Hessa Al Obaidli is an Emirati designer and founder of Hesseh, a fashion line that’s taking abayas to the next level. That’s because Hessa designs haute couture abayas, ensuring each abaya is both visually and materially stunning. The line’s name is a palindrome and a play on Hessa, the designer’s name.
As with all businesses, this designer started small, and launched her couture line in 2008 by taking orders from relatives and close friends. After great feedback and a lot of support, she decided to make the leap into the fashion world, and expanded her business.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from everything around me. Whatever I see, I get inspired by — bags, everything. Sometimes, I get inspired by materials so if I see a particular design, or cloth, I’ll get an idea.
What makes your abayas special?
I make sure that whenever I release a collection, there’s a story behind it. For example, the first collection, we shot in Italy, and I made sure everything about the photoshoot told the story of the collection, from the makeup to the hair. Every collection is special in its way.
How did you get the idea to launch your brand?
I’ve loved fashion since I was a kid. My mother also had this talent, and I really believe I also inherited it from her. A while after I first began to wear the abaya, I started getting creative with it. Little by little, I’d add more cloth and materials to it and the abaya became like a dress. Soon after, I noticed that wherever I went, women would constantly ask me where I made my abaya. I used to always receive compliments! Everyone kept telling me I had to launch my own brand, so when I graduated from college, I finally did.
In college, you completed your studies in business and management instead of fashion or design. Do you think fashion design is something that can be learned or is it something inherent?
In my opinion, it’s more important to first have this talent and then improve on it through your studies. Of course, there’s no problem with a talented person studying fashion or design to improve his or her skills. But while I do see other designers study fashion as a career, I believe that you need to have the talent first.
What have been your biggest obstacles to date?
Unfortunately, with every new business, you will face obstacles, financial or otherwise. For me, it’s mostly getting my store up online. Also, some people don’t realize that the primary goal of the abaya, modesty, is not lost in my designs. These abayas are couture, and they’re meant for special occasions, not necessarily everyday wear.
Do you remember your first abaya?
To be completely honest, no! I’ve made so many, that it would be impossible for me to remember the very first one.
What does it feel like when you complete an abaya?
In short, my abayas are like my daughters! If anyone even touches them or tries to move them even a little bit — oh my God — really, you can’t imagine. I’m just like, please, please be careful because they’re really valuable and precious to me. It’s because I’ve worked hard on them; when you make something from scratch, all by yourself — idea and creation and everything, you’ll get like that. Sometimes one will take me one month or more so that’s why they’re like my kids. In fact, even if I had kids, I don’t think they’d hold the same place in my heart, to be honest!
To check out more of Hessah's designs, check out the site www.hesseh.com
– Kawther Albader
Images courtesy of Hesseh