By Anand Vardhan
Dubai has emerged as a major centre in the global fashion circuit. A Local designer, who is a member of the Sharjah ruling family, has played a key role in the high-profile Dubai Fashion Week. She is Shaikha Hind Al Qassimi, a multifaceted personality with an enviable record as a painter, publisher and fashion designer. She has set up a number of businesses that reflect her interests, among them a fashion house that showcases exquisitely designed abayas, which combine luxurious functionality and style.
Her signature brand, ‘House Of Hend’ retails in several countries in the GCC and Europe. It reflects her creative and design interests and her passion to take local fashion to the world. Her fashion designs have been showcased in various fashion shows throughout the UAE and abroad, gaining her an instant and loyal following among fashionable and very discriminating local women. In a wide-ranging interview, Shaikha Hend talks about the emergence of Dubai as a key centre in the fashion circuit.
What excites you the most about the fashion industry in the UAE, and in the Middle East as a whole?
Dubai’s fashion industry is blooming. I think the Arab world has come a long way in fashion journalism and now Dubai is a hub for publication houses. The calendar is full with fashion events and the consumers are excited to participate in the industry and stay up to date with trends. The market has a lot of potential with big fashion houses seeing opportunity for expansion and reach like curating a line for our region and this is just the beginning.
Digital has been the direction of the future; and this excites me as I have expanded my magazine into a digital platform with online versions in English, Russian and Italian. When everything is at your fingertips the options are limitless from online shopping to paid advertisements. The Internet has played a vital role in the dissemination of fashion journalism, brands invest heavily in online advertisements and publicity through bloggers and we are seeing that investment in the region now.
How did the idea of bringing Dubai Fashion Week back come about?
I approached Capital Group to bring back Dubai Fashion Week because I wanted to revive the pioneering industry event that started in 2006 till 2011 by breathing a fresh and international approach into it.
How long has the idea of bringing Dubai Fashion Week back been in the pipeline and what were the important elements to have in place before an announcement was made?
Dubai Fashion Week has been in the pipeline since the summer with plans to be back onto the fashion calendar in March 2018. Initially, I wanted to have an opening ceremony to announce the association however by the time the paperwork had gone through, it was more understandable and strategic to focus on the March event onwards.
Please outline what Dubai Fashion Week will be like?
Dubai Fashion Week is purely by invitation only. It is a business-to-business event for the industry that opens the door for designers to showcase to Royals and VIP clientele who have purchasing power along with regional buyers and media. Across the three-day event ready-to-wear and demi-couture designers will take the stage along with accessory designers at the Versace Hotel in Dubai that just received the Global Excellence Award.
What is your overall aim for DFW?
It is important to me to support a Middle Eastern stage that could enhance tourism in Dubai by developing an international stop on the fashion circuit and supporting the region’s designer by providing tools that allow them the opportunity to reach heights attainable by European designers. This platform will in turn grow the fashion segment in the region by encouraging the youth and emerging designers and perpetuate a cycle that will grow internationally.
Which designers, international designer, buyers, celebrities and VIPs have been approached and/or confirmed their attendance?
We are currently targeting the list of local and international designers, buyers, VIPs, celebrities and media that we will be inviting. The previous Royal Gala had brands like Amato, Aset, Azzaro, Hysideis, NC Rocks Palais Des Argano, Rodery, Nakisa, Tharb and Yanina Couture
And what are your future plans?
My new enterprises well, I have multiple subsidiaries under Paris, London, New York Events & Publishing including a Beauty Bar Salon and my flower and delight café Heart in A Box. I am also throwing a new twist for the second time to a fashion show known as The Royal Gala in October that I am very excited for.
How do you balance running a fashion label and magazine alongside your philanthropic and business endeavors?
I received my undergraduate degree in architecture and design. Art never leaves your blood and it has inspired the shapes and structures of the pieces I curate for House of Hend. My brand has become my artistic expression through the medium of clothing and I love creating walking pieces of art. I also like to spend my time with charitable programs, speak to students to encourage their dreams and represent companies as their ambassador that have corporate social responsibilities. It is a combination of my passion for the arts, textiles, culture and fashion that are near and dear to my heart, however deciding to turn my passion into a business derived from my entrepreneurial mind.
Every designer has a story to tell, would you share some memories of your first steps into the fashion world?
House of Hend was actually established as an outlet for me to create day-to-day looks for myself it was only later that I started designing collections to share with others. Eventually the line turned into an octopus with many legs like children’s wear and accessories.
Tell us about your designs, your fashion identity.
House of Hend is my artistic expression where every creation is a walking piece of art. I blend Eastern and Western cultures in every collection to encompass a global silhouette. I want to bring a cultural essence of sophistication for women looking to reflect their heritage through their style. Each season, I push boundaries because I want to transform Islamic fashion through my designs.
Most Arab designers are interested in designing Abayas, how would you distinguish yours without compromising their originality?
I put the concept of the abaya on the drawing board almost ten years ago when I started House of Hend. With every season there are new trends and colors that I like to incorporate in to my abayas to stay up to date. I want the traditional dress to be extraordinary eveningwear so I take a softer, more romantic approach through embellishments and color pallets incorporating soft and neutral colors instead of the standard black. I like to redesign the concept of abayas with several silhouettes that allows the traditional dress to become extraordinary eveningwear.
Would you tell us how you manage Velvet magazine as the editor in chief?
I love attending fashion weeks in New York, Paris and Milan. It is my favorite time of the year that I get to mingle with buyers and press from all around the globe. That is why I started Velvet Magazine because I wanted to be apart of the movement. The magazine launched seven years ago and I am very proud of its growth; today we have online versions in Italian, Russian and an international English websites are live. We are also working on an Arabic version that will launch soon. I treat the publication as a person and continue to help it growing with our readers who understand taste, elegance, and the fast paced world of fashion. It is a publication for people who want to stay educated on the latest events and collections and since I get to attend these events, I can pull pieces that speak to the buyers and taste of the region.