Walking in our forefathers’ footsteps
New local brand Tamashee is hoping to be recognised for more than just its fashion
March 13, 2014 12:15 by Maha El Gazzar
What makes up our identity? While we’re all in awe of nationals’ pearly white and shiny black abayas, the factor of footwear has often been overlooked when, in truth, they reflect decades of tradition. Arab sandals are practical – they are weather-friendly since it is mostly hot and humid here, and are easier to slip off as the Arabic culture frowns upon walking on carpets wearing shoes.
In recent years, Gulf nationals have started to shy away from Arab sandals and instead donning new Italian styles, according to one of the founders of sandals brand Tamashee, Mohamed Kazim. “When it comes to footwear, Arabs have abandoned their heritage for Italian brands, and we want to change that.”
The concept behind the brand is summarised in its name. “Tamashee” is derived from two Arabic words, “walk” and “be compatible with”, which is exactly what the founders have in mind; a comfortable wear that also goes with current fashion trends.
The idea came about when the founders met at university, and while their career took priority after, they decided to hone their footwear concept and started work on a business plan to launch Tamashee back in 2010. The team now includes Kazim, who has a background of biomedical and clinical engineering; Amine Mamlouk with a background in investment banking; two other partners with a background in finance and a shoe designer.
The first couple of months were dedicated to creating a brand’s vision before delving into the design phase. They also researched the market and decided to target high-end consumers. The partners then noticed how traditional Arabic footwear was becoming extinct in this region and wanted to invest in keeping the culture alive.
Arabic footwear, although very beautiful in designs, is not always as comfortable as its western counterparts. In order to change that, they needed to couple comfort and Arabic designs with compatibility; in other words, the sandals needed to look modern. “Since people in the GCC like to boast about where they’re from in the way they dress; we designed the sandals in a way that can be worn with any outfit; jeans, abaya or shorts. A lot of thought went into choosing the colors for the collection, so that a modern twist can take the lead,” says Kazim.
His passion manifested in every word during our conversation, and he described how the brand aims to contribute to more than fashion and preserving heritage. It all started when one of the founders attended a funeral, where some of the attendees made fun of a man suffering from Down Syndrome. “Our part of the world is less developed socially in dealing with people with disabilities and special needs. Therefore, we partnered with the UAE Down Syndrome Association and a portion of the proceeds of every sale goes to them to fund integration and awareness for individuals with down syndrome.” These are the principals the brand stands for, he explained.
The theme for the debut collection had global expansion in mind, as the team wanted the sandals to be something every person wanted to have, not just Arabs. Their inspiration was a byproduct of art, because it is a concept understood by many, said Kazim.
“We got a plain white canvas and splashed different colored paintbrushes on it because art shows how different components mix together. It also summarises the story of Dubai; different people working together to produce a beautiful city,” he said.
Therefore, they were inspired to introduce mixed material to the designs, like that of suede and leather. Some of the sandals we previewed had camel-coloured leather, with turquoise rings on the side, while others had a mix of lamb suede and leather. The final feedback for every creation is a team effort, but Kazim’s Emirati background helps connect the products to his Arab heritage.
The founders’ initial intention was to work with a local manufacturer, but failed to find a suitable one for the job. They reached out to manufacturers in different countries, such as Portugal and Italy, and finally hit the jackpot in Spain, where the producer was able to perfect the sandals in the precise ways they wanted it, while also adhering to the best production techniques.
Tamashee debuted on January 15 at the Level Shoe District in The Dubai Mall, but their creations are also sold at the high-end boutique in the Al Quoz area of Dubai, at The Cartel. Expansion in the GCC is in the works for Tamashee, as well as introducing a line for formal wear, before looking, perhaps, to international markets, but Kazim is quick to add that the brand isn’t just about fuelling a new trend.
“We don’t want Tamashee to be only known for its fashion or its concept,” adds Kazim. “As much as we are very passionate about preserving the Arabic culture, we feel that we owe it to society to give back in more ways than one.” They’ll take it one step at a time