Embracing the true spirit of the claim as one of Middle East’s leading designer, Hatem Alakeel, Creative Director of his own line, Toby by Hatem Alakeel, is putting an innovative twist on traditional garb. Sharon Carvalho discovers how he does so.
You are always jet setting! What are some of your travel essentials?
A pair of cool sunglasses and a Classic Toby thobe and crisp Hatem Alakeel shirt to dress it up or down for any occasion.
How did you start designing the Toby by Hatem Alakeel line?
In Saudi Arabia, the kandura is known as a thobe. I used to work in banking and I had to wear that to work veryday. I think it was the monotony along with the urge to express my own style that drove me to create the line. I wanted to give tradition a twist of variety, to bring a touch of Savile Row to conventional attire. So I began working on my own thobes. From there, a number of colleagues asked me to create some for them. After a while I figured that I might as well turn it into a business and so I opened my boutique in Jeddah in 2007.
Several celebrities wear your line. How is your design different?
I always try to infuse authentic and unique concepts in all of my collections. I usually do the opposite of what the market does because I am more about classic style than current trends. I believe that trends come and go but classic style never lives forever.
How does philanthropy play a part in your life?
The plight of the children in the Middle East is something that has bothered me for a very long time and I wanted to do my part to help as many as I could. I also Embracing the true spirit of the claim as one of Middle East’s
leading designer, Hatem Alakeel, Creative Director of his own line, Toby by Hatem Alakeel, is putting an innovative twist on traditional garb. Sharon Carvalho discovers how he does so. wanted to bridge the gap between the East and the West. Through my work, one of the things I realized is that, in this day and age,
celebrities have a very strong voice. That’s how I decided to create the Peace bracelet. So far, Eva Longoria, Christian Louboutin, Haifa Wehbe, Nancy Ajram and many more have worn it. Through the funds collected, we have worked with the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, various local charities in Saudi Arabia and even held an auction in Jeddah with the help of Her Royal Highness Sheikha Lulu Al- Sabah to help rebuild some of the schools that were affected by the floods in the country.
How are your spending your summer?
I will be spending some time in London and Mykonos but I will also be opening my third Toby by Hatem Alakeel boutique in Riyadh so I will be working for most of the summer. You are always on the best-dressed list.
What are some key pieces that all men should have in their wardrobe?
While I never travel without a crisp white shirt from my latest collection and a thobe from Toby, I think a nice pair of casual shoes and classic evening loafers are a great way to dress up or dress down an outfit.