quarter of Johannesburg riding bikes by 2020; that’s huge. The scope of his ambitions, however, don’t seem so unattainable when you consider the man himself and what he’s been able to do with nothing more than a hobby. Hussain started the Soweto-based bicycle repair and riding community, Fixin Diaries, with two friends out of pure passion, and since then, this “bike share” has turned into a fully fledged social innovation. Dapper and down to Earth, he is the very definition of a renaissance man. Naturally, he has a lot on his plate, so pinning him down for an interview was a treat that we couldn’t pass up.
The Wire: Fixin Diaries is obviously a big success. Were you trying to create a social innovation from the start or was the end just a matter of circumstance?
Hussain: It kind of came around by accident. As we started these rides people started giving us ideas about how we could evolve. Right now we’re looking at doing bicycle accessories with leather. It was only something that came about as we were going along, and it’s only through collaboration that we are going to reach our goal of putting a quarter of the city onto bikes by 2020. It’s really exciting. We’re just now working with a guy from Schwinn (Bicycle Company) to help meet our goal.
How did the Ben Sherman collaboration come about?
I’m the director of two companies, one of which is I Am Hussain. I Am Hussain is a brand consultancy. It’s about sixty members now and we run it like a creative mafia. We take brands and put them in markets where they’ve never been before. I became an ambassador about two years ago after they saw the quality of the work I was doing, and the quality of engagement I have with people. They’ve been fully behind me in every little endeavor that I start. It’s never been seen where an international brand gives a boy who grew up in Soweto full creative control of their brand image.
Staying with fashion, who do you look up to style-wise in South Africa and across the continent?
From around the continent, there’s a very good friend of mine, Allen Coleman – he’s from Ghana. He takes great pictures of people from across Africa looking smart and posts them on his page. From a local standpoint, I’d have to say, my dad. It’s got to be my dad; he’s just amazing. He doesn’t know it, but it definitely is.
How did you get into riding fixies, and how are you selling them to other people?
Johannesburg is a very hilly city, and moving in between my grandparents’ house in Soweto, and my place, in Randburg, can get kind of hard; you need a functional bike. But, at some point, you just need to tell your legs to shut up. What I like to tell people is that the bike has to become part of your lifestyle – it’s part of who you are. No bike is the same as the last. You have the give the bike character and personality that suits the owner.
Growing up in Soweto we would fix our own bikes – a part from here, a part from there. When I started riding in my adult life I got on once and was so tired, but I slept like a baby. So, I did research on the benefits of cycling and just started sharing that research. So, we made the bicycle cool and try to teach the benefits it has for your body.
As an influencer, what do you think is missing or what do you think you could add as an influencer?
Influencers need to have originality and authenticity. A lot of brands approach me to do things, and I push it away because it’s not the right fit. If you become someone else who’s going to be you?