Last night we met up with the Singaporean designer Nuzli Hakiim (31) at one of the finest cigar friendly places in Singapore, Grand Cafe Cheval. On the outdoor patio, in the rolling hills of Kranji, overlooking horse stables and enjoying some peace that’s hard to find in the roaring city and it’s twenty-four hours craziness we asked him some questions about his past and his future plans for his accessory lines.
For those that don’t know Hakiim, his artwork is well known on Instagram, he designed cigar labels, websites and the Ministry of Cigar logo. And he founded Dark Regal, a luxury accessory company where he will only sell limited edition cigar accessories and fashion. At the bottom you will find a link with a free giveaway from Dark Regal (offer ends this friday)
Nuzli, welcome, tell us, how did you get into the cigars?
I was always busy with fashion, men’s apparel, and I thought smoking cigars would fit the theme and the looks of what I was wearing. I went to a local shop, bought a Romeo y Julieta #2. The cigar was quite young, I didn’t like it that much because it was pretty bitter. But the second cigar that I tried was a vintage Montecristo #2, with a very old ring, and that cigar wowed me. And that’s how I got more interested in cigars.
And from that you got into the industry, how did that happen?
I was working as a photographer and designer, and about ten years ago I wanted to become Instagram famous. So I started to use cigars as the object of my art, not just simple photos but do it like nobody else. Nobody was doing cigar art photoshoots at the time. So I started adding special effects like coffee splashes and liquor splashes combined with cigars. Nowadays more people are doing it, and in a way, I started that all.
You also designed the rings for Jas Sum Kral right?
Correct. Years ago I was in a Facebook group. Jas Sum Kral owner Riste Riatevski wrote a post about his JSK Red Knight pre-release. If you wanted to order you should send him a private message. So I messaged him, not to order the cigars but to see if he needed a designer to create a ring for him. It started with a small logo but led to all the Jas Sum Kral cigar rings and the website.
Did you also do things for other companies in the industry?
Well, I did your logo. I did some websites for other companies, Instagram adds for Cigars Direct and MBombay for example. I used to sell prints of my work too.
You recently started your own accessory company, Dark Regal. What is your vision?
I started with three different cigar stands, a skull, a dragon, and the Jas Sum Kral lion. All limited editions, only 1000 skulls, 1000 dragons, and 500 lions are made. All my accessories will be released in limited quantities, all numbered, all with authenticity cards. I don’t believe in mass produced items, I believe in limited editions.
So cigar stands, is there more to come?
I’m working on humidors, maybe a few hundred pieces maximum. They will be made to order. I want to use the classic Spanish cedar for the inside but incorporate modern technologies like 3d printing on the outside. For now, humidors make more sense for me, as it gives me a bigger canvas to work on as a designer. And it will be in the style of my designs for the cigar stands, dragons, skulls, that kind of stuff. I want to design a range of humidors, not just one design. I’m a designer so I get new ideas constantly. But eventually, I want to do cutters and lighters too. And ashtrays of course. And I have a cool idea for a pimp cane, if you screw off the handle there will be room for cigars. And I will only make one of them, a truly unique item that I will most likely auction off.
And a Dark Regal cigar?
Yes, not just yet, but there are plans to create a dark regal cigar in the future. Most likely with Tabacalera Aragon, the factory where Jas Sum Kral is made.
What’s happening with Dark Regal in the next few months?
This Friday I am re-opening the sales for the cigar stands. I am still designing the humidors. I hope that I can show the first humidor in February. And maybe in a year or so the Dark Regal cigar will be ready.
You mentioned that the humidors will be built to order, does that mean you want to bypass the retail stores?
For the humidors yes. The cigar stands and other accessories that I’m designing in the future will be available in retail shops. But of course, if a cigar shop orders custom designed humidors to sell, they can always contact me.
What price range are you thinking off for the humidors?
They won’t be cheap as they are all limited edition, maybe even one of a kind. And made with high quality, expensive material. The humidors will be made locally in Singapore. The stands we designed in Singapore, I had the molds made here as well but the stands were made in China. I won’t do that with the humidors, they will be made in Singapore.
If somebody wants a unique design, custom made, is that a possibility?
Yes of course. I would love that, to create something for someone, to combine his vision with my design skills. But a one-off project will come with a price, something like that won’t be cheap. And not just for humidors, if somebody wants a unique cigar stand I can do that too. But molds still need to be made. Start-up costs for designs, 3d printing and molds are the same for a series or for a single object. That goes for every product.
You designed your own rings, will that be part of Dark Regal?
Yes, I will also create a jewelry and apparel branch of Dark Regal. That way I can still promote my brand on Facebook and Instagram. I can’t do that with cigar accessories, Facebook will deny all my adds since it’s tobacco-related. But that part of the business isn’t ready yet.
You just handed me the cigar stand that I ordered, I love the packaging.
Thank you. I created an extra sleeve around the box to prevent it from opening during transport. And it gave me the opportunity to design a combination of the three cigar stand designs. In the center you see the skull, at the bottom, there is a dragon and on top a lion. They are not copies of the cigar ring, I took the opportunity to draw create something new with the skull, dragon and lion theme.
Dark Regal will resume selling the limited edition cigar stands on their website this Friday. But Dark Regal is also giving away one cigar stand for free. If you want to enter the free giveaway, then go to the website and register.