2015 Fashion Prize Winner Hussein Bazaza: “It’s a Matter of Taste”
Hussein Bazaza, the debonair designer with a winning smile, is back home in Lebanon after being selected as the inaugural winner of the Fashion Prize at a star-studded gala at the One & Only Royal Mirage in Dubai. His workspace is nestled in the heart of Beirut, near Sodeco Square, where a bright and airy showroom can be found on the eighth floor, and he has recently relocated his personal office and atelier to the first floor. This new space is still under renovation, but Bazaza remarks that it will be void of any superlative chi-chi (“I just want it to hold everything that we need to work,” he states).
Bazaza is ending 2015 on a high note, and 2016 will launch with a packed schedule: collections, personal orders, and now, the production of his winning capsule collection to be sold on Farfetch in the Spring. Here, he speaks with Caterina Minthe to reflect on the Fashion Prize award and the next phase of his burgeoning career.
CATERINA MINTHE: You returned to Beirut the day after your win—which we all celebrated until the wee hours of the morning, I might add. Tell us about your first moments back at home.
HUSSEIN BAZAZA: I found my mom waiting for me at my place with flowers and a cake and she was crying. My mother and I are quite reserved emotionally—we don’t openly express how we feel. My friends tell me that I’m exactly like her because of my poker face. This was the first time that I saw my mom cry, and that was very, very moving for me.
I understand that your mother has been your closest ally throughout your Fashion Prize journey. What are some of the conversations that you two had over these past five months?
When I first applied for the Fashion Prize, I said, “Mom, there is this competition in the Middle East, and it is the first one that will take a young fashion designer to another level, and I’ve applied.” She was like, “Yeah, sure, go for it!” I was always talking to her about the Fashion Prize: “I have to do this, and I have to do that…”
The Finalists were very supportive of each other throughout the journey, but the competition was undoubtedly steep. What were your personal challenges?
When I saw everyone’s work, I found it to be all so beautiful, and I had a few favorites. I actually thought that someone else would win because I found other collections to have more easy-to-wear pieces, while at the same time, be very original. And that was my challenge from the beginning—I wanted to do something really easy to wear but, at the same time, feature a creative twist.
I looked at the Farfetch website, and I imagined what they were looking for. Right up until the dinner, I was telling my friends and my mom, “I don’t think that I’m going to win this. I don’t think that I am the one they are looking for.”
Your collection is now visible to the world on our website. Describe it in your own words.
The capsule features a young spirit and a classic base—I’m referring to the silhouettes, which include a black dress and a short, flared skirt. But all the work is highlighted with the mix of materials. I really wanted to do my best to mix the colors and fabrics because this is my strength. It’s what gives the collection a modern feel and where my creativity is underlined.
In one of the early Fashion Prize videos, you mentioned that you have a deep appreciation for science—specifically chemistry and biology. How have these fields helped you in fashion?
Back in school, I was the first in my class in biology and chemistry—I have this passion for science because I’m very interested in everything that happens in this world. Science inspires me because it helps me to go deeper into my inspirations. For example, if I’m inspired by flowers, I’ll explore their biology and that’s what I’ll highlight.
The inaugural Fashion Prize has come to a close, but for you, the journey continues. Have you already started thinking about what’s next?
I came back to Beirut on Thursday and the next day we had work, so I called my employees and told them, “Tomorrow is a vacation.” I really wanted a peaceful day to sit by myself, think about everything, and write things down.
What are some of the notes that you put on paper?
I wrote down a plan for the next two months because I have orders for boutiques, and now I have the Farfetch collection. I also have clients and brides to take care of, so I wrote it all down and set deadlines for everything.
It doesn’t really sound like a day off.
No. But for me it is because my regular workday is very hectic. I can’t sit down and write things because I have to go here and go there and check the work of the employees. I really wanted to sit down and organize and for this, I have to be by myself in a quiet place.
This is true and I’ve experienced this over these past few years. But when you feel that your brand is your baby, you must be involved in every single minute of its growth—every single detail. I have to be over the heads of everyone here in my office to check their work. Here, everyone works from 8am–6pm, and then, after 6pm it’s another job for me to go through everything that we’ve done throughout the day. It’s a 24-hour job. Sometimes I can’t see my parents; I only see them on Sundays. I also don’t really go out; in fact, I don’t like to socialize. I stay home 24-hours and this helps because here, I’m working. Even if I want to see my friends, I ask them to come over while I work and I kind of manage to balance my personal life that way.
What is the first thing you hope to prove with your Fashion Prize win?
The first thing I’m thinking about is to make everyone who voted for me, and every person on the jury proud and to live up to the responsibility.
Any words to the people who might have been hoping for another Finalist to win?
I’ll make them regret it! (Smiling.) You know in this field, you can’t make everyone happy. I can have a client who will come over and say, “This is ugly,” and the next day another one will come and say, “Oh my God, I want this dress.” In the end, it’s a matter of taste.