Of all the places Rawhi Said and his family might have ended up, Minnesota may have seemed about the most unlikely. But Said, a program director in the Mayo Clinic Office for Education, Diversity and Inclusion, is extremely happy they came to call Rochester home.
Said was born in the early1990s in what was once Yugoslavia and is now Bosnia. This was during a time of intense fighting for independence.
“I spent my first birthday in a refugee camp in Croatia,” he said. “But with a lot of luck and a lot of help from the international community, we were able to come to the United States. … My father was a surgeon back home. When you spend so much of your life in that profession, you find out that there are places in the world that have amazing outcomes and one of those places is Mayo.”
Said explained that when his father expressed interest in Rochester, there was laughter. “Most people were saying, I want to go to California, Florida, warm places, right? My father said he didn’t care about the cold because of the opportunity to work at Mayo.”
Before joining Mayo himself, Said was the Community Engagement and DEI Program manager at the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA) in Rochester. He first worked as a community health worker at IMAA working with underrepresented minorities and focusing on refugees and immigrants new to the community.
Please tell us about your style.
I would probably start with my story. In Europe, fashion is very important to folks. But I also came from very humble beginnings as a refugee. And so my style has had these influences, both culturally coming from Europe, but also growing up very humbly as a refugee and an immigrant in this community. Throughout my life, it has been very important for my family to look clean, to have modern clothes, but not to be living beyond our means. Everything that I wear, I wear with those intentions.
Sources of inspiration?
My father’s from the Middle East and my mom is from Bosnia, so I have a lot of Arabic and a lot of Eastern European influences. During the month of Ramadan, you can find me wearing cultural wear and cultural attire. And then you’ll see me wearing other Arabic attire and Bosnian folkloric dress as well. So my style is really inspired by those two cultures that make me uniquely myself.
What does your daytime wear look like?
On the weekend, you can see me dressed down, and then during the weekdays, I’m very dressed up. I’m not very big into brand imaging. So my clothes oftentimes are, I wouldn’t say muted, but there’s not a lot of branding going on. I think it’s really important that people are seen as human beings and not seen as having the ability to purchase something. That’s what we call flex culture. And I’ve never been into that.
That being said, do you have any favorite clothing?
There is one brand that I exclusively wear. It’s called St. Croix. St. Croix is a brand that is owned by the Kraft Corporation in Winona, Minnesota. Knowing that this brand was started by immigrants in this country, I choose to wear a lot of their clothing, simply because of their history and their story and what it means to me as a newcomer to this country. It’s symbolic of the American Dream. The clothing resonates with me.
What do you hope your style communicates?
Inspiration. Coming to this country as a refugee with just the clothes on your back, to being where I am today, I think I can show folks that it can be done.
What is your most important wardrobe component?
I am a huge lover of watches. I am part of the horological community. For me, watches are a way to not only improve or make a style unique, but they’re also a way to remember the past. The very first watch I received was a watch that my grandfather gave to my father, which I was able to then inherit. When I got my first big job, I purchased a watch. The watch I’m wearing today is a watch that I got married in. Watches can have great meaning. … I’m also an amateur watchmaker, so it’s rewarding to wear something that you’ve built.
Do you have one piece that you consider priceless?
Most of my watches can be replaced. The one that cannot is the one that my grandfather gave to my father. It’s nothing expensive. It’s nothing special. But for me, it’s priceless. My grandfather is no longer around. My father is around, but is older. I can look at the watch and say this is the story of my family. This watch has been on the wrist of now three generations. I think about all of the good and bad days that my grandfather had with it, all of the good and bad days that my father had with it, all of the good and bad days that I’ve had with it. It keeps you humble and it keeps you motivated.
Anything in your wardrobe people would find surprising?
When I’m at home and I’m not in the community, I love to wear sweatpants and a T-shirt. I’m very casual. I think that would surprise people who know me because I do like to dress up a lot.
Preferred season in terms of clothing?
I was born in October, but I also love the fall because you can wear a lot of different things. Some days in fall, it is warm and you can wear something from the summer. If it gets a little brisk or a little chilly, you can wear something with more layers. Fall is such a versatile season and the beautiful colors that can help enhance your wardrobe.
Anything especially Minnesota about your style?
The versatility. Dressing for all of the seasons seems uniquely Minnesota. Friends who have come to visit from Los Angeles or Atlanta don’t really recognize that our style is sometimes dictated by the season and the weather.
As a person who is very committed to the community, to diversity and our history, I would want to say that style can speak volumes about who we are. It can tell your story. Style itself is not the only thing that is important. It’s the folks behind the style – your neighbors.
Do you know someone who has unique style? Send nominations to
with “Your Style” in the subject line.
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