WINNERS: Esquire Awards 2018
The calibre of winners from the eighth edition of the Esquire Awards are one of the strongest yet. Taking place in Dubai on December 5, 2018, the annual event celebrates the outstanding achievements of men and women across the Middle East over the past year. Here are this year's crop:
Regional Fashion Designer: Hatem Alakeel
Growing up between Europe, the US and Saudi Arabia, Hatem Alakeel has a distinct understanding of multiculturalism. The long-time, go-to designer for stylish Middle Eastern men, his brand Toby by Hatem Alakeel is the embodiment of traditional regional menswear meeting modern aesthetics.
Specialising in men’s traditional robes and shirts, his designs embrace the true essence of traditional dress with subtle design updates to the classic beloved thobe, placing it on the global fashion radar. With his reputation continuing to grow, he was even asked to design pieces for Prince William as he attended an event in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.
Music Award: Layla Kardan
Getting up on stage and singing, sounds easy. But what most people don’t see is the graft and near-constant work that goes into it, let alone the social stigma that still surrounds musicians in the region. This year no one has embodied that more than Layla Kardan. Despite repeated calls from her family to give up on her dream and pursue ‘a real job’, she has been an example of someone who continues to strive to turn her passion into a profession.
Having spent the last few years making a name for herself entertaining thousands at gigs around the region, 2018 was a seismic year for the jazz and soul singer who recently just released her debut album ‘Saved’, available on Apple Music now.
Business person of the year: Thomas Lundgren
For Thomas Lundgren it all started in 1993 when, in a dream, he was visited by a vision telling him that his mission in life was to save the world from IKEA.
Three years later, his home stores brand – THE One – was launched in Abu Dhabi. Fast forward 22 years and our winner now owns more than 20 stores in the region, having expanded the brand into THE One Basics, THE One Junior and FUSION by THE One.
But that’s was just the beginning. He has used the success of his stores and considerable wealth to devote a huge amount of time into CSR activities and huge education projects in Kenya and India, to help people break out of the poverty cycle. When he isn’t busy saving the world, he can be found watching heavy metal bands perform across the globe, and polishing his newly earnt Esquire Awards trophy.
Contribution to the Arts: Ali F. Mostafa
It says a lot about the young UAE filmmaking industry that, still in his thirties, Ali F. Mostafa is a revered senior figure. Following the box-office success of his debut feature film City of Life, the director was catapulted into the spotlight as the fresh face of a new vanguard of filmmakers from the Gulf region. Since then he has gone on to create other important regional films such as A To B, and The Worthy.
However, it is not merely for his versatile filmmaking that he was honoured at the Esquire Awards, it is for the trailblazing work that he has done in the process of bringing the Gulf’s filmmaking industry to life. While he continues to direct, he now works closely as a producer to support a new generation of filmmakers who are able to make positive contributions to society in the path that he helped forge.
Inspiration Award: Dr. Riyad Tazari
Celebrating heroes away from the spotlight is also central to the Esquire brand. This year’s recipient of the Inspiration Award holds a particular gravitas with the life-saving work that he is doing in Kuwait’s Al Adan Hospital, as well as across the region. As Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Dr Riyad Tarazi's daily work literally changes the lives of people in need. On average he performs 150 open heart surgeries per year and earlier this year became the first surgeon in the Arab World to successfully implant a total artificial heart in a patient. As an expert in high-risk adult cardiac surgery he also dedicates some of his time to humanitarian missions in under-developed and war-torn countries in the region offering his skills on a pro-bono basis.
Entrepreneur Award: Buhpender Nath
The son of a restauranteur, the path to success for Buhpender Nath was clear, but by no means easy. Proud of his Indian heritage, his dream was to help elevate the flavour-packed cuisine to a new gastronomic level. In Dubai, his Award-winning restaurant Tresind shows a hugely cosmopolitan crowd his vision of what Modern Indian cuisine can, and should, be.
Chef of the year: Sean Connolly
The UAE is no stranger to big name chefs jetting into town to oversee the opening of a new restaurant with their name on before neglecting it to run an inevitable course. However, Sean Connolly dispels that very trait, with his constant cultivation of his first UAE restaurant.
Located at the magnificent Dubai Opera, a visit to his restaurant has become as much an event as taking in a show. His trademark down-to-earth cooking style and infectious enthusiasm for food has earned him an array of awards around the world, and it is not hard to see why Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera has become one of the most sought-after tables in the city.
Influencer of the Year: Alex Hirschi 'SupercarBlondie'
We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to drive supercars for a living – it’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Well, that someone is Alex Hirschi.
Formerly the host of her own talk radio show here in Dubai, she began by discussing all things automotive with celebrities such as John Travolta, Jake Gyllenhaal, JC Van-Damme and Liam Neeson. She now focuses full-time on creating car related videos on social media (@SupercarBlondie) where she now boasts more than 7 million followers. Her entertaining, light-hearted approach to traditional car journalism has seen her open up the notoriously stuffy industry to a new, all-inclusive audience.
International Fashion Designer: John Varvatos
With previous stints designing menswear at both Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren in the ’90s, it was only a matter of time before John Varvatos broke away to start up his own eponymous label in 2000. His trademark of uniting old-world craftsmanship and refined tailoring, with modern innovations in textiles and a rock ‘n’ roll sensibility has set his brand apart in the menswear industry.
Having conquered the tricky North American and European markets, this year the John Varvatos brand arrives in the Middle East in a big way, not least by unveiling its new flagship store in the Dubai Mall and finally offering the brilliant designer’s full range of collections to the Gulf.
Person of the Year: His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
2018 has been a special year in the Gulf, and while previous editions of this award have been won by A-list actors, musicians, entrepreneurs and filmmakers – we felt this year deserved something special that would go beyond that.
After months and months of deliberation within the Esquire team, there was only one name that stood above all the rest. One person whose impact has not only affected every single person at tonight’s event, but everyone in the entire country on a daily basis. A man who without his vision and leadership most of us would not be here today.
Just as earlier this year Esquire Middle East celebrated publishing 100 issues in the region, at the Esquire Awards we honoured the founding father of the nation, on the anniversary of one hundred years since his birth.
His legacy as a visionary leader, as a mentor to a nation and perhaps, most importantly, as a human being continues to shape the daily lives of those of us who call the United Arab Emirates home, who enjoy life in a tolerant, stable, modern and forward-thinking country that he spent his life moulding into what it is today.