Haute Arabia has always been inspired by the fashion statements that Toby has been making; Talking to the genius mind behind it- Hatem Alakeel was the best way to know how Toby was able to make such classy and timeless statements. Toby specializes in men’s traditional robes and shirts, yet there is nothing traditional about these highly crafted fashion items. International icons from royals to Hollywood stars have been pictured in Toby garments. Needless to say, Toby bridges the gap of East and West in a unique and outstanding manner. Having just started his first femme collection, HA gets to interview him behind the scenes.
Khansa (HA): Tell us a little about yourself!
Hatem (Toby): I am from Saudi Arabia grew up between Europe and the United States and now back to the Middle East between Saudi and Dubai. My interests involve Art, Music and fashion. My professional interests are also fashion!
Khansa (HA): What does fashion mean to you?
Hatem (Toby): To me fashion is about self expression without verbal communication. A story can be told through every one’s way of dressing.
Khansa (HA): When did you realize that fashion was your dream?
Hatem (Toby): I went to University in Boston and my many trips to NYC got me really enthralled with the fashion world.
Khansa (HA): What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
Hatem (Toby): A thobe naturally and then a shirt!
Khansa (HA): How would you define your personal style?
Hatem (Toby): Simple but with an edge
Khansa (HA): What influenced you to be a designer featuring Arab style?
When i moved back to Saudi Arabia i had to wear the traditional thobe at work and i was not satisfied with what the market had to offer so i decided to deign my own thobes and people picked up on it.
Khansa (HA): What makes you stand out as a designer?
Hatem (Toby): I am my product and it reflects in my design ethos and people recognize that i am quite european in my aesthetic but still very proud of my roots of my Saudi roots.
Khansa (HA): What are your favorite fabrics to work with and why?
Hatem (Toby): I love cotton for men and linned and satin for women.
Khansa (HA): What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Hatem (Toby): Having celebrities like Christian Louboutin and Snoop Dogg wear my designs. But more importantly the confidence that my customers exude when wearing them is always the pinnacle.
Does your personal experiences/ideologies reflect in anyway in your designs?
Hatem (Toby): What’s the point in being a designer if you can’t tell your stories through your work. My designs are a refection of who i am, where i have traveled and my inspirations. Most of them come from Art, history and even music
Khansa (HA): Tell us how your experiences have defined your identity?
Hatem (Toby): Being exposed to the west and coming from a middle eastern culture has enriched my perspective and given me a global perspective. I feel quite lucky to have been exposed to the west from such a young age.
Khansa (HA): You have worked for some major apparel companies in the garment center, what would you like to see companies improve on?
Hatem (Toby): More creativity would be appreciated. although the bottom like is king! It’s also important not to forget how creativity can also have a very commercial side as well
Khansa (HA): Which designer do you admire and why?
ALAIA because he has always stuck to his guns and was never been side tracked by anything but his passion .He is a believe a true fashion genius.
Khansa (HA): Where do you get your design inspiration?
It depends on my mood and what i am feeling. Could be an old movie, Science fiction.. Art or music
Khansa (HA): What are some of your fashion goals?
Hatem (Toby): To change perception on tradition. Was amazing to see Snoop Dogg wear a those at his Reincarnated concert in Dubai. People now can really look at the those and see how much of a fashion statement it makes. A women’s collection will also be launched soon. I also carry my men’s shirts and ready to wear at Saks Fifth avenue.
Khansa (HA): Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Hatem (Toby): In every closet all over the world!
Khansa (HA): I am looking forward to that as well! What trends do you see being big for 2013?
Hatem (Toby):I don’t look at trends or follow them. I believe in making statement classic items that can become timeless. This year look out for a lot of double collars for men’s shirts and thobes and the introduction of women’s thobes.
Khansa (HA): A message for your audience
Hatem (Toby): Trends are important but it’s more important to also have your own signature style!
Khansa (HA): It was a pleasure having this interview! On behalf of Haute Arabia, I wish you good luck!