The Dareen Hakim Collection was a dream that manifested itself in New York City.Founded by Dareen Hakim after deciding to leave the corporate world of work, where she managed super beauty brands L’Oreal Paris and Maybelline, she decided to pursue her lifelong ambition of following her passion in fashion and accessories. Distinctively unique, bold and unexpected, this line of beautifully crafted handbags and clutches ,has created a buzz in the fashion scene, as the fashion accessory to have. Gathering celebrity followings, from Eva Longoria to gracing the pages of the most notable fashion magazines; Vogue ,Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia, it’s no wonder the brand has grown from strength to strength. With every piece embodying modern elegance, and a Middle Eastern influence, through its elegant use of Arabic calligraphy, you can expect to carry a work of art that tells its own story. Haute Arabia editor Saamiyah, goes behind the scenes for an exclusive interview to find out more about Dareen’s journey, from her inspirational move from corporate, into the world of accessory design, her successful collection, and her hopes and dreams for the future.
Saamiyah (HA) :Hi Dareen, welcome to Haute Arabia , please tell us a bit about yourself ?
Dareen : I was born in Beirut, Lebanon, which forms a huge part of who I am; from family values to academic/professional ambitions and of course, to my taste for style and fashion. After attending Harvard University, I worked across several roles on Wall Street ,from Investment Banking to Private Equity. With an insatiable desire to be more creative and create a venture of my own, I decided to go back for my graduate studies and received my MBA at Harvard. Upon graduating, I accepted a Brand Manager role at L’Oreal, and spent two wonderful years cultivating my creativity and refining my operational skills. And with the encouragement of my friends and family, I left L’Oreal to start my own fashion design business. I currently live in NYC and though I love being a designer and living an exciting life in the city, it is the simple things that make me happy,like spending time with my angel, my little girl and sunshine Mila.
Saamiyah (HA) :When did you realize you wanted to become an accessory designer?what was the inspiration behind creating the Dareen Hakim Collection?
Dareen :In my childhood, I had always naturally picked up drawing and painting. I remember at the age of 4 waiting for my aunt at her office, and just picking up a pencil and drawing the pet canary with such a level of detail. I then started painting on silk and experimenting with it to make my mom scarves. I learned how to knit from my grandma and designed dresses, tops, scarves, and skirts for my dolls. Then in school I asked to take a ceramics class and designed pottery pieces for my family. I was just always interested and attracted to creation. As I grew up, this interest turned very much to fashion as my mom was a super fashionista, styling her little girl from head to toe, not to mention the influence of her closets full of Parisian designer brands that I would use to style myself and HER. While I have always had an obsession with handbags, it doesn’t stop there! I also love shoes, apparel, jewelry,because frankly, it’s not just one piece alone that tells the story of the person wearing it, it’s a combination of pieces put together. That is why there is always a consistency in my aesthetic styl, it’s always bold and contrasting. Contrast is a huge part of it. Whether with regards to fabrics, textures, eras, cultural element, I love to mix it together, making for deep interesting creations.
Saamiyah (HA) : How does being an accessory designer compare to the corporate world of work? was it what you expected?
Dareen :My goal has always been to start my own business one day, so to me everything went hand in hand. My father is an entrepreneur, my mother is an entrepreneur, and I always wanted to create something of my own. I knew early in my career, that I wanted to develop fundamental skills ,that I could leverage regardless of the industry or business I chose to start later in life. That was the primary rationale for my journey through Harvard, business/finance, Wall Street, etc. The objective was to get a rapid education in general management training, that I needed to build in order to increase my chances of success. My choice for fashion was a simple decision, it is what I am personally passionate about. I love it, I live it and I breathe it,it makes me happy and takes me to a world of beauty and creativity. And I wanted my business to be in the industry that I loved, so that I would wake up every day excited to start work, never get bored, have resilience and sustenance, and therefore the strongest drive and chance of success. So, I started the Dareen Hakim Collection 3 years ago, incorporating my business and management background from my past experiences and from the corporate world, and leveraging that structure and discipline into optimizing a less-structured environment in fashion, while pursuing what I love,beauty, art and creation. Unlike many other “jobs”, (1) this does not feel like a job to me, and (2) it is rare to be able to fully use both sides of your brain, the left and the right, which I’ve found here and am grateful to have that opportunity and balanced stimulation in my life!
Saamiyah (HA) : Describe the Dareen Hakim collection in 3 words?
Dareen : Chic. Bold. Unexpected. This is our motto, and it happens to be three words,so I like this question
Saamiyah (HA) :Tell us a bit about your design process and where you draw inspiration for your bags & clutches?
Dareen: My design process is random and evolving. As a designer, you naturally continue to come up with new ideas and find new inspirations, which create drama and complexity throughout your designs. It is not always at one time or place; it really does occur at the most random and unexpected situations. Much like my home country’s people, landscape and flavors, my designs come from a combination of old and new, past and present, traditional and contemporary, sleek and unexpected, this combination tells a deeper story and as such is very powerful. I admire that in design as I do in people.My new tumblr page “Icons for Le Icon” is about the power and strength of beautiful, confident and complex women who serve as inspirations to me ,and embody the type of woman I see for my designs. It’s been an amazing and greatly introspective journey that’s about beautiful bags, but also more.
Saamiyah (HA): Can you tell us a bit about your current collection?
Dareen :I love my new collection! Every season I think, I love that one the most, then the next season happens and I think the same thing! It’s a good thing though I love that. What’s better than knowing you put your entire heart and soul into something and are proud of the outcome? My wish is for my customers to feel that passion! Our current collection is all about the beautiful colors of the season, bright and vibrant, while still incorporating exotic textures and elegance to each piece. We’ve added functionality with new cross-body items, totes and satchels. I continue to experiment with new shapes, sizes, styles and textures with my new collection. All my collections will always be about bold contrasts and unexpected statement pieces. Keep an eye out!
Saamiyah (HA): Your bags are a favourite among A-list celebrities and have been featured in magazines such as Vogue & Glamour to name a few, how does it feel to see your brand attract such attention?
Dareen: It started as disbelief then turned into thrilled excitement, then into the most humbling and gracious of feelings. It’s an honor when you stand in an ocean of so many other designers and your brand is still young. When a magazine like Vogue covers the collection or a celebrity such as Eva Longoria chooses to wear your designs, it is the ultimate compliment.
Saamiyah (HA) : Career highlight to date?
Dareen : There are many challenging moments when starting your own business. But it is also those challenges, and getting over the bumps, that is so thrilling and keeps me going. Seeing the small wins, and then the bigger wins, and knowing it all stems from personal drive, hard work and passion, is incredibly motivating. Of course, being in our 7th season, distributed across 30 countries and carried by celebrities, are all wins for the brand, but my personal highlights: I love my team,they make me want to wake up to their happy faces every morning. And importantly, there’s really nothing more I love than hearing, reading or seeing a smile from a customer who’s enjoyed one of my bags. It’s precious to know that I’ve touched their day in the smallest way and brought them “happiness” “laughter” or a smile, for which the world will smile back at them,as is written on one of my handbags
Saamiyah (HA):Name your top 3 must have accessories?
Dareen :Handbags, shoes, jewelry and scarves. I know that’s 4 but I can’t narrow them down! One doesn’t replace another
Saamiyah (HA) :Your favourite fashion /accessory designers?
Dareen : Alexander McQueen is definitely at the top. He had the ability to see the world and to love it for the subtleties that most of us often overlook or are too afraid to accept and see. To see beyond the text, the shapes, the color and the obvious message is truly a unique trait. With accessories, I love Alexis Bittar for his use of materials. I find the way he mixes them to create his jewelry very inspiring.
Saamiyah (HA) :Any plans to venture into fashion design and release an apparel collection?
Dareen : Yes! I would love to extend my brand to cover other categories and have always thought about developing a lifestyle brand. However, I also believe that if you’re good at something, don’t dilute it with distractions and take your time,it allows you to do each thing you do as best as possible. Right now, I am very happy focusing on my signature bags and can’t imagine doing anything else. But as they say, the sky’s the limit,and I’m a big believer of being able to do what you put your mind to!
Saamiyah (HA) : What projects or plans would you like to accomplish with the DH Collection in the next 5 years?
Dareen: I would like to continue to evolve the line and bring beautiful handbags to women across the world. We are expanding into new silhouettes, both smaller and larger, and interpretations of our concept to build on the signature pieces. While this is my focus, I have started to cross into the scarves category through collaboration with a talented painter. Our first limited edition scarf ,artfully celebrating our popular inscription “live and laugh” in honor of the laughter of little children that light up our world ,and that remind us that laughter heals all. We will be contributing a portion of proceeds to the children of St. Jude’s hospital.
Saamiyah (HA) : It was an honour talking to you Dareen and sharing your journey with Haute Arabia and its readers, your story is truly what dreams are made of.
Thank you for collaborating with Haute Arabia on this lovely interview.
Feature Editor : Saamiyah Suleiman
For products featured and the latest from the Dareen Hakim Collection :