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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Has Dubai-brand Tamashee created an international first?

Earlier in the year, the company created camel leather sunglasses

Leather sunglasses with signature streaks of turquoise. Courtesy Tamashee
Leather sunglasses with signature streaks of turquoise. Courtesy Tamashee

It’s likely that Dubai brand Tamashee hit on an international first this year when it produced a pair of sunglasses using an unusual, yet highly appropriate, material for the frames. “We’ve made one prototype and it’s beautiful,” says one of the company’s founding partners, Mohammed Kazim. “I think they are the only camel leather sunglasses in the world.”

While those sunglasses are the sole camel-skin pair for now, the company’s founders – Kazim, an Emirati, Muneera Al Tamimi, from Saudi Arabia, and one other, silent partner – are planning to produce an entire collection. “We are going to be introducing it,” says Kazim. “We are always looking for ways to make unique things and things that are relevant to the region.”

Mohammed Kazim, the co-founder of Tamashee. Razan Alzayani / The National
Mohammed Kazim, the co-founder of Tamashee. Razan Alzayani / The National

Much has changed and much has stayed the same at the Gulf brand in the two years since it launched. Although it has branched out significantly, at its core is a contemporary version of the traditional “zbairiya” sandal, along with three fundamental values: preserving a part of Gulf identity; representing Gulf culture to the world in a high-end manner; and adding colour to people’s lives.

Tamashee does that literally, incorporating streaks of its signature turquoise into each sandal, as well as figuratively, by mentoring emerging artists – about 30 to date – and working with local charities.

Currently, Tamashee sells regular leather sunglasses produced at its factory in Valencia, Spain. There is also a new line of accessories crafted from camel leather, featuring toiletry bags and laptop sleeves, which are made from hides produced at Abu Dhabi’s Al Khaznah Tannery and manufactured in Al Quoz.

The word Tamashee was created out of two Arabic words: mashee (to walk) and yatamasha (compatible). It conveys the company’s dedication to researching the history, form and function of everything it produces, and incorporating those traditional elements into modern design. For example, Tamashee is trying to popularise the zbairiya, which is not the Arabic sandal commonly worn by Gulf men today. In fact, the zbairiya, which had a toe separator and a barely-­there sole – unlike the chunkier iteration favoured today – was very much a part of Gulf dress decades ago. Although it was worn for longer in Saudi Arabia, in the UAE, it has been all but abandoned for the sturdier version.

Despite initially focusing on the zbairiya, Tamashee’s founders wanted to make their own version of the more popular modern Arabic sandal, but not without a true connection to the region. So they decided to replace the buckle with “a metal ring that was used in the past to hold waist daggers in place”, Kazim explains.

That sandal is now being produced alongside the other camel leather products in Al Quoz, using hides from animals that were raised for their meat. That is also the case with the lambskin, ostrich and cowhides used in the Valencia factory, which also produces shoes for Jimmy Choo and Stuart Weitzman.

Working with camel leather has been a revelation, says Kazim. “It’s really durable compared to cows and other leather we worked with,” he explains. “It’s a beautiful grain.”

As part of the brand’s attention to detail and respect for Gulf culture, the Islamic year is imprinted onto the right foot of every pair of shoes and onto the right side of every other Tamashee product. Another Tamashee element is the debossing of different contemporary patterns, inspired by traditional Gulf embroidery, onto leather. And why turquoise? It was “a very prevalent colour for men and women in the region and it died out”, Kazim explains.

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“You know, you see black-and-white pictures, but we were actually a very colourful people. And the more you go into old documents, the more you sit with older people, the more they’ll tell you that we were really bubbly, really colourful people,” he says.

“And it’s a time that is dying away; we’re becoming very black and white, very commercially driven, superficial. So we’re trying to bring back that soul that existed in the past.”

Tamashee’s research revealed that the colour’s prevalence either stemmed from Ottoman influences, or represented the sea and the sky. The hue was most likely created by combining indigo dye with another, unknown element, says Kazim.

It was a pleasant surprise when a photographer recently snapped the Bollywood superstar Abhishek Bachchan wearing a pair of Tamashee sandals that he had purchased on his own at Dubai Mall. Brands usually “pay people to wear things to the airport,” says Kazim with a laugh. “But in this case he paid us.”

Prices are high for Tamashee’s carefully crafted products – between Dh800 and Dh3,000 – although there are plans for a more affordable line that the company hopes will help it go global. “Honestly, for us, the most important thing is showing the world how beautiful our culture is and [adding] another voice to the region other than terrorism and all the negative hype we’ve been getting the last few years,” explains Kazim. “We’re trying to show how beautiful the region is, how much amazing colour there is here.”

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Read more:

Meet the two Emirati entrepreneurs who turned their hobbies into fashion-related businesses

My UAE: Mohammed Kazim’s socially conscious businesses

Sauce has launched the region’s first online made-to-measure eveningwear collection

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