When he isn’t knee-deep in research or creating new content for his sustainable footwear brand HH, designer Hazem Haddad is test-running his stylish sandals at home in Beirut under the canny scrutiny of his dog ‘X’ and cat ‘Grix-Grix’.
We catch up with him on trans-seasonal dressing, how to master the tricky art of styling your sandals, and why sustainability matters, matter.
I’ve always loved shoes in general and I own around 80 pairs. But when it comes to sandals, the market doesn’t really give me what I am looking for, which is exactly where the concept of HH came to life. The options were either flip-flops or high end, overpriced, branded sandals. I wanted to create the best of both worlds in terms of accessibility and price range while maintaining quality and attention to detail.
What makes HH special?
I treat HH like my child. I’ve worked so hard, failed, and kept experimenting with manufacturers and leathers. My first collection launched in summer 2019 but to be very honest I wasn’t happy with production so I decided to cancel it. I didn’t want my clients to have something that’s not up to my standards. I spent the entire winter of 2019-20 experimenting and trying out different methods to finally perfect my craft. My brand is produced in a small atelier in Beirut and each pair takes around seven days to complete as we are careful to pay attention to the smallest details before shipping out to our consumers. With the increasing demand and online sales, I am looking to expand production so that we can produce more in shorter timespans.
Trans-seasonal dressing is having a moment. Where do sandals fit into this mix?
Fashion is always about self-expression and my brand is all about that. I never look at my sandals as beachwear or chill wear, I look at them as a very important part of any outfit. They actually complement and elevate your entire look. The focus on men’s fashion is on a massive upward surge right now and male shopper mentalities are evolving and moving towards being more fashion conscious. Trends are becoming more inclusive and more men are open to trying out new styles and experimenting with fashion. My main market is the GCC, where sandals can be worn all year round, but in the back of my mind when I was designing collection TWO, I left room for socks to be worn with my designs. I didn’t want my brand to be only classic – I wanted it to speak to everyone. Hence the tagline, “minimal, timeless, classic.”
Your brand is ethically conscious. Why is this important to you and where is the sustainable fashion movement headed?
This topic is very important to me. Ever since I started the HH journey, I always had a notion of ‘slow fashion’ in mind. I never want to over-produce and be everywhere. I always want to treat my production team fairly and never pressure them or under pay them. I want to show the world the premium quality of Lebanese craftsmanship and that we are able to compete with the top brands. I believe that taking care of the environment is a top priority. All our packages are made of recycled paper. We have minimal waste and all our materials are sustainably sourced. I’m also looking into options other than genuine leather for my upcoming collections. The future will be sustainable, we simply can’t continue the way we are. A change must happen. A positive global change is around the corner!
The recent global health pandemic has had a huge impact on small businesses. What lessons can you learn from this to grow?
It was a shock on all of us, I believe but after a certain time, I got up and refused to surrender. I always look at the cup half full and took this time to get the logistical work done. I also took this time to build my website and communicate with selected concept stores to carry my brand forward. As a result, HH will be in Riyadh’s Personage boutique and at the HomeGrown Market in Jeddah very soon. It will also be in the highly anticipated new concept store in the Mall of the Emirates in October.
What are your long-term ambitions for the brand?
I would love my brand to be found in stores globally and not only in the Gulf. People can get their hands on a pair of HH through my website but being physically there is something else. I also can’t wait to produce new collections. There are so many ideas in my head that I am excited to share with the world, but all in due time. For now, I want my clientele to enjoy and play around with collection TWO.
Hazem’s tips on how to style sandals:
• The first and most important step is to pedicure and moisturize your feet and take good care of them.
• One of the biggest faux pas when wearing sandals is choosing the wrong size. My pet peeve is when someone’s toes are dangling out of their sandals. That is because most brands sell basic sizes, whereas I have created a special sizing guide, check: hhthebrand.com and try it for yourself.
• When it comes to styling versatility is key. I love seeing my sandals worn with a nice linen ensemble or even with jeans and a plain white T.
• The sandal is no longer exclusive to a summer outdoors. With the right combo of garments, it can create anything from a classic, chic look to a more trendy and fun feel.
• Despite common misconception, sandals worn with socks actually gives them an entirely new dimension. I’m actually now planning a shoot with socks, so watch this space…
Visit hhthebrand.com to see the complete range