LEBANESE DESIGNER DARIN HACHEM ON SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND THE IMPORTANCE OF MULTICULTURALISM IN STYLE
YOU LAUNCHED YOUR FIRST COLLECTION FOR S/S19… WHAT IS THE BACKSTORY THAT LEAD YOU TO THAT POINT?
“Yes, Darin Hachem is officially a year old this month! We launched the first collection in September for 2018 for spring/summer 2019. The brand identity revolves around multiculturalism, the incorporation of what ‘the other’ has to offer as an added value, the belief that physical frontiers no longer matter, and the idea that dressing up becomes a ritual to feel good and create a visual impact at the same time.”
YOU WERE BORN IN LEBANON, RAISED IN GABON AND THEN STUDIED IN LEBANON AND LONDON. THAT’S THE QUITE THE MULTICULTURAL JOURNEY…
“I know. I happen to be lucky to have grown up surrounded by different cultures, different visions and educations, but also different landscapes. I was raised to be curious of the unknown and to be attentive to details.
HOW HAS THAT NOMADIC CHILDHOOD INSPIRED YOU CREATIVELY?
“Growing up in Gabon, we used to come every summer to Lebanon. My father is from the South, so I used to spend all my summer there in my grandmother’s house – imagine 30 kids nearly the same age running around, screaming, playing… The house was the centre of everything. I remember my grandmother used to dry ‘summak’ on the terrace, do the ‘kishik’, and get the olives mixture ready so we could take some with us to Gabon. On the roof we used to have those elongated black and white grapes. The images are very vivid. So from this, I keep beautiful memories of the nights on the terrace discussing, playing cards, watching the dark sky full of stars. Also, Lebanon by night… all these tiny lights far in the landscape on the way from south to Beirut and vice versa. I kind of have romanticised memories of Lebanon. Colours, smells and textures, which are the base of ever designer, I guess.”
HAVING LIVED ALL OVER THE WORLD, HOW IMPORTANT IS CULTURE, AND THE IDEA OF BLURRING GEOGRAPHICAL FRONTIERS, TO YOUR DESIGN WORK?
“Well, travelling, blurring geographical frontiers, discovering and confronting ourselves consciously with ‘the other’ is primordial, not just for designers but for every single human being. It shakes each of our cells and opens our brains to dimensions that we didn’t know even existed. I am the result of a collection of experiences I had in different places. They changed me, shaped me, and as a person I love to be in contact with places and people that add value to my life and mind. The same applies for the brand… It is multicultural and I hope it gets even more multicultural and tinted with the different things we learn from others. The real interest is in the artisanal process in each country we get to come in contact with, as well as the fabrics and colours etc.”
YOU ORIGINALLY STUDIED BIOLOGY AND THEN FINE ARTS… WHAT MADE YOU SWITCH DIRECTION?
“I’m not going to pretend, there was honestly no lightbulb moment! I grew up with both sciences and arts, so my brain is both scientifically and artistically wired in different proportions. I loved and valued what I learned in Biology but I didn’t see my life going down the medical path. I always drew and painted as a kid, but for some people things are not straightforwards. There is an essential growth process, trial and error to be able to get in deep contact with our inner self.”
THEN YOU MOVED INTO FASHION. DO YOU RECALL YOUR FIRST MEMORY WHEN YOU FELL IN LOVE WITH CLOTHES AND DESIGNING?
“This one is going to sound cliche, but well it’s the truth… I used to draw girls wearing evening gowns, and the bigger the better! They were more like the princess-style gowns, so the total opposite of what I’m doing now. And in my summers in Lebanon, my maternal grandmother used to sew her own outfits in one of the rooms of the house, so she used to keep leftover pieces of fabric for me, that I used to make clothes for my Barbies.”
FROM THERE, WHAT DREW YOU TO THE INDUSTRY OF FASHION DESIGN?
“I didn’t think about fashion as an industry, I was just thinking about the creative process, as a lifestyle. As in, concepts to live by.”
SO, TO DARIN HACHEM, THE BRAND… HOW DOES IT HELP FUSE CROSS-CULTURAL INFLUENCES IN FASHION AND BEYOND?
“Simply put, I was surrounded by all typologies of women – the very conservative ones consciously hiding certain parts of their bodies, women who were openly feminine and sexy showing their bodies… This is part of my heritage, of the real women I talked to on a daily basis. In addition to the dress code in the Middle East, we tend to love catchy things, visible, shiny… What I want is to soften these categories – I want to mix them, play with them, combine them in different ways to create a new dialogue from things I experienced living outside the region. The simplicity I learned from living in Milan, for example, I just loved it.”
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE USPS OF DARIN HACHEM?
“I’d say it is a mix of masculinity, comfort and minimalist – the whole with little twists and knots.”
YOU’LL BE LAUNCHING YOUR A/W19 COLLECTION SOON. WHAT IS THE STYLE CODE?
“The A/W19 collection stays true to the brand’s identity – minimalistic, a bit masculine, playing between classical and street-style. A lot of pieces were thought of as co-ordinated items, but this is up to each person’s taste. In certain pieces, the focus is on the derivations of draping, things entering and exiting parts of the piece, and still up to personal interpretation and styling.”
AND WHERE DID YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FOR THIS COLLECTION?
“The collection revolves around the themes of memory and personal evolution. The main inspiration was drawn by Eileen Grey and her personal path from an artist to a professional self-taught architect, and through different diverse styles from Art Deco to minimalistic modernism. This is a woman who took control of her own trajectory and did a conscious work of progression on herself. The other key part, is that we shot the campaign in my paternal grandmother’s house in Lebanon that hasn’t be lived in for over 15 years. I needed to go myself through the path of my memory, the memories of my childhood in Lebanon…”
IF WE WERE TO BUY ONE PIECE FROM THE COLLECTION…
“The grey shirt and dress (see above). I just love it… It is a modern way of being feminine, without compromising on comfort. The fabric has texture and it is a soft, shiny taupe/grey colour.”
YOUR FASHION ETHOS IS VERY FORM-MEETS-FUNCTION, SO WHAT KIND OF WOMAN DO YOU SEE WEARING YOUR PIECES?
“We like to see the brand as a personal project, as a reflection of who we are ourselves in our daily lives. Young, working, active women who are looking for pieces with identity, and a comfort that allows us to move from day to night in a smooth way, all whilst keeping in mind that our pieces need to be season-less and as timeless as possible.”
ARE THERE ANY MIDDLE EASTERN WOMEN YOU’D ENJOY SEEING WEAR YOUR PIECES?
“Yes, there are a couple I would love to dress. To name one of the Lebanese women, it would be Julia Boutros, who is a symbol of our country.”
THERE IS MUCH TALK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION… WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP PROTECT THE PLANET?
“The fashion industry is one of the biggest pollutants of Earth, with all the toxic chemicals produced in the process of fabric making, but also with the quantities of unsold products being burned. So being conscious of what is happening is the first step. Then being willing to work on it and participate in the sustainability movement is the next step. Obviously the road is a long and tough one, but from our side we do our best to stick to certain guidelines. Mainly, we pick our fabrics from companies that adhere to protocols like the 4Sustainability one and the Greenpeace Detox project to reduce toxic substances used in the process. But we also dig into leftover stocks and reuse them. Some buttons are also made of recycled materials and we can re-use the same ones from one season to another. Wherever we can, we try to re-use, reinterpret and re-channel things. The identity of the brand is also based on the season-less/timeless concept, and the fact that a piece needs to last in time and not be boxed into a single season. We believe in buying less but buying better.”
AND FINALLY, WHAT IS NEXT FOR DARIN HACHEM?
“We are proceeding step by step. We obviously aim to grow and to keep challenging ourselves, but this is another chapter to be discussed when the time is right…”
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- Words: Emily Baxter-Priest