Part of the latest generation of Al Azem’s, Hani was born in to a world of style and elegance. His family’s Dananeer store has been dressing this country well for many years now, and he’s long been our ‘go-to’ personality when it comes to questions of sartorial integrity.
Here, Hani unbuttons himself and shares his thoughts of the moment.
What is the style essence of Dananeer. What style message do you endeavor to reflect?
Dananeer is about elegance. Fashion is constantly changing and evolving, yet elegance will always remain. What I try to represent is a timeless elegance that supersedes the runway looks, but reflects a modern sophistication and class.
What’s exciting you most amongst your labels for Fall 2016?
Two things I am particularly looking forward to this season are Corneliani and Sartoria Latorre. Corneliani is constantly evolving its products, and the innovation they produce in their clothing is subtle yet exciting. Corneliani’s reversible vest has become an iconic item, and set the standard for vests in Kuwait. Sartoria Latorre is a southern Italian tailoring house that combines an incredible modern fitting with great quality but at a reasonable price. This is exciting because in all my years in this business, good fitting with high quality fabrics at a lower prices just never worked, the product was always lacking one aspect.
We contend that these days the Gulf’s men are as well groomed and well dressed as any. What’s your view of the way men interpret style on this side of the Arabian Peninsula?
In the past ten years I have seen a huge shift in our customers. Their brand knowledge amazes me, especially when they mention something that I haven’t heard of. Men today are looking for an item with meaning, something with a history, and quality is the most important aspect when choosing an item. I feel like the big fashion brands have lost their edge, the high-end customer seems to avoid associating themselves with the standard names, and are more interested in tailors, small producers versus mass-produced ‘fast’ fashion that is more about glamour.
How do you assess the region’s style sense? Are we leaders or followers?
If you consider the last five years, I would say that the region has switched from followers to leaders very quickly. I am surprised to see so many local designers, producers, and even established brands coming up. Walk into an internationally recognized department store in Kuwait and you will find a range of products from local designers and brands.
How would you define your own personal style?
I consider my style chic, and sophisticated. I try to always find a theme in what I am wearing, and combine colors to complement each other. It starts from the color of my shoes, to socks, even the watch has to match. This carries over to my sports clothing, to coordinate each item and have a unified color theme. For example, my road bike is black and blue with white accents, so my shoes are white, my helmet is black and blue. It might seem hard to pull this off, however I build my closet with a color theme in mind. I do not buy a clothing item just because I like it, it has to have a place in my closet, or else it will have a lonely life and rarely get worn.
What do you feel are the key items of apparel through which individuality can be expressed?
Every occasion has an item that can express your individuality, and it is only defined by how you combine that outfit. In business, wearing grey pants with a navy blazer is a very common outfit, adding a pocket square to match your tie with it will then add your individuality. Going to the gym, black shorts with a yellow detail is also very common, choosing a shoes that matches the yellow detail brings out your individuality. This is what I mean with subtle style, it doesn’t have to be metal chains, or an antique pocket watch, it’s how you combine colors to bring the outfit together creating a unique color theme to you.
What’s the most common mistake men make when buying and wearing clothes?
This is difficult to answer, as everyone is unique to the way they dress. But through the years, men repeat one mistake that does get on my nerves, and it is when the over wear one item. For example a favorite suit, or t-shirt, you can see the colors have faded, the fit is wrong, a stain or two that are too stubborn to be removed. They develop a certain comfort with that item, and in their eyes it is a beauty, but a sore sight for the people around them. When it comes to buying an item, I feel they sometimes buy something because they think it will look good on them, but what they realize later is that it does not match their personality and usual style, making that item stand out and feel out of place. Like we say in our industry, does the suit wear you? Or are you wearing the suit?
Style extends beyond the clothes we wear. What are the other key areas of style a man can explore to express his style?
Style definitely extends beyond clothing, it is more than the accessories we add to our outfits. True style is a way of life. It starts from what we choose to eat, fast food vs. regular food, Snickers bar vs. praline, and it goes into our home, car, and hobbies. In my line of work, we get to see a very personal side of our customer, and share stories that give us an in depth look into their lives. For example, a man who’s hobby is to fish, he selects his clothing to match the areas he will travel to, the boat he owns will have details that combines with his car, so you will start to see a unified theme that defines his style.
• Style over substance? Do you dress for comfort or for looks?
It’s a common misconception that stylish clothing is uncomfortable. But choosing the right kind of fabrics and fitting will allow you to have both. A lightweight stretch cotton can give you the modern fit with the comfort you need. But when it comes down to choosing one over the other, it will be a stylish look over comfort, because funnily enough I won’t be comfortable if it didn’t look good.
• Buttons or cufflinks? Are you a sartorial traditionalist when it comes to cufflinks, or do you think they belong to another era?
Cufflinks are timeless and I always prefer them over buttons. The only reason some sartorial traditions are fading is because manufactures opt to cut costs and promote fast selling items vs. traditional ones that cater to a specific client.
• Favorite designer?
Corneliani is by far my favorite designer and producer.
• Most stylish city?
Florence during the Pitti Uomo.
Sartoria Latorre available at Dananeer, ground floor Arraya Centre 22997662
Corneliani, ground floor Arraya Centre 22997662
Paul & Shark, ground floor Arraya Centre 22997680