Known by fashion lovers around the world, for her signature bag “Le Icon” Clutch.
Dareen, Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with me. I look forward to sharing it with members and Friends on one of the most popular Fashion website’s on the Internet, Polyvore.
R : Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What's your educational background? What are your general professional and non-professional interests?
D : I was born in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to the US at the age of 10 years old. I studied Biology at Harvard as I intended to become a doctor! … But due to a few influences, I transitioned to Investment Banking in the Healthcare Sector. After those years on Wall Street, I went back for my MBA at Harvard, as I wanted to start a business and pursue my interest in fashion and beauty. Ultimately, I realized my true passion was always in design. Designing my own fashion handbags was a pursuit of a dream, which I have been lucky enough to make a reality. The Dareen Hakim Collection is my own creative outlet to explore and express all of my passions and inspirations.
I currently still live in NYC and enjoy spending time with my family and friends. The simple things in life make me the most happy, like when I am able to go to the park with my husband and daughter, or catching up with girlfriends at a new brunch spot. My main hobbies revolve around the arts and exploring different mediums of design: drawing, painting, sculpting, and dancing.
R : What does fashion mean to you?
D : Fashion is evolutionary. Always changing...
Fashion is a reflection of trend influenced by self-trend interpreted and expressed in your own, unique, individualized way.
R : How would you define your New York City's fashion scene?
D : Sophisticated, fearless, and … “bold, chic, and unexpected”! Which is my brand’s motto. I would consider my style aesthetic contemporary chic, but with an unexpected bold but lux twist … I know that sounds complicated, but it comes from my Lebanese background where old and new are a daily mix, my mom’s influence through her collection and love of unusual statement pieces, and my own interpretations of life’s many experiences and travels.
R : When did you realize you wanted to become a Handbag designer?
D : 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 bird 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 dress, tops, craves, 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. When I got married 3 years ago, I helped design my own gown and it was an experience that I will never forget. I am a perfectionist at the core and to have taken on the design of my wedding gown was beyond stressful (I should have started small J) but incredibly thrilling to see the piece come together into my most beautiful creation ever. There is always a consistency in my aesthetic style… it’s always bold and contrasting. Contrast is a huge part of it, and you see it in that wedding dress as well as my handbags. Whether with regards to fabrics, textures, eras, cultural elements… I love to mix it together, making for deep interesting creations.
R : What was your first bag you ever designed?
D : It is my first style, and my favorite - Le Icon, which is the signature piece of the brand. It is usually the handbag that customers identify with our brand. Le Icon is very popular due to its personalization component, where the customer can choose from a selection of leather colors, embossing, metal type, and inscription. These inscriptions make the bag a contagious talking piece, with motivating arabesque messages such as “Happiness”, “My Love”, “Wisdom and Strength”, and “Live and Laugh”. Every season this classic clutch bag is reintroduced with a trend of new colors and prints.
R : How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
D : Planning a collection takes months of preparation. There is a lot of time spent sketching and designing, analyzing trend forecasts, etc. I like to listen and take suggestions from my customers in order to plan my next collection. For example, a customer had told me that she would love to see a bigger work tote – and if you’ve noticed, I launched our Le Grand Icon just a few months ago.
It takes me 2-3 months, and I would frankly often enjoy the luxury of more time if I could! I am inspired every day by things around me and by experiences. Whether it’s watching artisans making metal-etched home decorative platters, or a calligrapher addressing my wedding invitations, or our home contractor shaving industrial metal pieces. I combine these ideas and carry a sketchpad everywhere to scribble something together. Design conceptualization always happens in the context of materials. Because of my love of contrast, to me design and materials are interlinked and dependent on each other for the resulting piece’s uniqueness. I often go through 25 iterations before I decide on a style. My mother is a key sounding board for me. I share everything with her, and even when we agree, I end up sleeping on it and changing it another 10 times. At the end of the day, I want each piece to stand on its own … and most importantly, I want to make my consumers happy and fall in love!
R : Who is one of your favorite local models to work with?
D : I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Denise Bidot. She is a model, now a reality-star, and a single mom with the most adorable daughter. I enjoy her pizzazz, her passion, her energy and watching her love her daughter, all while being super fabulous and juggling her career and her personal life at once.
R : Describe the general process you go through to design and create one of your bags.
D : The process is very 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. Overall, 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 tumbler 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.
R : What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
D : One of the greatest successes DHC has achieved was when I received a note from a Leukemia patient who was compelled to express what her DHC handbag meant to her. Grateful for the gift of a smile and meaning-infused beauty, after an arduous battle for her life, the patient expressed her thanks for her “very special and unique” bag. We enabled her to add an item to her wardrobe that wasn’t a mere fashion statement and nothing is more fulfilling than that. This is what DHC is all about. I passionately believe that a service for others is a service for us. We stand by our community and I will do everything in my power to continuously help people from all walks of life.
R :Who are some of your favorite designers?
D : Alexander McQueen is definitely at the top. I went to his exhibit at the Met last summer. Speechless. One of the greatest minds of our time; creative and innovative. What inspires me most about him was how important his curiosity of the world and his pure intellect translated into everything he designed creatively. From ready-to-wear, to runway pieces to the runway show themselves. 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. And to re-create history is a thing of genius.
Alexander McQueen took fashion to a place we haven't seen it in a long time - into a pure art form. I find him a tremendous inspiration, not just as a designer, but someone who wants to see the world differently.
R : Where can readers buy your handbags?
D : We sell to approximately 300 retailers and multi-brand marketplaces in over 40 countries around the world. We have a few listed on our website, if you’re interested J
We also ship directly through the brand’s direct website (with FREE worldwide shipping, which I love!) www.dareenhakim.com.
R : How long have you worked as a designer?
D : I started “officially” being a designer when I launched the Dareen Hakim Collection 3 years ago. But I’ve always been a designer at heart… this brand was finally my platform to pursue this love for creativity and art. My choice for fashion was a simple decision … it is what I am personally passionate about. I love it, I live it and I breath it… it makes me happy and takes me to a world of beauty. With my business now, I can wake up every day excited to start work, never get bored, have resilience and sustenance, and therefore the strongest drive and chance of success … which is my advice to anyone who wants to start a business.
R :Where do you see yourself five years from now?
D : 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. I have also started to expand to new categories, starting with scarves. I have JUST launched our very first Charity Scarf this holiday season, which I created in collaboration with a beautiful artist named Kind of Hibrawi, and we will be contribution a portion of proceeds to the children of St. Jude’s hospital. The scarf is an artful painting of our popular inscription “Live and Laugh” – we wanted to celebrate this phrase as a simple reminder that heals all and keeps us going through the tough times in life, starting with the sweet laughter of little voices around us. You can learn more and purchase this wearable art piece on our website!
R: What advice would you give to anyone, whose dream is to become a
D :Although it’s a hard road to travel down, it is worth every minute of it. Not every day is easy, or a success, but I truly love what I do and don’t consider it a “job”. It’s those small successes that drive me each day … a husband asking me to send an inspiring note to his wife with her bag, a fan across the world telling me she saw my bag on 3 people at a wedding she attended, a proud parent telling me “you did it” … each little win is a step forward in this journey, and the bigger wins are just the cherry on top. My best advice is to follow your heart because that’s what you’ll be best at… and to find people who support you unconditionally. With those two elements, you can do whatever you put your mind to. And just remember, as business owners and entrepreneurs, we are given the opportunity and the responsibility to give back to our communities whenever we can, so please always keep that in your hearts.
Thank you for taking the time to read my interview , I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did doing this interview. It’s been my pleasure, getting to know the Designer behind her gorgeous and oh so Chic handbag collection.