How I got my job as… Founder of this sophisticated homegrown fashion label

Featured in Emirates Women

Welcome to the Emirates Woman weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesswomen both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week we chat with Fashion Designer & Founder of HALA, Hala Al Shammari. With a keen passion for designing since a young age, this third culture woman has broken the perception of the modern Arab woman’s experience, through a story.

Inspired by the diverse women in her life, she has carefully incorporated her heritage into the brand to exude femininity with ease. By welcoming the essence of timeless, each silhouette is the perfect addition to a timeless wardrobe.

From slip dresses to linen co-ord sets, each piece oozes sophistication and can be worn for any occasion be it a wedding or any special event, with its minimal touch.

With production executed in an ethical manner, all the samples are designed through a sustainable approach to reduce carbon footprint and with eco-friendly materials.

To delve into her journey as an entrepreneur, Emirates Woman sat with Shammari to see how it all began and what’s next in the pipeline for the brand.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Without a doubt, my favorite subject during school was Art. I have always found joy in expressing my creativity, particularly in the process of crafting various forms of art. The entire journey, from conceptualisation to gathering inspiration and witnessing the gradual evolution of an art piece, has a very similar process to designing clothing. The beauty of both lies in their lack of rules. Each step allows experimentation and exploration, which help to influencer my career in later years.

What was your first job?

My very first job was as an Editorial Assistant. Let me tell you, no one really prepares you for the challenges of breaking into the fashion industry, especially if your aim is to get into the creative realm of design. Working as an editorial assistant taught me a lot – from running campaigns to spotting emerging trends, and lots of planning for the future. Through that experience, I gained a clearer understanding of my aspirations within the fashion world. It was the stepping stone that solidified my determination to wholeheartedly chase my dream of designing for my own label.

What brought you to Dubai?

While I was born in Baghdad, my parents made the decision to relocate to Dubai in the year ‘00s when I was just three years old and since then Dubai has been my cherished home.

What inspired you to enter the fashion space and launch HALA?

Growing up as the youngest of five daughters, I was constantly surrounded by women and immersed in the world of fashion, this upbringing greatly influenced my path. By the time I turned 16, I had a strong feeling that the fashion industry was where I belonged, because I found immense joy in using clothing as a means of self-expression. Styling myself became second nature, and I was genuinely thrilled when friends asked for my advice on their outfits or even borrowed items from my wardrobe, appreciating my sense of style. My personal journey of always striving to feel my best through my clothing choices eventually led me to a realisation: Why not turn this passion into something more? And that’s exactly what inspired me to launch my brand. The desire to channel my love for fashion into a tangible, creative venture. It’s a way for me to extend my taste and style to others, while also empowering them to feel confident and express themselves through their clothing choices. Through my creations, I have the privilege of articulating my thoughts, emotions, and preferences. This is what fuels my passion for design; it gives me the space to manifest my unique identity and tastes, making each piece I create a reflection of myself.

Talk us through the concept of Hala?

Hala is all about embracing the power of self-expression and liberation through clothing. It holds a special place for me because it’s not only a fashion label, but also a platform to challenge stereotypes. I’m particularly driven to highlight my ethnicity as an Arab, Iraqi brand owner, as there’s a common misconception that Iraqi or even Arab women lean towards conservative fashion choices. With Hala, I’m determined to change this perception and show that there are women like me who want to confidently embrace a more daring style. I’ve also chosen to break away from the traditional seasonal approach. I believe that maintaining relevance and excitement is key for both the brand and its customers. Instead of adhering to a static collection for extended periods, I prefer to keep things dynamic by releasing single or a few pieces throughout the year. This approach keeps the brand fresh and encourages customers to continually engage with new drops. It’s a way to keep the energy high and the anticipation alive. At its core, Hala isn’t just about fashion; it’s a statement of empowerment and the belief that clothing can be a canvas for individuality.

What are the key elements of your role?

The truth is that every task I undertake plays a pivotal role in helping my brand toward success. Being a sole owner presents unique challenges, but it also offers the opportunity to shape every facet of the brand’s journey. Starting and running a brand single-handedly is undeniably a challenge that demands a multitude of roles and responsibilities. In my case, there isn’t just a single key element, every aspect of what I do is essential for the success of Hala.

Talk us through your daily routine.

Every day for me is unique, but there’s one constant that sets the tone: my morning workout. It’s my favorite way to kickstart the day, helping me clear my mind, and release all stress. With that energising foundation, I’m all set to tackle any obstacles that present itself during the course of the day. My daily routine transforms based on the stage I’m in with the brand. When I’m feeling super excited and ready to start designing new pieces my focus turns entirely to design. It’s a creative immersion where I pour my heart into conceptualising new pieces, sketching out ideas, and crafting unique designs. When the designs are set and production phase is in full swing, my days take on a different rhythm. I get into a whirlwind of tasks, that include creating product descriptions that encapsulate each piece’s essence, planning both e-commerce and editorial photoshoots, scouting for the perfect models, contacting the shipping company, and working on the pricing strategy are just a few things that goes on behind the scene. Currently, I’m working on the three-piece mini collection I just launched. This means my focus has shifted to its growth. I’m in content creation mode, creating captivating visuals for social media platforms. Plus, I’m busy setting up for the next launch. So basically, it’s a mix of creativity, organization, and a sprinkle of magic, all put together to bring Hala to life.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

Take your time before launching. Ensure you have a solid foundation and feel confident in what you are displaying to the world. While attention to detail is important, don’t get too worked up on minor imperfections. Embrace setbacks as learning opportunities and be open to feedback from trusted sources. Believe in your vision, adapt as needed, and celebrate even the smallest successes. Persistence and confidence in your brand will be key to your journey.

Tell us more about your pieces.

My pieces are a direct reflection of who I am. When inspiration hits whether it’s an eye caching outfit I spot or a concept that catches my eye – I quickly capture the essence with a quick sketch or write down a simple description on my phone. These notes become the seeds that later blossom into the creative process for my new designs. What truly drives me is creating clothing that show allure, all while maintaining a sense of tastefulness. This can be seen in my signature touch. A blend of sultriness and elegance. You’ll find many of my designs feature daring backless cuts, harmoniously countered by modest coverage in the front. Having the right balance is essential to me. The magic is in the details, and that’s where I pour my heart. I’m dedicated to crafting each garment with meticulous attention, ensuring they meet the same standards as esteemed high-end brands. It’s all about making my customers feel exceptionally confident and special when they slip into my creations. In essence, my pieces are more than just fabric and threads – they’re a manifestation of empowerment, artistry, and the belief that fashion can elevate how we feel about ourselves.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Good things take time! So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate sales after launching. It’s a common experience for startups. Consistency and credibility are key – people need to trust your brand before investing in it. Stay resilient and keep moving forward.

And what is the worst?

The worst advice I’ve received is to not pursue it because the market is saturated with many brands. And while you’ll encounter a mix of positive and negative comments, remember that you need to filter them out. Ultimately, no one has as much belief in your vision as you do.

What’s the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?

One of the most significant challenges I’ve faced as a startup brand was sourcing factories willing to work with low Minimum Order Quantities (MOQs). Initially, I worked with a factory in Portugal, but the events of COVID-19 disrupted operations, and due to my lower MOQ, my work took a backseat. Subsequently, I shifted to a factory in Beirut, only for the political turmoil there to force its closure. My journey eventually led me to a factory in Delhi, where I produced my first collection, but with communication barrier and delays eventually, I discovered a remarkable factory in Dubai that aligned perfectly with my needs and I can proudly say that my brand is produced in the UAE. In the world of any business, particularly for startups, challenges are there on the regular. It’s a realm of continuous learning from missteps. These obstacles and the occasional mistakes serve as invaluable lessons, instilling resilience and pushing me to persevere. The key is to view challenges as opportunities for growth and embrace them as part of the unique learning curve that shapes the path forward.

What’s your future for the brand?

The future of my brand holds a world of exciting possibilities. I’m filled with anticipation and confidence that my unique vision will find its way into the hearts of people around the globe. I’m setting my sights on a global stage, envisioning the day when celebrities proudly wear my designs, and my label participating on runways of fashion weeks. My dream is to see my brand proudly recognized as an international sensation, originating from and crafted in the Middle East. While I’m driven by these aspirations, I’m equally committed to savoring every step of this incredible journey. Each triumph, no matter how small, is a testament to the dedication and hard work poured into the brand. Every achievement is a milestone that pushes me closer to realising my dreams. So, as I navigate the path ahead, I hold onto both the excitement of the future and the gratitude for the present, knowing that every moment contributes to the remarkable story that is my brand’s journey.