Tell me a bit about your background?
HIND began out of a love for craftsmanship, sustainable methods, and clothing that was versatile, meaning it could be worn throughout the year as standalone outfits or part of different stylings. After Tasneem and I were married (way back in 2008!), we found ourselves slowly gravitating away from the brands and products that were easily available on the high-streets and in malls at the time. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just a slow realization that the fabric quality wasn’t great, finishing could be a problem, and then ultimately we were purchasing limited use items at low pricing, or high-priced items that were counting on brand recognition and buzz to move volume, but actually didn’t have that much higher a grade of quality. Looking back on it now, it sort of seems like how people look at the Titanic disaster and question: How can something so big, not be seen?
With this slow realization, we began searching out products that were crafted by hand, made by artisans, or reconsidering how long the item would last. And it wasn’t only clothing. Our living room now is completely different than when we first were married, as furniture made out of MDF or wood pulp just seemed to break down after a year or 2, and the mindset seemed to be “time to go back to the big blue and yellow furniture store to get a new kitchen table, the leg on this one has gone”. Now our book shelves run across our full wall, and were made by a local carpenter using actual wood. Yes, it was expensive (relative to us!), and yes, it took us time to save up and have it done. But it was worth it, both from a sustainability point of view (we know this will last us probably long into the future) and from a socio-economic point of view, in that we have helped a local business that has paid its workers fairly, and whom have physically observed (and fed!) execute the craftsmanship.
This value for quality work and accountable and sustainable practices eventually led to the realization there were so many designer labels that work like this, particularly out of India, that could be presented to people in the GCC. Tasneem and I, through our career paths, had a combined 30 years of experience in retail fashion, and we felt passionate about this type of product, and that this was something that we were sure couldn’t just be a consumer want exclusive to us.
That core value has remained the heart of the brand, but has allowed us to grow in terms of how we approach our collections and curations, as craftsmanship can be seen everywhere. We first started with women’s clothing, then slowly added in new categories, such as home accessories, footwear and clothing accessories such as sustainably made necklaces and leather goods. From starting with Indian labels and attending the fashion weeks in Delhi and Mumbai, we now are reaching out to artisans and labels in North America and Europe, and will be launching some great new curations in the coming months. Ultimately, HIND started out as (and continues to be) a desire to be a crossroad for artisans and craftsmen to the world, like the days of old in Kuwait, where the Silk Road ran through Kuwait, bringing products of high quality and value from the East and moving them wherever traders could go, to help people feel good (and confident) about themselves and the products they are wearing and introducing into their lives (something we have been told repeatedly by our customers).
Are there any particular designers/artists that inspire you?
When looking at labels and artisans to work with, there’s quite a lot of work that goes into determining if they are a right fit. Many multi-brand retailers will simply go for collections or styles that seem “on trend” at the moment, and people can see this in their Instagram feeds today. If you look at the amount of sponsored fashion ads that have been running this summer since Covid-19, it feels sometimes that we are looking at the same items over and over again, just with a different store name at the top. For example, resort wear has been a huge hit this year in Kuwait, as people have stayed home this year due to the situation, and obviously were looking for breezy summer items to wear to the pool or chalet. So with the market demanding that type of product, the majority of retailers seemed to go after the same vibrant prints and cuts. In the end, how does that define their brand as any different? Why should the customer come back to them again and again?
We take a more personal view of our customers, and that we want them to wear our items as many times as possible for years to come, and that means the designers and products need to be unique enough to stand the test of time, or be of a classic style that won’t identify it as “so summer 2020”. That means we’re inspired by (and love, as customers too) designers that tend to focus on a defining look and cut that you can see transcend seasons. They are brands that a person can identify the label just by seeing it being worn; and many of our customers do! We’ve had numerous people from the region contact us, requesting us to bring in items from their favorite Indian label that we may not have included in the current season’s curation. This is because the products (and ultimately designers) were not impulse buys or purchases made in the moment. People tend to love the cut, the style, the fabric and so on of the designers we are inspired by, and look forward to their new collections to see how they have adapted their lines to the fabrics and embellishments of the day. For example, to touch back on resort wear, we have our own first “resort” wear curation today, and we hesitate to use that term, as the curation can be used beyond the chalets and poolside. We partnered with a designer based out of Goa, as that is the perfect resort destination, and can easily be seen worn year round in the region. The same goes for the curation we chose; it can be worn poolside and at the chalet as well, but also works great next summer while being a tourist in Spain, or heading to the mall or grocery store at home this coming October.
What was the first design you made?
When we first opened, we started with a pop-up that carried over 20 brands. That’s a lot! We’ve personally loved every brand we have partnered with, and we honestly couldn’t just pick one to highlight. That said, there have been a few that we have received exceptional support from, above and beyond what they have to do as a business partner, and the relationships have grown beyond business to honest friendship. As a new small business, there have been challenges they have helped us with, support in the form of insight on how best to move forward and so on. For example, Roma Narsinghani, another designer that happens to be on the Cactus District edit for se7enconcept, introduced us to Cactus District! She was there with us at our first pop-up, and we believe we were her first foray into Kuwait with her amazing accessories brand. Arjun Saluja, one of our most in-demand labels, has also been with us from the beginning, and has helped us with styling our campaign shoots, introducing us to business partners in India, or even just being friend to vent to on some days! We can’t list them all, but we’d like to thank all our partners for trusting us, an in particular Chola, the first designer we partnered with, whom helped us get the ball rolling when it was a risk on their part to work with a brand that was just starting out, in a region they really hadn’t had much exposure to in terms of working with on a business level.
What's next for Hind? Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
We absolutely do! We’re excited to be introducing in the very near future a footwear brand that is based out of the UK that focuses on Pakistani traditional shoe-craftsmanship. We’re sure its going to be a huge hit, as just from the few sneak peaks of Tasneem wearing them in the Instagram stories we’ve received a ton of requests. Another collection launching in a matter of hours is wonderful selection of accessory jewelry made out of ceramic from Ohio, USA. The pieces are clearly art, in a wonderful palette of colors that can be utilized in a versatility of outfits, from evening wear to looking great at the beach.
What would you advise to anyone who would want to start a new venture that leads to success?
Thank you for thinking HIND is a success! We still feel we’re a long way from where we want to be, and something Tasneem and I tell ourselves is the silliest yet insightful of phrases: “Just keep swimming”.
To see the collection click here