We were privileged to meet with Her Excellency Sheikha Hend Al Qassimi, a remarkably successful artist, writer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother. For someone of her status and accomplishment, Sheikha Hend is quite a modest woman who has devoted her life to her passions and to helping other people follow their dreams and succeed.
During our lunch with Sheikha Hend, we delved deeper into her life, vision and passions, taking away numerous valuable lessons and falling in love with her personality even more. This was our conversation with her:
- What does a day in your life look like?
Busy. Let’s take today as an example. I have a couple of friends who have been trying to meet with me, so I asked my secretary to send over my schedule. Not intending to sound rude, I sent it over to my friend, asking her to choose any time between my meetings. She responded, “just looking at your schedule is making me feel tired”. But you know what, I don’t feel tired because I simply love what I do. When you’re doing something you love, it’s not work.
Take this interview for instance. To me being here is not considered work, because in meetings like these you get to meet people and see the passion in their eyes and the fire in their belly, as they speak about what they love. And when you wake up everyday and do something you love, you’re not working, you’re living.
- You have footprints in multiple industries, and are running successful enterprises – to what do you owe your success?
Myself. I have dreams and high hopes. My dreams are the size of mountains, and I want nothing less.
- We heard you work a lot with younger women- can you tell us more about what you do to support them?
I listen. I don’t just hear what they have to say and walk away. I listen to their fears and hopes and help them verbalize their goals. I help them put their dreams down on pen and paper. I help them begin to achieve their goals.
If you just talk about your goals and dreams, nothing will happen. There’s a savvy quote that says, “walk the talk”. If you want to be the person you talk about all the time, then begin! Stop talking about it and start doing it.
- Who is your biggest inspiration?
My grandmother. She was a beautiful and very brave woman, who was also illiterate. Widowed at 19 with two daughters, she refused to remarry, and invested all her time into loving her two daughters and nurturing them into the best women they can be. As a result, my mother was from the first batch of Emirati women to graduate from college in Kuwait. She became a teacher and went on to becoming the first female school principal in the UAE. My aunt, older than my mother, was the first teacher in the UAE to hold a college degree.
My grandmother taught herself how to read and write, with the help of some teachers. She was learning new skills at the age of 50, and that really inspired me.
- What is your vision for the fashion industry?
In the Arab world, we love fashion, but we lack a fashion industry. It’s unfortunate that the only Arab designers who’ve really succeeded are the ones who’ve left the Arab region. My vision is for the Arab Fashion Industry to break walls, to be seen and recognized internationally. Designers don’t have to be ‘haute couture’, they just have to get their designs abroad. They have to meet and hear from their international customers.
We’re currently working on the next Dubai Fashion week, which will take place in March 2018. We also recently had the Royal Gala, which was fantastic. Hopefully, this will help the fashion industry take off.
- Can you tell us more about your latest fashion line for House of Hend?
Fantastic. But that’s not for me to judge. My next line is purely about beauty and simplicity. If a piece is luxurious, it’s plain luxurious. If it’s simple, it’s practical. Because the future is ‘practical’, but still beautiful. My evening gowns, however, will stay super luxurious, which is what Arabs like.
I believe in having a purpose behind fashion. To do this you need to have a good research background in fashion, in order to answer questions like: ‘why did I choose to make this top half-sleeves instead of sleeveless?’ – Because it sells more internationally. ‘Why did I choose a coarser material?’ – Because it will live longer. I think this is a more mature way of looking at and producing fashion.
- Are you working on any upcoming projects or initiatives?
Always. The Dubai Fashion Week is set to happen in March 2018, which will take place over the course of a few days and will include the fashion show and presentation. We’re also hosting another Royal Gala in November, but it’s a smaller one-day event of pure luxury.
I’m working on the second sequel of my book, “The Black Book of Arabia”, which is currently being made into a Arabic TV series by a very reputable Kuwaiti writer. So I’m breaking barriers into the world of TV.
I also work a lot with charities, and constantly visit orphanages and people who are underprivileged and handicapped. You will be surprised to hear there are orphanages in Al Ain with exceptional children, who play music and have earned black belts in Karate; and children who have blossomed into doctors, lawyers and engineers. This is attributed to the exceptional orphanage programs in Al Ain, in which orphans are placed in what they call “homes”. Each home has 3-5 children and one home mother. In these homes, you’ll find the mother and children function beautifully as a family.
- Do you have any advice for women who want to achieve their goals?
Just do it. To accomplish what you want, you need to plan it. Start off by thinking about what you want to achieve, brainstorming ways of achieving it, writing down ideas, and discovering where you can begin. If you’re passionate about something, be realistic. If you want to be a chef, you have to ask yourself: are you a good chef? If you’re not, can you become better at it?
You also have to take things with an open heart. When you’re accomplishing your goals, you’ll be the subject of criticism, but you have to take it well and be able to differentiate between the constructive and destructive criticism. When I wrote my book, I received a lot of criticism, but some of it was because the critics didn’t like me as a person. That’s destructive criticism.
- We know you’re a published author, how does writing help you connect with people?
I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was a child, especially the creative writing classes in school. My teachers always believed I would be a writer. When I launched my magazine, Velvet magazine, I had to write some of the articles myself. I enjoyed the research, going out and seeking people, asking the right questions, getting to know people, and writing about them. Writing these articles helped me connect with the people I was interviewing.
Writing to me is therapeutic. Some people go to the gym, paint, punch their cushion, and others write for therapy. I write for therapy.
Sheikha Hend serves as CEO of Paris, London, New York Events & Publishing, a multi-industry conglomerated. The PLNY portfolio includes a magazine, fashion house, beauty salon and flower boutique. Sheikha Hend is the designer behind HOUSE OF HEND, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisitely designed abayas, evening gowns, contemporary wear which combines functionality with style. She is also the Chairperson and member of the board of trustees to her CV for Dubai’s College of Fashion and Design.
Sheikha Hend is the Editor-in-Chief of VELVET Magazine, a leading luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010. She is also the author of “The Black Book of Arabia” a collection of true stories from around the Arab community. In 2007, Sheikha Hend opened HEART IN A BOX, a flower and delights boutique and in 2016, PLNY opened the BEAUTY BAR salon with a focus on home services.
Sisi & Rara