By Katherine Ellis
Photography courtesy of HD Photography
Hussein Dhalla’s custom-made luxury eveningwear was most recently seen at this year’s Mercedes-Benz StartUp — an annual competition for emerging designers in Canada. Dhalla is a self-taught designer and celebrity stylist, who has most recently dressed Sensato and Fito Blanko for the Latin Grammys in Miami, as well as Jesse Giddings at the MuchMusic Video Awards. He also hosts a fashion and lifestyle blog called HD Style.
In The Anniversary Issue, Dhalla shares what his life has been like post the Mercedes-Benz StartUp.
1. How was your experience with the StartUp? What would you do differently if you were to participate in it again?
It was truly amazing. I gained so much knowledge of the fashion industry and made connections with some of the most influential names in fashion today. I was fortunate to gain guidance from Robin Kay. I also had the honour and pleasure to design a custom HD Homme blazer for Jarrad Clark, the global creative director for IMG Fashion, and he actually wore it to the show!
I would do nothing different than what I did — I truly put my best foot forward and worked really hard to design the spring/summer 2014 collection that I felt represented me but also was trendsetting. I would encourage any designer to take part in this competition as it was an eye-opener and game changer for me.
2. How did you start out in the fashion world as a self-taught designer?
Initially, I started off as a menswear boutique owner. I catered to my clientele by appointment only. During those years, through the experience of purchasing and selling garments, I quickly became acquainted with the difference in fabric quality and tailoring of different brands. My experience as a private owner transitioned into styling and image consulting.
I enjoy fashion and entertainment, so a large source for me is media and other brand name designers, such as Tom Ford. I also study European design and art, and like to incorporate the variety of textiles, fabrics and prints into my designs.
3. You have a styling background. Why did you decide to start designing clothes?
To me, styling and designing complement one another; once you master the art of styling, you naturally progress to wanting to make your own clothes. When I styled clients, I would often customize store-bought pieces. My partner actually pointed out my passion and eye for design and encouraged me to start my own label. She now manages my line, HD Homme.
4. HD Homme is a luxury line. What distinguishes your brand from other menswear lines in the market today?
My line is an extension of me and my taste. I place a lot of focus on fit and the choice of fabric in my pieces. Unlike the traditional North American style, I like the tailored European fit for men. It makes them look taller and slimmer right away.
5. When designing your pieces, what are your inspirations? Where do they come from?
I design pieces that I like to wear myself. My inspiration for the spring/summer 2014 collection came from the classic Hollywood couture of the 1920s, as depicted in The Great Gatsby. When I saw the film and Leonardo DiCaprio’s wardrobe, I thought to myself: “He looks like a gentleman. So sophisticated and sleek, yet calm and cool.”
I like making a statement without saying a word. I love the wonder and mystery when you walk into a room and everyone notices you. My designs are meant to make every man feel as though he can own the moment and own the night.
6. So what is HD Homme’s motto?
Own the night!
7. Is it easier to break into the fashion business by designing for men or for women?
I feel it is easier to break into the business by designing for women. Not only is the fashion industry still heavily dominated by womenswear, but women have a natural tendency to explore and are constantly looking to add to their wardrobes. Designing for men, on the other hand, is more challenging as you first have to convince a man he needs a new suit or blazer.
8. What is the story behind your brand’s name?
H and D are my initials, so that was a natural choice. I added Homme and liked the [combination].
I want to design for men, but for men who are mature and want to refine their style; homme is the French word for “adult man.” To me, the phrase sounds powerful, as most people associate HD with high definition — I like to think the line follows suit as well.
9. For the celebrities you style, do you only dress them in your own designs?
It is not mandatory that the celebrities I style wear HD Homme, but when they see my collection, they generally choose to wear the line because it is one-of-a-kind. There is no fear of someone else walking the Red Carpet wearing the same thing.
10. What are the strengths and weaknesses of running a business in Toronto?
For some time now, I have felt that Toronto is growing and reaching a peak. I am proud of my city and I feel we are so close to gaining the international exposure and acclaim we deserve. We are not only the financial hub of Canada, we also house immense talent and are a serious tourist attraction. We have amazing resources to really nurture a growing business.
However, most of our talent goes away to the U.S., becoming more popular and then returning home. I would like to see [Canadian] businesses and [people] support and adore these talents, so they don’t feel the need to go away. We can stay right here and still get noticed internationally.
The latest looks from HD Homme