Five minutes with: Saudi fashion designer Hatem Al-Akeel
Inspired by different cultures, attentive to the latest in the fashion world and keen on details is what defines Hatem Al-Akeel. Coming from no background in design, he ventured in the world with his creativity at hand, not wanting to be known as only a Saudi or regional thobe designer, but is aspiring to be a global designer.
The thobe has long been an Arab tradition for centuries, whether you call it thobe, dishdasha, kandura or jalabiya, the common factor is in the comfort that dons the thobe. And Al-Akeel knows that.
He opened his first Toby store in Jeddah in 2007 and the fashion line has now spread to Europe and reached Hollywood where several celbrities have donned his designs.
The designs have expanded too: a ready wear men’s line with crisp cut defined dress shirts, a junior’s line for all those young men looking to copy their father’s style, a women’s line with light fabrics and simply sophisticated designs great for day looks and night looks and his signature thobe line.
A globe trotter and wanderer, Hatem’s designs reflect upon his diverse travel destinations and upbringing, spread between Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Boston and he now splits his time between Jeddah and Dubai.
Aficionado caught up with Al-Akeel for this week’s five-minute interview:
1. What is your favourite travel destination?
Mykonos – a Greek island in the Aegean Sea , London – UK and Formantera – the smallest of Spain’s islands in the Mediterranean Sea.
2. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to work in fashion but could not find the correct formula until I decided to just go for it.
3. If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
Peace in the world, it MUST come back from extinction IMMEDIATELY
4. Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Zaha Hadid. May she rest in peace.
5. If you could go back in time, where would you go?
To Ancient Egypt when it was ruled by the pharaohs.
[The pharaohs, who are understood to have started with King Aha in 3111 BC, ruled Ancient Egypt for more than 3,000 years and the story of the very last pharaoh, Cleopatra, is famous to this day.]
6. What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To always trust your intuition.