Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Portrait of a Nation: the police major with designs on global success

Emirati Hamdan Al Samt combines his day job at Dubai Police with growing a fashion brand that already counts royalty and footballers among its fans

Hamdan Al Samt is hoping to share his fashion brand, Caliente, all over the world after already finding success in the UAE.     
Hamdan Al Samt is hoping to share his fashion brand, Caliente, all over the world after already finding success in the UAE.     

You might not think the Crown Prince of Dubai and football star Diego Costa would have much in common.

But Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed and the former Chelsea striker are both lovers of a flourishing fashion brand born in the UAE.

A major with Dubai Police, Emirati Hamdan Al Samt also runs a luxury apparel brand, called Caliente, with some famous fans and has been picked as the perfect fit to design Expo 2020 Dubai souvenirs.

Such has been the success of Mr Al Samt's line of colourful, trucker-style caps - he has five stores in the UAE - that he is set his sights on breaking America.

With a launch planned in New York's world famous arena, Madison Square Garden planned for later this year, Caliente (meaning hot in Spanish) is well on its way to going global.

The secret to his success is simple - working hard and staying humble.

“My grandfather and father taught me the value of putting money in the bank that could come in use later, the importance of working hard to achieve higher goals and always staying humble and down to earth,” said the 35-year-old who works in Dubai Police's human resources section.

“I tell young people that all doors will be open if they study hard. I tell them that everything is possible and that there is no bad idea.”

A man with a head for business, he is eager to see people across the world wearing a brand made in Dubai.

“We are used to seeing top Italian and French brands. I would love people overseas to wear something made in Dubai. That would make me feel proud. The US is the number one market for trucker caps so entering that market will be a challenge.”

Mr Al Samt is also involved in the design and production of caps, t-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts for the world fair next year as part of a select group of small business owners chosen by the Expo 2020 Dubai.

We will release these products slowly because we want to keep people guessing about what the Expo designs will look like,” he said.

Diego Costa: The snarling Spaniard was made for the Premier League and scored 52 goals in 86 starts after joining for £32m in 2014. Returned to Atletico for £57m so good business, though he has been sorely missed by Chelsea since for his mix of strength, goals and - like him or loathe him - character. Success rating: 9/10. AP
Diego Costa: The snarling Spaniard was made for the Premier League and scored 52 goals in 86 starts after joining for £32m in 2014. Returned to Atletico for £57m so good business, though he has been sorely missed by Chelsea since for his mix of strength, goals and - like him or loathe him - character. Success rating: 9/10. AP

Mr Al Samt had no prior experience in design when the idea to start a company selling the distinctive rectangular-box style caps came up in discussions with friends back in 2011.

When studying for his PhD in the UK, he studied the market extensively, visited retailers before deciding to launch the business.

“I have always been a collector of caps and since there were no decent caps in the market, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I did not have any background in design or textiles. This was not something that I was taught. I learnt by playing with colours and sketching different designs.

“If you have a passion for something, you need to go for it and make it happen,” said Mr Al Samt, who uses pencil sketches and then crayons to check varying tints.

His clientele is not restricted to men. Women too are fond of the bright colours and logos of everything from comic book heroes, falcons, names of cities and the Dubai logo.

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Aside from his passion for caps, Mr Al Samt was drawn to the mission of serving his country and community from a young age.

He was inspired by four uncles who worked with the police, of whom two were trained in the first batch of Dubai officers.

“Since I was young, I always wanted to be in the police. My uncles were officers so I saw this as the ideal. You feel you are giving something back to the country.

Hamdan Al Samt combines his work with Dubai Police with running his own successful fashion brand, Caliente. Reem Mohammed/The National
Hamdan Al Samt combines his work with Dubai Police with running his own successful fashion brand, Caliente. Reem Mohammed/The National

“Working in the police force has changed me because you must be disciplined. You have to be precise and follow rules.”

A career in the force was cemented when he won a police academic scholarship to study at the American University in Dubai.

He went on to complete his masters and PhD at the University of Wales where his dissertation was on ‘The Emiratisation of the private sector.’

Kinship is important to him and he holds a daily majlis, or community gathering, at his Jumeirah home.

“I like to stay connected with people. Whoever comes to the majlis, you have to leave your work, even your positions (rank), outside the door. We talk about anything, it could be about life, the economy and changing traditions.”

Mr Al Samt is determined to make the most of his opportunities and succeed in life.

“I always want to conquer. Just like I got the highest education level, at work I will work very hard to become a brigadier and I want to be number one worldwide in the trucker-cap business.

“The government supports small businesses and the Rulers want small businesses to grow. This is a good thing for young people and healthy for the country.”

Updated: January 17, 2019 03:51 PM

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