QL Exclusive: An interview with Qatari entrepreneur and shoe designer Hissa Haddad
Young Qatari entrepreneur, Hissa Haddad is the executive founder of the luxurious HH footwear. She is the first Qatari female designer to manufacture in Italy.
Although Hissa’s educational background is in electronic and communication engineering, she always found herself inclined toward fashion and design.
“All my life I have been a student of engineering. However, I always had an interest in fashion and design. So, during my master I took many courses in London to learn more about designing and how to start a fashion business, including how to design a shoe,” she mentioned.
“I always had this kind of interest in fashion, every time I would watch a movie or a series I looked at the fashion, and what grabbed my attention were the shoes that each character was wearing, especially, all the movies of the 90s, that focus on the classics,” Hissa recalled.
She remembered sketching designs and checking out the variety of dresses and types of designs, for family events and celebrations when she was younger. She would often guide her cousins on the kinds of clothes to buy.
“I would help them choose the right model and design and then modify it because I never went for something as it is. I loved to add a special touch to it. Even when I buy abayas I style them to make them stand out so they reflect my identity,” she described.
Hissa’s passion for designing shoes began as she collected shoes from various luxury shoe brands.
However, she began to feel something was missing in the designs, and that is when she began to think seriously about designing her own shoe brand.
HH is a footwear brand of Italian made shoes based in Qatar.
HH brand is based in Qatar, yet it is growing bigger internationally, as it reached France and England.
Hissa’s brand made its international debut at both Paris Fashion Week and London Fashion week. Additionally, she launched her three collections in Doha.
“When I started this business, my target was to go international, and not to limit the brand to make it local,” Hissa said.
“The idea was to have a Qatari brand by Italian experts. So we manufacture in Italy and it goes international,” she added.
Very early own, Hissa said she had decided that when she would launch the brand she would do so during fashion weeks, just like any other international brand.
This luxurious brand embraces the unique identity of Qatar. This is reflected in the Arabic art and all the carves that mirror the architecture of the buildings in the country. It has also been inspired by Islamic architecture in the region.
Hissa mentioned that she received the biggest support from the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Qatar that helped organize her meetings with the suppliers, manufacturers, and the Italian government.
“I was looking for support to find right suppliers, and the Chamber helped make everything easier in terms of travel, to find people, to do the analysis, they supported me in everything,” she said.
Hissa was selected by the British Fashion Council to showcase her brand HH in London Fashion Week.
Her brand got the Grazia Style Awards in 2019, which is an annual award that is presented to Qataris and international achievers in art, fashion, and culture.
Just like any other business, Hissa’s business faced many challenges at the beginning.
“We have to keep in mind that the beginning is not easy, and it might be difficult, we might not get what we expect,” she said.
“I wanted to start as an international, and big brand, so one of the challenges was to cross all those limits, to be able to go to Paris and to get the acceptance to go to the fashion week and the fashion weeks, it is all about the international designers. So, I was so worried that will we be noticeable between all those brands and everything going there,” she explained.
Since the brand’s shoes are manufactured in Italy, Hissa faces another challenge.
“I have to go every time to Italy to check all the details of every collection. I do the test myself. I do all the checking and I’m working on every single detail so it wasn’t easy to balance between my life and my business and to fly every time to Italy,” she described.
Her business was able to face all the challenges and now her brand is being recognized for its special style.
“We have reached the point where people have begun to recognize my designs, and my brand,” Hissa said. “Our customers who liked my brand from the first collection wait each time we prepare for a new collection. They keep inquiring about the details,” she added.
Hissa urges all women to focus on their creative ideas without being fearful or doubtful.
“We women most of the time we are afraid to start, we have lots of ideas we are so creative, but we have some fears,” she said.
“With the right planning, right team, and the right people around you, you can always do whatever you are passionate about. You have to believe in yourself. If you have an idea, you are the only one who will be able to work on it,” Hissa said.
During COVID-19, a lot of Hissa’s business plans have been delayed.
“We have collection for every season. So, I needed to prepare the sample at least one year before, COVID-19 froze all the plans and all the samples that we ordered, did not arrive in time. It’s been more challenging as we manufacture in Italy,” she mentioned.
Additionally, financially, we used to do sales during Ramadan and Eid season but this year everything slowed down. “Why would anyone buy shoes if they are sitting home?” she questioned.
However, Hissa has been able to deal with this hard time, and this inspired her to do her third collection that is celebrating the return to normal life.
This collection will be a mix of Abayas and shoes that will match together.
“This period gave me peace of mind; I became relaxed and calm because I was traveling a lot and now, I am taking a break to brainstorm and create more,” Hissa said.
“I needed this time to myself. This helped me to create my third collection to celebrate life and the back to normal,” she added.
Hissa ended with advice to all entrepreneurs.
“Planning is the most important thing for anyone to succeed. You have to make a financial plan, marketing plan, and to put the right strategy. This is the only thing you can refer to develop and to grow your business,” she added.
To know more about Hissa Haddad and her business, you can check her on Instagram, on @hissa.haddad and @hissahaddad
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