Q&A With Hazem Aljesr, Founder of Cities Design Art & Lifestyle Store

Hazem_Eljesr Dr._Nasrine

When Hazem Aljesr opened Cities Design Art & Lifestyle store, he wasn’t interested in merely adding a new boutique for home accessories and décor items to the market. Rather Aljest wanted to create a new philosophy on design and décor that appealed to customers and designers both.

As the owner and Founding Managing Director of Cities Design & Lifestyle Store with locations in Dubai, UAE and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Hazem Aljesr has an unusual and dynamic background that helped form him into the man that launched Cities.

Born in Lebanon and raised in Saudi Arabia, Hazem graduated with a Bachelor’s degrees in Graphic Communication and Advertising in America. London was the next stop on his educational journey, where he earned a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Huron University.

Cities Art Dubai
Stunning exhibits such as this are frequent at Cities Design Art Lifestyle in Dubai.

Photo Credit: Facebook CITIES photos

Hazem’s professional career started in the UK at Tom Dixon Design Studios, where he gained extensive knowledge in the world of high-end design. Upon his return to Saudi Arabia in 2006, Hazem opened Zoom Creative, an award-winning branding, web and design firm.

Although the success of Zoom Creative was rewarding, Aljesr felt compelled to pursue his passion for design. In 2008 he founded Cities Design, Art & Lifestyle store in Riyadh, which celebrated a successful start in Centria Mall. Quickly expanding, Cities soon gained a prominent space in the Harvey Nichols department store.  Today, Cities can be found in its own free-standing location, which openedon Tahlia Street in central Riyadh in September of 2015. A second Citieslocation was opened in 2014 in Dubai at the Galleria Mall in Jumeirah 1.

CITIES Dubai Hazen Eljesr
All that is art, culture and design can be found at CITIES.

Photo Credit: http://www.citiesdubai.com/

Cities encourages an eclectic and diverse fusion of styles designed to provide customers with inspiration, as well as unique design and décor. The concept behind Cities is to allow customers to travel the world within one space.

In addition to creating a space which filled the needs of everyone from the casual shopper to the discerning collector, Hazem also envisioned Cities as a space to encourage people to learn more about the world of art and design. In keeping with this goal, Cities focuses on sharing the works of up-and- coming and regional designers in an effort to provide them with a platform to share their innovative creations.

Clearly Hazem has his finger on the pulse of the design world as he continues to press forward with future plans for expansion which include the opening of a new Cities’ location in February 2016 in the Dubai Mall, and a possible Cities magazine. Whatever he pursues, it’s certain that Hazem will accomplish it with his unique and innovative trademark.

Hazem Eljesr,

What does your average day look like?
I usually wake up in the morning and start my day at my desk with a cup of hot tea or hot lemon water with honey. I surf the internet, read the news, return phone calls, and plan out my day. If there are pressing issues to take care of, I tackle them first and try to catch up on emails as well. Then, I typically go to the store or the warehouse to take care of things there. I try to plan meetings for the afternoon, and often there are social events at night that are business-related, so I may go out for a dinner meeting or drinks. There really is no average day. Currently, we are planning several exhibits for Cities, we are putting the final touches on our second Dubai location in the Dubai Mall, and we have several future projects that are in the discussion and planning stages. In addition, there is the running of the Dubai store and the Riyadh location as well, so I really never know where the day is going to take me.

What top five items comprise your desktop arsenal? Why?
First, there is my Mac computer which is my lifeline and absolutely necessary for work. I start the day reading the news and surfing the internet before getting down to business. Second, there is my Libratone speaker, it’s internet connected and has its own app, and you can link speakers together wirelessly so you have music all throughout the house. I have a desk lamp from Tom Dixon’s Cog collection which we also carry at Cities, because lighting should be both functional and stylish. I also have a candle from Baobab; a nice scent is a good way to stimulate the brain and keep you feeling energized. Finally, I have an assortment of pens and pencils, a few small sculptural toys and my phone charger; I need a few things to fidget with when I’m thinking, and my phone is always in need of charging. I work best when I feel that my atmosphere is complete, and all of my senses are engaged. So, good music, good lighting, and an appealing scent are necessary components of my desktop.

What is one desktop item you just cannot live without?
I would have to say that having a view is essential. I cannot stand to sit and have nothing to look at, or be forced to stare at a boring wall. I have my desk against the window so I can face the outdoors and take in the view. It’s inspirational, relaxing and it reminds me that there is life outside of work. It also compels me to get things done so I can go outside and enjoy the day.

What are some must have interior design pieces for this year?
Bold and vibrant colors are big. If you’re feeling timid, you can add them in small doses with accessories, but bright and colorful animal sculptures, like those from TexArtes really make a statement, and they look great when combined with a mix of textures and materials to create a stunning and modern interior space. Arabic styles are quite popular, both in a simplified style, as well as the intricate and traditional patterns found in wooden creations from Etqaan. It’s really about showing the quality of the work, but the more modern approach is made to mesh with a number of design styles, so you can accentuate your space and add character. Creations from Orient 499, and the mother-of- pearl accents found in pieces from Nada Debs and Khaled El Mays are quite representative of this style. Of course, you can never go wrong with industrial style creations from Tom Dixon. His Cog collection of home accessories is very popular and quite versatile.

Who is your greatest inspiration?
I would have to say that it’s probably Oscar Niemayer. I find his architectural creations to be quite inspiring, but I also admire him for his work ethic and the influence that he had on the world of architecture and design. He accomplished so many things, but he stayed true to his vision of beauty and function. His use of curves is reflective of nature and our surrounding environment, and he combined that with these hard, unyielding materials to result in something modern and lasting and beautiful.

What is your favorite spot in Dubai?
Cities of course! It has grown out of my passion and love for design, and I’m a fan of every item we carry. The Cities’ style is very reflective of our modern way of living with the diverse influences and fusion of styles and cultures that we have become accustomed to, so to walk into Cities, it feels familiar and comforting, but exciting and inspirational as well. There is no place that I would rather be.