By: Dahab Elkady
When asked about her brand she said, “it’s part of who I am, but not everything I am.” So in this interview we will only get to know that part of Habeiba Hassan, but in as much details as she would like to share. An aspiring fashion designer who is not afraid of trial and error, in fact, she sees it as a learning process.
When did your love for fashion designing start?
When I was 12 years old, I was watching a TV program where the host was asking the guest celebrity about her daughter’s career. I remember the celebrity saying that her daughter was a fashion designer in London and then started explaining what her daughter actually does; from creating a fashion show and the backstage hassles to the actual process of constituting a whole collection. Since then I wanted to learn more about this field and how to get myself into it. I started to become very interested in the fashion industry as a whole. However, I was still undecided about what exactly I’d like to pursue in it.
What obstacles did you face while starting your career? And do you still face them?
At first, I didn’t know where to start or how to create a team whose members believe in me and my vision as a designer. I didn’t have any work experience prior to starting my own business, AitchbyHabeiba. I had to start combining what I learned from my business major at The American University in Cairo with what I learned in Esmod Fashion School to be able to create a solid business plan for my brand.
On the other hand, being a 24 year old female entrepreneur in Egypt remains the biggest obstacle that I’m still facing up until this moment.
Did you ever design something you didn’t actually like just to please a client? If not, would you?
When I first started offering custom-made dresses besides the Casual Chic seasonal collections, clients started asking me to make them gowns copied from the internet. Since our market is not yet familiar with the difference between a tailor and a fashion designer, I had to explain that by being a designer I have to create my own designs customized for each client based on certain criteria like body type, skin tone, preferences in cuts and most importantly my own brand identity. Bit by bit, I started taking these gowns my clients so desperately cling to as a reference to how they wish to see themselves but not as a reference to my work.
What did you learn from Esmod Fashion School that you think you’ll never learn anywhere else?
I learned the fundamental basics to become a professional fashion designer with a differentiating edge.
I learned pattern making and drafting, professional sketching, sewing and how to create a coherent collection from scratch.
Where did the brand name come from and what does it reflect?
Aitch stands for letter H which is the first letter in my name and father’s name as well (Habeiba Hassan). I didn’t want to create a brand with my own name since I believe that the brand does not necessarily reflect me as a person but it reflects my fashion sense and beliefs; so it’s part of who I am but not everything I am. Besides, I believe it’s too mainstream.
My brand’s logo is created to reflect what Aitch is here to offer:
A – the space that Aitch gives to women to get out of the box and be different.
I – is inverted to show that with Aitch one is always standing out, different and never conforming. It also represents an exclamation mark that one always makes an appearance when wearing Aitch’s garments.
H – underlined to highlight the name of the brand’s Founder.
What does AitchbyHabeiba offer to the Egyptian market?
AitchbyHabeiba offers a new mindset in women’s day to day and evening wear. Aitch speaks to the women who are wholeheartedly willing to invest in their garments to get something of a top-notch quality and uniqueness of cuts and designs. I always say that the statement that best describes AitchbyHabeiba has to be “Go back to the Future” in the sense that I always take the old eras as an inspiration when I start creating a new collection or even a stand-alone gown. However, I don’t let myself get too distracted that I forget the modern taste and technology. So, it’s basically taking the royalty and elegance of the past and mixing it with fashion forward designs to come up with a unique piece of art.
What differentiates the brand from competition?
AitchbyHabeiba offers two lines of production parallel to one another, the Casual Chic line and the Custom-made Evening gowns. This is something that’s not so familiar in the Egyptian market, usually designers stick to either one of them.
The most important differentiation points are quality, design and silhouette. These are the elements that are meant to make AitchbyHabeiba stand out from competition.
How does a collection come to life? What are the steps needed to create a well-established collection form A-Z?
Regarding the seasonal collection, I always have to do an extensive research on the trends of the season I’m preparing the collection for. These trends are usually announced one year earlier during the annual fashion weeks held for each season. Some trends are not so obvious though, you have to read between the lines and some are not appropriate for one’s brand to follow, so these are the ones I usually exclude.
After researching the trends, I find my own inspiration and start creating a mood board and a colour palette that are all in coherence with one another. Lastly, I start sketching with a bit of an idea about what fabric I’m going to use and what cuts I’m going to repeat to keep the whole collection seem as one complete story.
After I’m done with the work, I buy my fabric and start making samples. These samples are subject to alterations and even elimination. Sometimes, I figure out something better, something more in coherence with the rest of the garments and some other times the sketch is the exact same thing from paper to reality.
The trial and error phase is so important because it teaches me a lot, and it makes me view the collection as a whole. After I’m done with alteration, fittings and the trial and error process, we start creating the finalized garments.