We spent a delightful evening unveiling layers of meaning behind the fabrics of Saudi Designer and Entrepreneur Hatem Alakeel of fashion label, toby. With a diverse fan base from the likes of Christian Louboutin to Snoop Dogg, to Royalty, there’s a reason why Alakeel’s threads are turning heads. His signature style merges highly structured lines with restrained detail on delectable fabric. Think baroque meets mid-century modern, and you’ll understand why we’re all in a tizz over Alakeel’s east-greets-west whizz.

By Joanne Leila Smith

According to a major fashion industry report between McKinsey & Co and The Business of Fashion, 2016 was particularly difficult for luxury and mid-market players, who felt the slowdown in China and the US. According to the BoF-McKinsey Global Fashion Survey, 67 percent of respondents—a mix of top fashion execs, creatives, investors, and other industry insiders—believe that conditions for the fashion industry have become worse over the past 12 months. The top three words selected to describe industry sentiment were: uncertain, changing, and challenging.

Even though volatile shifts in the global economy, followed by competition from online players, decreasing foot traffic, and the speed of changing consumer demographics dominated concerns for industry performance in 2017, the industry remained positive about growth opportunities, highlighting digitisation and e-commerce as the single biggest opportunity.

With major shopping malls folding into online retail stores around the globe, it appears that market dynamism, demographic complexities and degrees of cultural appropriation in fashion are now the new norm. As the world moves towards a global closet, one entrepreneur who understood the inevitable convergence of east meets west was Fashion Designer Hatem Alakeel of Middle East fashion powerhouse, toby.

Born in Saudi Arabia, Alakeel, now 44, says his parents were adamant their two sons received an education abroad, and were subsequently schooled in Switzerland, moving to the US to complete secondary and tertiary education. After completing his Bachelor of Science and Marketing at Northeastern University in Boston, Alakeel worked with different agencies in New York City in modelling, and says his first fashion show gig in 1998 enamored him. Alakeel returned to Jeddah, Saudi with a global outlook and a local ambition.

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Hatem Alakeel, Joanne Leila Smith, toby, INDVSTRVS

Hatem Alakeel – Design Without Borders

We spent a delightful evening unveiling layers of meaning behind the fabrics of Saudi Designer and Entrepreneur Hatem Alakeel of fashion label, toby. With a diverse fan base from the likes of Christian Louboutin to Snoop Dogg, to Royalty, there’s a reason why Alakeel’s threads are turning heads. His signature style merges highly...


Ian Darling, Gabrielle Martinovich, Joane Leila Smith, INDVSTRVS, Good Pitch Australia, Shark Tank Institute, Philanthropy Australia

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