James Bond in a kandora? If 007, known as much for his love for women as well and fine suits, were to give his wardrobe an Arabian twist, we can bet our carbon fibre cufflinks he’d pick one from Toby by Hatem Al Akeel.
The Dubai-based Saudi Arabian designer has just launched his latest collection, which harks back to classic Hollywood glamour — and the golden era of Bond, namely Sean Connery in ‘Goldfinger’. Al Akeel recently spoke with The Directory about his autumn-winter collection, his new Face of Toby and where he wants to take his fancy kandora label to.
Q: What was the inspiration for the latest collection?
A: This season’s fall-winter 2013 collection is inspired by classic Hollywood cinema and the Year of the Dragon. The golden era of James Bond offers the requisite charisma of Sean Connery in ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘From Russia with Love’. The collection is [inspired by] the ethereal Bond style compounded with practicality and luxury. Embellished with vintage-inspired cuffs of the 30s, I have played with fabrics that are rich in colour and texture.
It is also the Year of the Dragon; a symbolic influence of prosperity, hope and luck. So we’ve got Asian-inspired dragon detailed embroidery etc. Fall fashion is also about layering.
Q: Why have you called it the Golden Era of Style?
A: It’s all about the golden era of cinema and style where elegance, style icons such as Sean Connery and legends of classic cinema meet. They certainly don’t make them like they used to.
Q: Your label has grown over the years. Whom would you say is your target audience now?
A: It’s no longer just about the GCC with the thobes and kandoras. Although Saudi Arabia is my core market, I am also reaching out a great deal to GCC customers from Qatar to the UAE and Kuwait. I am also thankfully appreciated by the fashionistas and am thrilled to also have my European and American following.
Q: You’ve been very active with your social media presence recently. Why?
A: It’s the future and a great way to get your message across instantly. Not thinking of social media would be like ignoring a great deal of my customers. I feel we owe it to them to always make sure they have the latest news and updates. The delivery must also be creative and interesting. There is a huge portion of Saudis that get on YouTube and especially on Twitter.
Q: Why did you choose Arash Mohammadi as your next Face of Toby?
A: Arash was selected though a panel of judges for the Next Face of Toby competition which we had in September. We felt he had the best combination of strong presence and work ethic and enthusiasm. His aspirations are more than just modelling and that’s the whole idea behind selecting the next face of Toby.
Q: How would you say Toby has done in the past few years?
A: I am very fortunate and grateful. Toby has expanded its image to also be very classic and wearable and of course with the launch of Toby Junior, the children’s line. Under my new label Hatem Alakeel, I’ve also just launched my line of classic and trendy shirts.
Q: How would you say you’ve done outside of the Arab market with Toby?
A: I am getting requests from the UK, France, and the States and South Africa. I am looking forward to exploring my international presence and have been getting great feedback so far.
*Toby by Hatem Al Akeel is stocked at Saks Fifth Avenue in BurJuman mall, Dubai. Prices for the new collection start at Dh800. For more on the designer, go to urtoby.com