Designer Darin Hachem on Overcoming the Beirut Disaster and Promoting a Sustainable Future in Fashion

Lara Mansour   |   15 - 10 - 2020

Darin Hachem founded her eponymous brand as a way to blend together her multicultural heritage.

 

Bridging her Lebanese and Mexican heritage as well as the traditions of Milan, a place she has called home for many years, the young designer has created a unique label that values savoir-faire, sustainability and the importance of life. Her modern and minimalistic designs are made from materials that are in many cases sustainable and always sourced in ways that respect human and labour rights. Darin is currently based in Beirut and was traumatised by the recent explosion in the city. As she begins to come to terms with what happened, there is no better time to offer positivity by launching her fall/winter 2020 collection.

 

Inspired by the work of English sculptor Barbara Hepworth, the collection mimics the shapes and forms of nature with carefully cut lines, layering and androgynous style. Materials are full of textures creating a three-dimensional effect on many of the pieces. The colour palette is inspired by the earth, with sandy shades and neutral tones that are easy to wear and flattering. To find out more about this collection and where to go from here after a strange year so far, we talk to Darin Hachem.

 

The recent events in Beirut were tragic and terrible for all – how did this awful experience affect you?

It takes some time to realise the amount of emotional damage done to the Lebanese people. I was torn between sadness, anger and frustration; but didn’t understand the full extent of it until I had to leave Lebanon for a week. The amount of disorientation, of separation pain, and trauma all hit me as soon as I landed in Milan. It was like I was in another world, in no way linked to my own world, with people living a life I was not able to relate to.

 

 

How are you looking to move forward after this?

Very slowly. I believe in slower but more solid steps in accordance with who I’ve become along the painful path Lebanon was put on. I feel my emotions more intensely than ever; which actually will help me be more aligned with myself and the core of my identity.

 

What can you tell us about your Fall/Winter 2020-21 collection?

The Fall/Winter 2020-21 collection is based on the works of the English sculptor Barbara Hepworth who created modern art pieces in wood, stones and marble in the mid-20th century. Her works are seen as interactions between themselves but also interactions between the human and the object and between the object and its environment. Based on her world, we were actually able to enter and shoot inside the laboratory of Martin Gerull; a sculptor that lives and works in Milan. His pieces that are also made of wood and stone are very close to the world of Darin Hachem with their earthy tones, and art objects elevating upward against gravity.

 

Both artists actually convey our focus on Mother Earth and nature, in terms of colours, asymmetrical shapes, draping, and of the duality of masculinity and femininity that are essential to the brand’s identity. Sandy tones are seen in the textured wool and silk, while double-sided, thick cotton and burgundy blazers add warmth to the wintery collection.

 

We recently saw Queen Rania wearing a piece from your collections – how did it feel to have her wearing your designs?

As a designer, it was an honour to see Queen Rania wearing a piece of my collection. She is known for her elegance and sense of style and being Lebanese, having recently experienced trauma, I felt it could be a positive note for my country, maybe an indirect contribution to keeping Lebanon alive on a certain level. It took me some time to realise that Queen Rania was actually wearing one of my dresses! It was such an emotional moment for me.

 

Who is someone that you would love to dress and why?

Lately, I find myself interested in dressing women that are active in the humanitarian field. This most probably has a link to the events that happened in Beirut. All the work Lebanese women have been doing in the field after the dramatic event impresses me, and it makes me so proud. On the international scene, and to name one, Jane Fonda would be one of the many women I would love to dress!

 

Who is the woman you design for?

I design for women who look for a twist in the way they dress. They are not afraid to play and to create their lookout with unusual pieces. They like an overall contrast of materials, colours and shapes.

 

 

We know that sustainability is very important to you as a brand – what can you tell us about any recent developments in relation to this?

The COVID-19 crisis made it crucial for everyone to focus on the wellbeing of our planet. It forced us to slow down and reflect on what could be done to get even us closer to respecting nature, our surroundings, and presenting a decent working environment and experience for all. We are indeed moving in a slower direction, especially after the Beirut trauma; but it is about re-centring, refocusing on the essentials, and shedding the extras. Key values to me remain getting closer to the raw nature of the product and to its artistic value; while continuing to produce on smaller scales, smaller quantities and being careful that the fabrics chosen have the least impact possible.

 

Do you believe attitudes towards sustainability are changing in the industry, especially after this past year?

The theme of sustainability is not one we can do without this year or in the coming years. It has become urgent for the survival of the human race and other species. It is about more than just using the word “sustainability” to sell clothes. Even if the work is slow, and not always genuine, there is a greater pressure and every brand is compelled to make an effort at one level or another, be it in the choice of fabrics, in the replacement of leather with vegetal ones, with diminishing and redirecting the use of water in certain fabric creation processes, re-using, re-directing fabrics and hardware; at least some work is being done. And I hope for more in the future.

 

What would you still like to see happen in the fashion industry?

The industry as a whole needs to slow down, which has already started. It needs to be free of the cycle of consumption, and more on the creative side, shedding light on the work done ahead of the presentation of a collection. I wish for it to be free of imposed timings, of excessive productions, and with less pressure on the designers.

 

What is something you would still like to do as a brand in relation to sustainability?

I want to be more aware of every step of the creative process and selection of materials. Really be involved in the processes all the steps of the way, at least do my best to have a better understanding and keep on pushing the limits imposed on us.

 

 

How as individuals can we help towards creating a more sustainable fashion industry?

We need to educate ourselves, read more, understand more, and ask ourselves more questions about where our products come from. As consumers we need to think about buying only the essentials, pieces we could see ourselves wearing throughout the years, not getting bored of, and maybe passing on to future generations as well.

 

You had a very multicultural upbringing – how do you think this has influenced your designs?

My multicultural upbringing is a blessing. It enabled me to collect information from different sources; it added the acceptance towards other forms of art and gave me the flexibility of choosing the direction I wish to go. I can easily see my style evolving and not being constrained to a specific category in the coming years.

 

This issue is all about success – how in your own words would you define success?

Success for me is doing what you are passionate about at your own rhythm and still being able to make a living out of it. It is when you feel and see your message has reached even a single person and that person really understands the depth of your thought and feels the passion you put into each of your creations.

 

Take us back to the beginning of your brand what were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

The most important part for me was defining the brand, being aware of its identity and the type of product I wanted to create and obviously where to source it all; to make it an entity of its own. I was lucky to have a strong support system and an amazing team as well, in the end, it really is a team effort.

 

If you could look back, what is something that you would tell your younger self?

Do not be hard on yourself; you are doing your best.

 

What would you say to those at the beginning of their business journey?

Start small and slow, be focused and take the time to do things one- step at a time. Look for the genuine people around you that will be there when things get less fun.

 

What is the life motto you live by?

Now more than ever, in Italian we say “piano piano”, it means “step by step”. This is where I am heading.