“Men today are aware of fashion,” Hateem Alakeel charmingly asserts, but Toby is more than just wearable fashion thobes, the brand caters to those with an individual sense of flair and panache and is creating a movement of loyal Tobyista Fashionista’s too. The designer behind Toby thobes, Hateem Alakeel has been dubbed the Middle Eastern Tom Ford, crowned the King of Thobes and regarded as the designer who has re-designed the traditional Suadi thobe. Trend shy, yet detail savvy, as the first to incorporate Thai, taffeta and mohair silks into a wearable thobe line, the global acclaim, starlet following and adoring superlatives Alakeel has earned for his Toby collections, are not without their merit.
there are options. In the end, it’s about perception and broadening the field of choices for a more fashion forward discerning clientele, since I know for a fact that today’s self assured, professional and social Middle Eastern men do not wish to wear the exact same outfit day after day. Toby by Hatem Alakeel is a fashionable brand which is also a serious and wearable concept. It is not only for special occasions and glamorous red carpet events; Toby thobes can be worn and are worn on a daily basis giving the wearer the individual flair and panache he seeks in a comfortable, elegant & well executed garment. Toby caters to the professional business man as well as to the Tobyista fashionistas.
What specific styles do you believe Toby is credited for bringing to the Saudi thobe market that didn’t previously exist? In addition to Toby being the first to incorporate thai, taffeta and mohair silks into a thobe collection, the dress-shirt look is also a concept that I am proud of introducing. I wanted to give thobes the option of the classic Saville Row polished feel, while also focusing on details like French cuffs and mixed and matched classic western elegance. The shirt and tie thobe, which debuted at my first Dubai Fashion Week show, was actually bought by Villa Moda. I thank and credit Sheikh Majed Al-Sabbah for giving me that great opportunity and for truly believing in Toby by Hatem Alakeel and my vision.
How did you come to the realization that fashion design was your calling, and then make the bold move from brand manager into fashion designer? I have always loved fashion. I think the first person to inspire me was my very stylish Mother when I was very young. We were always dressed by her immaculate sense of style. Since dressing well was a privilege and luxury, my brother Taymour and I were fortunate to experience at an early age, it became second nature. In addition, when I attended school in Boston and I was asked to model for Jil Sander and Giorgio Armani in New York City, I became even more enamored with the world of fashion and design. From then on, it became my goal to work in the industry. Upon my return to Saudi Arabia, I worked in advertising, brand development and marketing for the Chalhoub Group. However, my creative nature and passion for design came to life when I started designing my own thobes. I realized the immediate interest of people and the great potential. A few months later, I opened Toby boutique in Jeddah, and the rest is history.I am very pleased to announce the opening of our second boutique in Jeddah within the next few months.
Do you have a design philosophy? Something that guides your creative output?Maybe even a design mantra? Be unique; go with your instincts and dream..as big as you can! When you feel the goose bumps, that means the design is something to add to the collection. Of course, goose bumps don’t happen with each and every design, but that is precisely what makes the feeling so special. Do you often reflect yourself in your designs? My designs are all an extension of who I am and what I believe in. How do you feel about competition? I mean, is there a local community of Saudi designers that support and promote one another, or is it quite cutthroat? The fashion industry is pretty much the same all over the world, but I think we are still quite innocent and respectful in Saudi Arabia. I view competition as healthy and a great way to ensure quality and innovation. It makes the fashion world more interesting, fresh and viable. Every unique designer has his or her own style. This is what all designers should realize. We must embrace each other’s concepts and celebrate them.