1. What was your first inspiration to go into fashion?

In my childhood, I was always naturally attracted to the arts. I started painting on silk to make scarves. I learned how to knit from my grandma and designed clothes for my dolls... I got into ceramics and made pottery pieces for our home. I was always attracted to creation. As I grew up, this interest turned to fashion and my mother’s closets became a world of discovery of old vintage handbags and accessories mixed with cool contemporary wardrobe. This is where my aesthetic of bold and contrasting elements began. I was enjoying this on the side as I pursued my career on Wall Street. Then one day I decided to make my passion my work, and I started creating the Dareen Hakim Collection.

Dareen As Young Diva

2. What makes your collection one-of-a-kind?

I always believed that if you’re going to do something, do it big and do it proud

My bags are a story with contrast at the core of them. They reflect an element of tradition blended with an element of newness. A hand-crafted brass metal engraved with an old calligraphy script against a contemporary sleek silhouette. A hard, bold metal against a supple luxurious leather. Mixes of fabrics, textures, eras, cultural elements…making for deep interesting creations and the combinations of stories behind them.

Architecture Old vs New Comp

There are also the messages within the inscriptions on the metals, making each piece more than just a bag but a reminder, inspiration or motivation to the woman carrying it. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three – whether a message of resilience, strength, prosperity, happiness, love or laughter. We celebrate this and it creates a unique and unexpected aesthetic which then becomes a story that is also an interesting piece of wearable art.

3. What inspires your creation process?

I gain a lot of my inspiration through everyday life and my surroundings.  It is a gift to be living in such a vivacious, diverse metropolitan city as New York.  At the same time, my heart will always be deeply rooted in my Lebanese heritage, which has always been my drive, my inspiration, my identity and self-expression. It is this bicultural influence that birthed a collection full of rustic, artisanal, historic art playing together with crisp, structured, sleek forms. Everything becomes a statement of old and new, past and present…

4. Why did you choose handbags?

I’ve always loved handbags because they are season-less, whether you purchase the latest “it” bag or carry your grandmother’s vintage clutch from fifty years ago. They are still classic and the ULTIMATE statement piece if done right. Handbags fit anyone, so you create them for a personality instead of an age group. Creativity is endless when you are willing to be bold and unexpected. I think that creating something so unique and original lends itself to what fashion is meant to be. As a designer you are meant to design things that people have not seen before, push the limits and be different, which is why people find themselves drawn to my collection.

Metal Artisan in Lebanon

5. Why are you so fond of metals?

Because metal is so cool and hip! And they’ve never been used in this bold way on handbags. Designers like Balmain and Dolce Gabbana use metalwork on their clothing collections and I find it to be so incredibly beautiful yet with such edge and character. It’s a strong woman who will carry this off proudly. And when you add to a powerful metal the delicate touch of engravings, you’ve got quite a luxury.

That is from a fashion perspective but it doesn’t stop there. Brass metalwork is the heart and soul of Lebanon. It is a revered art form carried on from generation to generation in the creation of home décor, wall art, and more. Add on the insanely gorgeous calligraphy of Arabic poetry and love stories, and instantly have metals that are works of art. They are meant to be flaunted, celebrated and admired endlessly.

6. What is your favorite metal inscription?

That’s not a fair question. I love every single one of them as each brings me a memory and a feeling that is unique and deep. As you will see it do for you as well. But if I had to choose, “Smile and the world will smile back at you” is what I would want my two daughters to live by. It is a message of hope and control in this world of uncertainly. And believe me, it works. My mother raised me with this, always trying to engrain it in me despite my resistance as I let realism drive my every challenge and accomplishment. But it is not about the tactical goals, it is about what’s inside of us, and the ease with which these goals are attained. Smiles change everything.

Smile
Calligrapher at Work
Le Icon On Steps

7. Can you share your favorite piece, and why?

My favorite bag will forever be LE ICON. It is a heritage piece. It was the bag that I started my collection with and it represents all that we are as a brand.

This clutch also fits everything you could ever need, day or night. I just love it… people stop me ALL the time when I carry it. It spurs up lots of conversations with strangers!

8. What are the material, texture, and colors you use?

All of my handbags are made from premium and custom printed or dipped Italian leathers. When it comes to color, I work with my team to research the colors that are trending for upcoming seasons as well as colors that we know our customers will love. The same goes for prints and textures, playing around with embossings and foils, pythons, lizards and crocs, blended color mixes, and more. It’s super fun and crazy.

Workers at Factory

9. What kind of woman do you envision carrying your bags?

The lady who carries a DH bag is curious, confident and proud of her uniqueness.  She’s ambitious, loves to learn and discover, to travel, to ask questions, to try new things, to have opinions.  She is comfortable with herself, and she enjoys flourishing in her differences. She knows they make her stand out in a crowd and among her friends - always with grace, elegance and courtesy but with a little bit of an edge.  She is ageless. She is an attitude.  She is busy with the curiosities of life.

Her DH bag is a personal possession, not just an accessory.  It means something.  From the inscribed messages on some of the metals and the ability to customize your leather, metal and message, she gets to explore her senses and make it her own.

Le Icon Pochette

10. Fashion can be a very fickle business where trends come and go with each season. How do you create a brand that can stay relevant to consumers?

You have to create a consistent brand. And you have to create a brand that has meaning and not just a design. If something is just a color or a style it will go away, but if something meaningful is behind it, it will stay relevant. For me, once a consumer is attracted to the brand, they will always be receptive. You can experiment and move into new trends, react nimbly to your customer feedback and try new things, especially with today’s assets of quick and fast social media connections. However regardless of the direction, still maintaining the core of who you are by always speaking to the heart have been the key to the Dareen Hakim Collection.

Mila and Gia

11. I know you’re obsessed with your two little girls. How do you manage with work and kids?

Yes, obsessed is an understatement They’re my greatest weakness, and my greatest strength!

Here is a typical day in my life…

6:45am Wake up, wake up the two sweet angels and the knocked-out husband. Sing the “good morning my love” song with lots of hugs and kisses.

7:00am Eat up, wash up, dress up, and …

8:00am Off to school with backpacks and work bag in hand!

8:30am At the gym or running around the city to do errands while responding to calls/emails/texts from the night before

10:30am Arrive at office. Meetings, calls, emails galore, putting out fires...

1:30pm Creative time or factory run… two hours of playing with materials, textures, metals, samples. And sometimes they don’t look how they’re supposed to, so there is the occasional disaster to deal with!

6:30pm In a car heading back home to see my angels and for family time.

8:30pm Kids are tucked in and computer comes out while at the same time eating dinner with hubby…until 12am..1am..2am… Your guess is as good as mine!

Dareen and Mila
Dareen at Henri Bendels

12. What was the best advice uttered by someone to you in building your business

“Not every day will be easy but allow the difficulties to drive you … each little win is a step forward in your journey.” Another one that stuck with me is “Seek challenge more than success, as that is how to wisely move ahead.”

What advice would I myself give after this experience… It sounds cliché but it couldn’t be more true: Follow your heart and passion because that’s where you’ll excel beyond others, and find people who support you unconditionally… because that is half the battle.

13. What’s the best part of being a business owner to you?

When you’ve been granted a stroke of luck to create and bring a business to its feet, it is your responsibility as a business woman or man to give back to the community that supports you and beyond. DHC deliberately employs local NYC craftsmen to mold our silhouettes, and we do the same in the Middle East, employing local metal artisans and artists. In doing this, DHC pumps dollars into local and international economies, helping in whatever small way that we can. We also make conscious and regular efforts to give back to a variety of causes and charitable organizations, whether medical, relief and community efforts … there's no better satisfaction than that.

14. Advice to Women?

Believe in yourselves and what you are doing, and support each other…

It cannot be overlooked that working women have a greater responsibility in this world than just business. We have families to nurture and grow and educate. While I am of the mindset that a husband and wife share in the responsibilities of a family equally, a woman does take on more, naturally from childbirth to motherhood to wifehood, but at the same time, woman have the ability to multi-task and keep all her balls juggling in the air at once – a unique and incredible skill. She is capable of doing more and doing it all very well, with the right level of support. So it doesn’t mean a woman should have more obstacles entering business nor anything of her choosing. Rather, she has the gift to do it all. I have seen it with many incredible women in this world. And those women are educated, confident, proud, intellectually and psychologically smart… but they have another secret weapon – an equally competent man by their side giving her respect, not making her earn it.

Dareen with Buyers

15. What are favorite looks paired with your bags?

My go-to look is distressed boyfriend jeans folded at the ankle, a loose t-shirt, an elegant slim-fit blazer, high-heeled booties, and either LE ICON clutch in Maize or Aubergine, or LE ICON POCHETTE in Camo or Auberine. As you know, I love combining elegant and structure with raw, neutrals with pops, structure with casual.

For an evening dinner, I would wear either a fitted black dress and use my LE PARISIEN Aubergine/Black Python clutch to add the drama. Or I would wear a loose calf-length dress with a biker leather jacket and my metal-cuffed strap LE ROMA shoulder bag or metal bolted LE BILBAO clutch.

Whether you keep your look simple or you play around with mixing it up, you’ll see how much fun and easy having statement bags can be!

At the Factory

16 - But how do you keep what's in your bag organized when switching bags for different occasions?

I don’t! I make bags… keeping them organized is a much harder problem to solve LOL :)

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