Dubai may not be known as the epicenter of hip-hop culture, but over the years the youth have found a dedicated love and loyalty for it, ushering in designers and creatives who are redefining what it means to have the best of both worlds.
ByHaneenBader is a homegrown streetwear brand by founder Haneen Bader, a 23-year-old Palestinian-Jordanian who calls Dubai home. She majored in Fashion Design and Pattern Making at ESMOD and says she was essentially raised by Fifty Cent and Tupac.
“My style, the baggy clothes, and the chains come from them. I just want to normalize looking comfortable and cool. You’re not supposed to make an effort to look cool.”
Also a passionate sneakerhead, Haneen is engrossed in the culture of the swoosh and emits that influence through her social media. “All my walls are covered with sneakers. When I get a new pair, I’m just so happy all day.”
Growing a brand all by herself while working a full-time job in marketing hasn’t been easy. She splits her time between work and the brand, dedicating her nights to designing, packing, shipping and PR.
Despite the hardship, she retains the love she found for design and fashion on her trips to Seoul, Korea, which inspired her brand. She launched in 2021 when she overcame her anxieties about launching through energy healing.
“Strangely enough, I met an energy healer at a Nike Air Max event. They were doing a meditation session. There were about 30 women in the room, and everyone was meditating except me, I just couldn’t sit still,” recalls Haneen who went up to the energy healer and explained her frustration.
“I wasn’t feeling well that week, my right knee and right side of my jaw were locked. She asked me what’s hurting me physically. If everything is okay with the men in my life – my dad, brother, friends, or the male energy, such as work and financial stuff. And I said no, I’ve been having issues. That’s when she taught me that the right side is the masculine side, and I was going through so much with the masculine energy that I was fighting myself.”
Haneen went to a few sessions and received treatment to heal that energy and the right side of her body unlocked, something doctors hadn’t been able to help her with previously. “It helped me grow as a person too. Now I can sit and meditate, I can do a lot of things. It taught me a lot and I embraced failure too.”
Haneen believes in the importance of this message and says this realization is worth wearing on our backs, literally. Her first collection shows the letters M and F, signifying the dual energies that are often unreconciled.
“There is also Arabic text on the back saying أعتني بي which translates to ‘take care of me,’” explains Haneen. “This is a message for every person that suffers from anxiety and depression, in order for us to defeat it – we must honor first both our masculinity and femininity equally. I wanted to also remind myself to keep taking care of me.”
During the production process, Haneen made several trips to various countries until she finally found the right factory and team in Seoul. All the patterns on her first launch were designed by her, using the Palestinian Shemagh to represent an ongoing journey.
All her savings, including the money she uses to buy her beloved sneakers, went into funding the brand. The first launch of ByHaneenBader sold out in 24 hours, yet she couldn’t celebrate her success because she was focused on what was next and doing it even better. “It’s not healthy when you can’t appreciate what you’ve done, I’m trying to do better on that front.”
For many creatives, inspiration has been hard to find within the confines of the pandemic. Before, she was finding inspiration from traveling, listening to old school hip-hop & RnB, and meeting new creatives in the industry.
“Since COVID it’s just been therapy. Every session I’m inspired to create something new because I self-reflect. When I’m uninspired and not motivated I just hit her up like can we just talk?”
Haneen’s wish is that everyone would try out therapy or energy healing and see the positive effects of it for themselves. “We all have baggage, generational baggage, and women don’t know that until we sit and talk to someone. I go for fun, I love it.”
Her own style of baggy clothes has garnered her comparisons to Billie Eilish, and she’s all for it but says her only mission is to simply be comfortable. “I’m not comfortable with people staring at me. I think it’s both me and culture…I like to avoid the gaze. It really bothers me, so I choose to wear loose-fitting clothes. People kept asking me why I don’t wear more feminine – tight, floral patterns, and for me, that was just not an option.”
While building a brand is difficult, building a successful one comes with even more trials. Haneen tries not to think about the future too much, determined to do the work in the present and take her brand to the next level. “I’m going to make it happen, but baby steps, well no… jumps. I don’t do baby steps.”
Follow Haneen on Instagram: @haneenmbd