Candice Huffine was on set in LA wearing a burnished gold turban shooting for all-size luxury e-tailer 11 Honoré when she first heard the name Dima Ayad. “A member of the crew said, ‘We need to take a photo and send it to Dima directly because she really is a fan of yours,’ and I could tell already that there were good vibes because there was just an excitement and it felt like family.” That was the beginning of a connection that deepened through fashion and shared experiences. So when homegrown fashion designer Dima Ayad discovered that Candice Huffine was coming to town with all-size luxury e-tailer 11 Honoré, the first thing she wanted to do was introduce Grazia to her girl crush and style soulmate.
Dima: The amazing thing about having Candice around is finding that there’s somebody like me that I can speak to. You being here has doubled my self-confidence. I’m so glad you exist.
Candice: I’m so glad you exist. I’m happy the world has brought us together. I think women are predisposed to believing that their self-worth is dictated by someone else’s view of them. You often wait for it to come from a double tap on a photo or from all these other places and truly it can come from your best friend, and it should also come from yourself, too. If women spoke to themselves more kindly, and were more honest with their girlfriends, and let them know they don’t even have to be the same size, but we’re in this together regardless – that’s the difference. I feel everyone keeps things so bottled up.
Growing up we wouldn’t necessarily shop with our friends…
I went shopping for an outfit for a wedding with my best friend two weeks ago, picking outfits for her – never even got distracted or said, “but wait a second, let me just try this on for me,” – fully just creating this whole vision, trying to get her out of her box. She thanked me for helping but it wasn’t ’til days later where I had to point out, “First of all, it’s a pleasure to help but I can’t shop in that store and I don’t want their shoes. What was I going to buy? So yeah, you have my undivided attention.” In a way, it was so sad but it was really fun, to shop without any stress, because it was a more mainstream size, so everything was available instead of you just looking at it from afar like it’s an art gallery where you think, “Beautiful, but I can’t” or, “That won’t be for me” so you don’t even touch it. I could just look at everything, put it together and make her try it on. So maybe that’s why it was so fun because that’s not an experience I’ve ever had in that store in particular, and obviously not in many stores.
It takes guts to become a pioneer, drive change, break convention and get people to buy into it. When was the ‘A-ha!’ moment that you realised you could help others?
Becoming a model was my dream, a selfish dream. That’s fine that’s my dream. I just wanted to be a model, wear pretty clothes, get my hair and make-up done, take a picture, go home. Maybe get a pay cheque. Boom. Let’s do it all over again. And that’s how I spent the majority of my career. You send a photo off into the world, and you wouldn't know what someone thought when they looked at it, because nobody told you in the streets because they don’t know who you are. It was just a very solo goal-obtaining, career-building effort, but on a singular level. It wasn’t until you start to see messages pop up on a regular basis that have the same theme such as, “I wore a bathing suit today because I saw you wearing a bathing suit” or “Your husband and you remind me of me and my husband and it reminds me that we should have more fun.” That’s when I realised this isn’t really just about playing dress up, is it? What you do and what you say makes a difference and so that’s when I started to take it seriously.
A woman came up to me and said “I met my husband wearing your dress because it gave me so much confidence,” and suddenly I felt responsible. My audience gives me as much energy and confidence as I give back. You find that too, right?
I need that audience as much as they need me. And not because I need to see numbers rise or to see that you’ve liked a photo of me. I need to know that when I’m pouring my heart out, when I’m expressing how I feel about something within the industry or my body or the way that I’m choosing to live life, I need to know that I’m not alone in that thought. And I want to know that my sisterhood is around me. Is this normal? Is this crazy? You get what I’m saying, right? It’s a way to just expand. You’ve literally expanded your girl gang to people that you might not even meet but there’s a reason that you’re together, a reason why you’re corresponding, and a reason why they follow you.
When you ran a marathon and didn’t find workout wear that supported you, you created a brand. Tell us more about that?
I got dared to run – and I’m not an athlete and have never been an athlete – but there was something about it I needed at that time in my life. I set this goal, which was crazy and big and seemingly impossible and as soon as I immersed myself into this active lifestyle, I discovered it’s one thing to wear a workout outfit that doesn’t really fit you that well, but you don’t really notice that it’s not right for you, because you’re not consistently wearing it. Once I started to run long distances every single day, I couldn’t necessarily turn back and go home because the pants were stopping me from what I needed to do and that was something I was really up against. So right before I ran the Boston marathon in April 2017, I had a conversation with a local manufacturer and just asked them to make me my dream sweatpant, something I could never find. I ran the marathon in it, and then October of the same year, Day/Won was born.
How did the process change the way you look at fashion?
It’s been very interesting to go onto the other side because when you start making it yourself you realise, “But it’s possible so why did we let people tell us it isn’t possible?” You do the fits on the girls who are curvier. I’m not groundbreaking in what I’m doing here. It makes you very proud of yourself and even more frustrated with what we’ve accepted all this time.
I always consider clothing as temporary armour. I put on something that I feel good in and I look at the day with a positive perspective which is why I’m so passionate about 11 Honoré, and so are you because we now have an array of options. How do you define your relationship with clothes?
They’re really powerful. I don’t want anyone to underestimate the simplicity of the idea that dress can change your life, but yeah it can. It really can. And until you’re able to wear what you really want, in order to be the person that can do something extraordinary, maybe because of this dress, you’ll never know because you’ve never been able to do it. There is a difference when you stop having to settle for things that are mediocre because it’s all you have access to, and you’ve never really been able to express your true self because you’ve never been seen in that way by brands, by a company. You just don’t know what can happen until the right moment comes when you put on that dress.
What message do you have for women in the Middle East?
I would like to encourage women to have an internal wake-up call with themselves about what they’re truly spending their time on and if they’re really having fun doing it. If the first answer is “I’m spending all my time trying to change my body,” I’m pretty sure, the second answer is going to be a “No.” You’re not actually living your life to your full potential, you’re not truly being your best self if all you feel like you’re on this planet to do is just change, change, change and get smaller and smaller. And then what? You get to this weight that you’ve always been looking for, and then you can really have everything you want? Then I can fall in love, then I can be successful, then I can be hot? You’re gonna find that you’ve wasted a lot of your time, you might never get there and then are you going have regrets, and one day you’ll realise, “I didn’t live because I didn’t let my body do it with me. We didn’t get there together because I didn’t actually support it. And that would be sad, very sad. There isn’t like a trick but I just think that you need to have a regular internal conversation and say, “This is how I’m going to define my life.”
Photos: 11 Honoré and Instagram @dimaayad