Tags: creative director
‘You have got to check out Wamli, these guys sell the coolest stuff,’ said my friend who was obsessing over what to get for his new apartment. He had his eyes on a bathroom guestbook. I really didn’t get why, until I visited Tarek’s house, on the occasion of a get together party where lots of delicious Lebanese food was served. Yes the apartment was heaven, but when I told him I wanted him on imatiothiki, he suggested I dropped by his office, which is basically a villa in Jumeirah. They call it the Happy House. Don’t really know why, but it sure makes you happy. If I were him, I would probably and literally live in my office. But anyways, here’s what the Happy House, other wise known as the Wamli headquarters look like on a Thursday afternoon – which is like your typical Friday, but since we’re in the Middle East things are different. And here is the lovely Tarek Idriss, Wamli’s co-founder and walking inspiration.
Ok, first things first: what is Wamli? And how did you come up with the name?
It is essentially an online shop with particular focus on funky design, pop art and stylish travel accessories. We carefully select the most original and refreshing brands we feel can help Wamli become a platform of discovering the coolest items from around the world.The name Wamli came after 3 long days of applying a range of so-called “brainstorming” practices. Starting with a slightly embarrassing overdose on Red bull, to screaming out names at random, to impromptu daydreaming while in the middle of conversations, to finally typing each name out on google to see if it was already taken, we tried them all. Eventually, at one point in the middle of the night (around 4am to be exact), someone blurted out this word that no one ever heard of before …Wamli. After two minutes of silence and confusion, the name kicked in our system, we double checked to make sure the URL was available, and eventually we started rationalizing and envisioning how this name would fit perfectly with the brand we were trying to build. The rest is history.
You used to do something completely different and then one day you decided to join the world of creativity. Want to tell me a little bit about that?
I used to work in a very corporate environment that didn’t suit me at all. It was very bad and exhausting experience. When I realized that I did not belong here and was convinced that there should be something better out there waiting for me, I took a big leap of faith. I packed my bags and resigned. A month later, I made contact with Wamli. Luckily the creative environment of The Happy House was exactly what I was searching for.
What’s the significance of creation to you and how do you see that it’s a big part of your every day life?
When I first understood the importance of creating in my daily life, I took a paper and wrote in big “YOU MUST CREATE” with a big finger pointing at me like the ones from the Uncle Sam posters for WWI. I had it on my office desk to keep reminding myself of that important feeling that keeps getting overshadowed by my other not so interesting daily activities. Although I go through a lot of creative dry spells, there are those rare moments that come unexpectedly and make up for the all the bad days you previously went through. Creation becomes like my second pulse. If I ignore it, I fear I might become a Zombie. I must do it now. Later is too late.
What does a typical day at the Happy House look like?
I can give you the typical answer of reading and replying to emails, attending meetings and finally organizing and working on whatever project is currently at hand, but that would be too boring. The best part of working at The Happy House is everything that happens in between. As we try to keep the creative flow in the office apparent at all times, it is common to find team members browsing random sites and sharing their findings. Whether it is cool products for Wamli, creative advertisements, or discovering websites with some awesome design feature, everybody always has one eye on the lookout for inspirations that could help other members with their work. Every now and then, one of those ideas tends to spark a huge impromptu meeting, which leads every single person on the team to shift their efforts towards implementing this new idea at that very same moment. That’s the nice side of the Wamli guys. There is also our crazy side which mostly consists of doing pranks to our CEO, randomly bursting into song when there is too much silence in the office, or instantly resolving a debate with an intense and sweaty foosball table session.
So, you basically bring designer objects from around the globe. Anything extra special?
Our favorite discovery is of Japanese brand Roberu during our visit to Tokyo. It was a pure “whole in the wall” kind of discovery, having taken the train to Yokohoma, and having the owner Shinji, guide us through his workshop and around the city he grew up in. It was really a one-of-a-kind experience, being able to see such humble people, who are true masters of their craft, do what they do. These are the type of brands and people we wish to always surround ourselves with. For those who don’t know, Roberu handcrafts each and all of their products with the finest leather in the market.
How about your PEZ artwork?
The PEZ series also titled as ’40 Shades of PEZ’ is the first creation under our very own brand, called ‘Happy’. The purpose of Happy is to create artworks that bring back a part of our childhood memories and combine it with a special touch of design.
PEZ has been a big part of many people’s childhood memories, and luckily the prototype piece (which consists of a frame with 40 different PEZ dispensers) has become very popular with all The Happy House visitors. We currently made 3 unique pieces, with the first two already sold. The third one is yet to be released.
Wamli in ten years would probably be…?
Just hold on one sec, let me just take out my crystal ball and rub it for a few seconds and I will have the answer. *takes out big shiny crystal ball from under the table, but suddenly drops it on the floor and breaks while being distracted by a colleagues Elevation burger* Nom nom nom *burps* Oops… I guess now we will have something to look forward to!
How do you scout designers to collaborate with? And how hard is it to actually run a business that brings creativity and logic together? Because from one hand you have all the ideas and from the other you have to translate all this into merchandise.
I personally scout for artists and designers through browsing instagram and online art sites. But we get quite a few collaboration requests by email or through a common friend. The difficulty of running a business that involves a lot of creativity depends on the core values of your brand and the vision of its leaders. Luckily at Wamli, the whole environment revolves around creativity and being unconventional with our approach. As a result, we are able to realize 1 out of each 500 ideas we come up with… which is amazing!
Dubai would be the best place for Wamli to kickstart because…?
…because it offers premium services and support comparable to the United States while keeping costs at an affordable level due to the industry still being at a pioneering stage.
What’s the best thing about your job? And what advice would you give someone who want to get involved in the creative business?
The best part of my job is by far the creative freedom I am trust with on my projects. I don’t think I am the right person to give advice to others about getting involved in the creative business. To be honest, I feel very lucky for how things turned out so far. I took a giant leap into the unknown, and it worked out. It could have easily gone the other way. All I can say is that you should learn to listen closely to your gut feeling. It sometimes makes more sense than any other logical/rational explanation you come across.
Discover Wamli’s amazing world here.
A few comments on the things pictured above:
Tarek said no one has ever swam on Happy House’s pool. I volunteer to be the first. Thankyouverymuch. / The giant mustache Tarek’s sitting on is actually from a Movember event Wamli took part in this past year. Now it’s chilling by the pool. / All Wamli staff are boys. That’s why when girls take over Happy House’s headquarters to have some meetings or events, they put comments on the walls about how girls rule and boys don’t. / The jars are actually filled with candy from around the globe. The boys have a sweet tooth all right. / Tarek speaks English, Arabic, French and Greek. That’s globalisation for you. / The PEZ candy art is one of the latest gems at Wamli. You can see superheroes next to Star Wars figures, next to hobbits. My question was if they could still work the candy. They still can. Hold your horses.