Dareen Hakim: In the bag

B HIVE - Bianca Salonga -

We would all like to think that the things we acquire serve some kind of purpose and provide a certain level of substance to our lives. When we shell out for a trusty pair of shoes or denim pants, oftentimes we find ourselves saying, “This is an investment piece.” In short, we like to rationalize the price tag that comes with each of our accoutrements by emphasizing on such traits as quality, workmanship and timelessness.

Young bag designer Dareen Hakim knows this all too well. As one of the fashion creatives to watch out for this year, her clutch bags have become all the rave among fashion’s elite in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Unlike most pieces, her bags bring to light a constant affection for old-world tradition, modern design sensibilities and more impressively, a more personalized approach through Arabesque inscriptions. Her Lebanese roots coupled by her experience at the Harvard Business School and later, Wall Street, have given Dareen the kind of fashion and business insight that rarely comes by in the industry. 

Dareen begins, “In my childhood, I had always naturally picked up drawing and painting. I remember at age four drawing things at such a level of detail. I also started painting on silk to make scarves for my mom. Then I learned to knit from my grandma and went on to make dresses, tops, scarves and skirts for my dolls.”

When Dareen started out, she came up with the idea of allowing her clients to customize their own bags by offering a wide selection of lush Italian leather such as cowhide, crocskin and lambskin that may be combined with metal plates in bronze, silver or gold. What made her initial pieces now known to most as the Le Icon most interesting are the Arabesque calligraphy messages inscribed on them that gives it a more personalized feel. Clients can choose inscriptions like “My Love,” “Happiness is a Journey” and “Live and Laugh,” which are carved onto the clutch bags. Each of these inscriptions are carefully handcrafted by traditional Lebanese artisans that make them all the more special. Dareen explains, “Every person is truly unique. It’s so interesting to see which inscription are chosen by my customers. It says a lot about the person and makes me feel like I got to know my client in a way that’s personal. The personalized aspect of my bags make them more than just an accessory. It also reflects the personality, secrets, strengths and dreams of those carrying them.”

Aside from the customized services, Dareen’s clutch bags also highlight a modern and eclectic mix of the old and the new as seen in her other collections. She observes, “My aesthetic has consistently been contrasting. Whether with regard to fabrics, texture, eras, cultural elements. I love to mix them together, making for deep interesting creations. With my handbags, I combined large raw heavy metals with soft luxurious delicate leathers, modern silhouettes with ancient historic artforms, crisp shapes with scripted curved calligraphy engravings.”

Since her foray into the design business, Dareen has grown to become a staple in some of the most reputable fashion hubs in the US with establishments like Henri Bendel and Intermix carrying her unique creations. Celebrities like Fergie and other famed fashion philes have also been spotted with her pieces.

At present, Dareen admits to running a one-woman show, taking charge of every aspect of the business from design to production and marketing. Admittedly, she loves the creative process of designing. Dareen says, “It takes me two to three months to start a new design. I am inspired every day by things around me and by experiences  artisans making metal-etched decorative platters, a calligrapher working on wedding invitations or even a home contractor sharing industrial metal pieces.” The challenge, she reveals, lies in translating her ideas into reality. Dareen expresses, “There are tons of moving pieces, parts, materials, skills and people that all have to come together for the idea to happen on time. So, it’s inevitable that problems arise at the same time, it’s amazing once the bags come to life.”

Dareen’s bags  from the Le Icon to her more recent Le Capri envelope clutches  have also been constantly featured in countless style blogs and magazines like Daily Candy and Bag Snob, making her name instantly recognizable among industry insiders. Given the success she has achieved early on, Dareen maintains that she plans on concentrating on her bags and maintaining her online store.

She also declares, “For now, it’s way too early to tell about a flagship store  maybe someday in the future. It’s a good concept but just not for me now.”

Having gone through such a colorful journey  opening up her own company in the fashion business, learning the ropes and exploring countless possibilities  Dareen looks back with fondness and looks forward to the future with great anticipation. She shares of her favorite inscriptions: “Happiness is a journey. I love that saying. It has so much meaning, comfort and hope. It reminds you to enjoy every step of the way  let it linger, know that the goods and the bads are both leading you to the right place. And just cherish it all, create the memories and learn along the way.”






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