Darin Hachem started her brand with the aim to introduce middle eastern notions into a modernized system where barriers between civilizations fade and where cultural influences mix. Sitting down with A&E, Hachem discusses sustainability and the challenges she faces as a new brand in the market.
Born in Lebanon but raised in Gabon in Africa, Hachem had what some might call an unconventional childhood, studying in a French school with many diverse cultures and nationalities. After growing up in Africa, Hachem moved to Beirut where she studied science, before residing in London and then Milan. The designer has been exposed to so many different cultures and experiences and it is this that inspired her to launch her own fashion brand.
Hachem has a strong passion for combining inspirations from all around the world, including African cultures and traditional wax fabrics, which are quickly becoming a statement style of the brand.
Darin Hachem has a very close relationship with sustainability. She sources her fabrics and materials from all around the globe and carefully chooses fabrics that are natural or recyclable. For her spring/summer 19 collection Hachem focuses on earth and the multiple ways human beings relate to it as a physical matter, as the symbol of The Mother and as projections into space.
She uses asymmetric shapes with draping positioned to enhance feminine details in masculine shaped outfits. Metal buttons connect function and decoration, while earthy cotton fuse together to create a handmade mood, emphasized by the use of natural fabrics such as cotton, linens, and silks. Here Hachem discusses her latest collection and the importance of sustainability to her brand.
How would you describe the Darin Hachem woman?
She is a modern active woman who has to juggle between responsibilities and at the same time in need of garments that would have a visual impact, comfort and certain durability in time.
What is the message you are trying to send with your designs?
Fashion has become a game; we mix and put pieces together that work for us on different periods of our lifetime. We would like to bring to women another way of dressing up between modernity and traditions.
What do you think makes your designs unique?
I’d say the mixing of sharp edges with more organic shapes and the attention to details, but also the fact that as a Middle Eastern brand we are not following the classical couture/embroidery type.
Why is sustainability important to you as a fashion designer?
Sustainability is THE topic of our times. As a lifestyle, people are more aware of man’s impact on the earth and how we are playing an active role in our own destruction (through pollution, diseases…etc.). Fashion has a catastrophic environmental impact, and we can see how toxicity affects our planet and if we can contribute to raising awareness and getting the customer involved in the conscious process of acquiring a garment, then we’d be more than happy.
What can you tell us about your spring summer 2019 collection?
The SS19 collection is introducing the brand with themes such as Earth, Nature, and Immigration as core topics. The inspiration started with the movie “The Daughters of the Dust” a 1991 movie by Julie Dash, in which the whole story revolves around belongingness, the question of where do we come from? And where and who do we choose to be? The fight between holding onto traditions and moving forward embracing the new; which is a part of any person who lives or has lived abroad at one point and especially in the Lebanese culture.
Are there any materials or fabrics you love to work with?
Natural materials like silk, cotton, linen and mixing them together to provide a softer touch on the skin as well as adding more hold to a garment.
What are you doing with your brand to ensure sustainable production?
Sustainability for us starts with the raw materials we chose, we pick fabrics from stock places to make sure we use other types of fabrics that were left without compromising on quality, and with seasonal fabrics, we make sure we collaborate with companies that work on reducing their toxic environmental impacts with certifications like the protocol 4sustainability. The same goes for knitwear. We used threads that are in accordance with the detox Greenpeace certificate. These are a small example of how we can contribute to helping the earth. It is obviously difficult and sometimes it has a cost, but we keep on trying as much as we can.
What would you like to see happen in the fashion industry in terms of sustainability?
Fashion needs to slow down, especially fast fashion that employs people in terrible working conditions. We as consumers also have a responsibility: we buy too much, we change too much, and we throw too much. The ideal would be a slower fashion system, with garments that last longer.
How important is storytelling in your designs?
It is the basis of every collection, explaining the inspiration, the mood, and the colours. Communicating the whys and hows is the ground of every relation, and we aim to set a loyal one with customers that wish to know what is behind a product.
What does it mean to you for something to be “made in Italy”?
It adds a bit of glamour as Italy has always been considered to be the country of arts and refinement.
How do you think “seasonless” products are becoming more popular?
“Seasonless” is part of both sustainability and lifestyle. It is the idea of keeping pieces from season to season without getting bored of them, taking care of them and having an attachment to them; this is the sustainable part. As for the lifestyle part, we live in a society where we travel a lot more between hot and cold countries at any time of the year. We can mix and match pieces a lot more. Re-using, re-interpreting and re-associating are the keywords involved.
Can we expect to see more of you in the UAE?
Hopefully yes… we are working on it.
What are the contrasts you notice between the fashion industry in Europe and the Middle East?
At the root, they are wired very differently. The Middle East has always been fond of couture gowns with embroideries and shiny beautiful fabrics, that make the customer feel like a real princess; while the European system is more into sobriety and understated elegance, more of the urban minimalistic style. However, contamination is increasing, as people are travelling more and coming in contact with other cultures and becoming aware of the differences. We learn from each other.
What would you still like to achieve with your brand?
We just started, it is still the beginning and we have a list of goals to reach. Hopefully, we are on the way.
Where would you like to be in five years from now?
To live fully the duality of the brand’s personality between Occident and Orient, using the resources of both sides as it suits the brand’s identity; digging deeper into artisanal and traditional work. Thinking of fashion as a way of life, inclusive of different fields, especially the artistic one.
What is the biggest challenge you face right now?
Right now, the biggest challenge is consolidating the base, reinforcing the identity, defining a structure that works for the brand. It is all a matter of experimentation.
What is the professional motto you live by?
Step by step and quality over quantity.
And your personal motto?
Listen to the inner little voice and be aware of the energies around you.
How would you describe your brand in one word?
It is very hard to define a whole project in a single word when you put all your energy and thinking into it. But ‘Multiculturalism’ could be one, as we are the result of a specific combination of cultures. We carry with us the places we lived in.