Hnach Interview with Hanna
Most of us here in Dubai have been to the craft market called ARTE on a Friday morning at Times Square. Well, about 2 months ago, I was kind of dragged out of bed by my family to take them to the market. They love all the arts and crafts on sale. All I can say is that I’m so glad I went! I separated from everyone and took a slow meander through the mall and as I was coming up the travellator on my right I saw a stall with some incredibly interesting clothing hanging up. I was instantly drawn to the colour palette of dark greys, whites and the odd splash of red. The clothes were something I haven’t seen in Dubai up until now and something I loved instantly!
So, of course, I began talking to Hanna, the owner and more importantly the fashion designer of Hnach! We exchanged details and after a couple of meetings we finally were able to create a fab photo shoot. You can view this shoot on the “Photography” page.
On our lunch break during our shoot I sat down with Hanna, who is a native French speaker, and asked her more about herself and her work.
XPM: Hi Hanna, it’s finally amazing to be working with you on your wonderful collection! Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? How did you come to be in Dubai and also why fashion designing?
Hanna: Hi Michael. First of all thank you for your invitation and this opportunity to work with you today, and all your nice comments about my designs. I am Hanna, I am French with 50% Ethiopian blood from my mother side. I’ve been living in Dubai for 1 year with my Husband Regis and my gorgeous twins Harone and Sarone. I used to work in France as freelance fashion designer. I started some years ago to transform and recycle different clothes and garments, and then my hobby became a full time job. I worked on orders from boutiques and shops, and specific client requests. My followers became regular customers and I created my own designs with my own touch and “voilà”, Hnach was born (pronounced H-näsh). Then naturally, coming to Dubai, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the potential of this wonderful city. I created a Facebook page to expose some of my work and very quickly, I was getting many positive comments about my designs. This is how my clientele began to grow and my sales improved immensely!
XPM: What’s behind, firstly of, the brand name HNACH, and secondly the collection’s name of Semenech?
Hanna: Hnach is actually a nickname given to me when I was younger, playing volley-ball in France. This nickname just stuck and forever will be associated to me and my circle of friends for the rest of my life. As I am relatively reserved and shy by nature, Hnach is in fact the part of me which comes out of it’s shell and I’m able to show myself to the public. Hnach also means “snake” in Arabic and by coincidence it corresponds, in some aspect, to the “Hnach” spirit: versatility, not following codes or the norm, revealing without showing, able to hide and keep it’s intrigue intact.
Concerning the name of the collection “Semenech”, which means “My name” in Amharic [the official language of Ethiopia] but it is also my mother’s first name and so I have dedicated the collection name to her too!
XPM: So as far as your designs are concerned, what are you biggest influences? Is it another designer, music, a place, and a time in history…you get my meaning? Tell us about your influences?
Hanna: Oh là là (Laughs) I don’t plan, I don’t calculate. I am instinctive. Call it as you want, it comes as an inspiration at anytime and anywhere, like a painter or sculptor. This is my way of expressing my feeling and my emotions, to show Hnach [myself]. I don’t work with patterns, so my designs are just in my mind, as an image. I will then spend hours processing it and then creating the garments. When I’m designing I go into my own world, a labyrinth where I love to lose myself, defying and pushing my limits! It is my ecstasy!!!
I believe that my creations are from my own heart and mind. There may be times where I may be inspired by something I read or see in a fashion magazine, but I try to protect myself from too much outside influence. This is why I feel that my designs are unique and not copied! They are truly me!
XPM: When I see your clothes, I get a sense of the past, a kind of mixture of the middle ages, but with a modern twist. What would you say to that?
Hanna: I put a lot of myself, a lot of my emotions and sincerity into my approach. I have a nostalgic and respectful vision of artisanal handmade garments, but the modern women also needs to feel comfortable in clothes matching with their contemporary an active lifestyles. I use only cotton, wool, raw silk and linen. I am generous with my designs and I use more material and fabrics than used in nowadays in fashion designing, which is certainly creating, what I believe, something new!
XPM: What would you class your clothes as, ready to wear or couture?
Hanna: Well, the quality and the attention to detail that I apply to each step of the design and making of the garment, starting from the choice of fabrics to the final piece will drive me to tell you that it is couture. At the same time, I make clothes to be worn as easy as ready to wear. I would say that it is “couture ready to wear”, if there is such a thing!! My customers are my best ambassadors and sometimes they ask me to make something specific for them, depending on events they are planning to go to. For example, something easy, classy but definitely not ordinary!
XPM: Most of your colour palette is dark, with greys and whites, however there are a couple garments that stand out beautifully in red. Is there any particular reason for the colours you like working with, and why the break into red?
Hanna: As for the fabrics, I limit my colour palette to some basics: Plain colours as black, shades of grey, some browns and white. I am looking for something pure, essential, without deception. The cut and the design must be the gauge of quality. Sometimes, according to my inspiration I can jump to a particular colour, such as the “Red Appeal” garment that we are shooting today. So sometimes the colour can define my concept. Over all the basics of my design ethos is: Authentic (in the choice of materials), Traditional (in the fabrication approach) and Timeless in design (to respect women).
XPM: We know you’re designing the clothes, but how about manufacture? Are you doing this yourself or do you outsource the manufacturing?
Hanna: Each one of my creation is a one of a kind. I don’t duplicate, and whenever I have 2 or 3 similar demands, it will be never exactly the same. Then, by choice and because I love it, I do everything from “H”… to Z. I select fabrics, draperies, and then once designed everything is done in my “secret” workshop.
XPM: From a business perspective, who do you design for? Who is your ideal customer? Who is she?
Hanna: My ideal customer is one ready to surprise and to be surprised! She should enjoy being different but not necessarily a fashion addict, neither over extravagant. She is free and doesn’t think about what others will think of her! I want her to be free. I try to find the right harmony between the material and the design. I often discover that the same fabric is suitable for the small, tall, skinny, or more generous of silhouettes. Many of my clients become friends and come back to me for just a coffee and a chat and to share their experiences when wearing my garments. I love it when they tell me that somebody approached them to request who is their designer is? It makes everyone one involved feel so happy and it really touches me that we’re all in this experience together!
XPM: You husband Regis is here at the shoot with you, as well as your kids. Do any of them have an influence in what you do creatively or in the running of your brand? Do you see the brand Hnach as a family business or something you do alone?
Hanna: My family is my tribe. It permits me to take breaths and keep in touch with the real world to get the balance right. My husband has been involved since day one (9 years ago) and he pushed me to show my talent and trust myself. Maybe Hnach would not exist without his encouragement. He has also created the logo and continues to run the Facebook page, pictures and other social media. Celia (my sister in law), Elise (one really good friend) and Rachel (from Dubai Madame) are the trio who’ve also supported me to start this adventure in Dubai. They are today good fans and regular ambassadors of the brand Hnach. Our daughters are there by coincidence, but it is great to have them here to share this great experience with us.
XPM: How are you selling or distributing your designs? How can people out there find your clothes apart from at ARTE?
Hanna: My approach is quite confidential, but I am accessible. My presence is past through general networking, personal friends, client recommendations. We also have a Facebook page [LIKE our page below] and actually in Dubai, I am still in a phase of communication and observation. I’ve had some contact with manufactures and boutiques who put in requests with me to create some designs for them, but their demands did not always coincide with my style or vision for the designs. So some have worked and others’ haven’t! Nevertheless I really thank them for their interest. I want to stay loyal to Hnach spirit, even if sometimes it is really hard to refuse some juicy proposals!
XPM: On a lighter note, what are your hobbies? Besides fashion, what are you passionate about?
Hanna: When I was younger, I played volley-ball at professional level for 14 years in France so sport of course is still very present in my life. I love watching movies, dancing and listening to music. I am quite eclectic, depending on my mood, so I listen to anything from Exotic to Grunge Rock.
XPM: Well Hanna, this has been fabulous talking with you. I’m afraid we need to get back to our shoot.
Hanna: Michael, really thank you again for this great opportunity you’ve given me to work with you and the fantastic job that our team are doing today! Let’s Go!!!