Dubai is renowned for its shopping malls of gargantuan dimensions. Yet the recent establishment of boutiques specializing in high-end luxury designers and lifestyle products signal a desire for a more intimate and personalized shopping experience. A look at Symphony; a luxury multi-brand boutique located in the Dubai Mall; Maison Sez in Abu Dhabi, and a conversation with fashion stylist Iman Pasha, recently appointed Head of Personal Shopping for Boutique 1; reveals an insider’s view of the UAE’s most innovative and unique luxury boutiques.
Located on Dubai Mall’s glamorous Fashion Avenue, the Symphony boutique has created a unique experience for the luxury shopper. Featuring a vast selection of luxury ready-to-wear, accessories, cosmetics, books and magazines, a trip to Symphony is not just about scouting out a fabulous purchase; it’s about taking part in a personalized shopping experience. All items are hand-picked by Emirati Founder and Director Salama Alabbar thus creating a unique blend of international and locally-based style.
The Symphony shopper is a discerning cosmopolitan woman. She is at once feminine, intelligent, and a world traveler British-born Communications Director Holly explained to me as she gave me a tour of the store. It is for this reason that Symphony spends extra time with their clients speaking with each one as if they were part of a family.
World-class customers who know a great deal about fashion are lured to the boutique for the elegant one-of-a-kind gowns from designers such as Christian Siriano and Luisa Beccaria; the stunning shoes designs of Charlotte Olympia; the extravagant Abayas of the DAS Collection; and the unique creations of designers such as Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, James Jeans, J. Mendel, Whitney Eve, Acne, Thakoon, Ports 1961, and Halston.
Yet Symphony goes beyond the fashion brand to create a unique multi-sensorial lifestyle experience. Stretched over 3,000 square feet with complimentary Wi-Fi and expansive terrace views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain, visitors have the privilege to take part in a specialized encounter with one-of-a-kind products in an intimate tailor-made ambiance. Browse through a range of beautiful and educational luxury, fashion and art books as well as innovative eco-friendly beauty products such as Kai Fragrances and Scotch non-toxic nail varnish. A closed off VIP section for women allows clients to shop in comfort and privacy.
It is the special touches and fun events which give Symphony its charm. Holly informed me that the playlist is hand-picked by the designer’s favourite tunes for summer and winter. It is the only luxury multi-brand boutique which has a well-respected and popular lifestyle blog www.symphony.ae as well as a seasonal in-store magazine. Each season is launched with a creative campaign featuring the work of a local artist such as Moaza Matar for spring/summer 2011. In addition, all events held at the boutique are partnered with a charity. Symphony is an experience which goes beyond the luxury boutique to a fully-fledged educational luxury lifestyle experience.
Next, make a trip to Abu Dhabi and visit the Maison Sez boutique. Recently launched by Madonna Morgan who set forth to create an “experience boutique”, the 4,900 square-foot store features a glamorous array of some of the most exclusive brands in the fashion industry including Vivienne Westwood, Robert Rodriguez, Viktor & Rolf, Gat Rimon, Hotel Particulier, Rebecca Taylor, Zhor & Nema, Alice & Olivia, Manoush and Philippe Audibert.
A great traveller, Morgan displays precious and unique items from around the world. The boutique’s inception pays a special tribute to prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina from Diaghilev’s Parisian Ballet Russes. Tamara was known to collect trinkets from the cities she visited. Her favourite jewel, a Florentine brooch, has become the logo of Madonna’s Maison Sez. Inspired by Tamara’s houses, Maison Sez features two sections entitled “Paris” and “London” featuring unique fashion pieces and accessories in line with the European capitals’ sense of style.
One of the Middle East’s favourite luxury boutiques, Boutique 1 is owned by Lebanese-born Ziad Matta and now has over six locations in Dubai and Beirut. The store houses over 200 luxury brands from emerging and established designers as well as an art gallery, a café, and a specialized bookshop featuring beautiful editions of coffee table art and fashion books. We caught up with fashion stylist Iman Pasha named Head of Personal Shopping at Boutique 1 for fashion advice and shopping tips.
Could you speak about your work as a fashion stylist for Boutique 1? What services do you offer to customers?
My role will involves a variety of responsibilities including the addition of some new and exciting services: shopping hours; at home shopping; corporate events shopping; and gift and trousseau packages. I also stock new and exciting brands, working alongside the marketing department to collaborate with designers and organize events. I will also be working directly with clients to help them choose pieces that make them look and feel their absolute best.
Who are your favorite designers offered by Boutique 1?
I feel incredibly lucky to work for Boutique 1 as they stock so many fantastic designers - I am hard pushed to choose favorites! Having said that, I adore 3.1 Philip Lim as I find his collections fresh and edgy but with a classic feel and immaculate finish. I am a huge supporter of young London designers and absolutely love Mary Katrantzou. Diane Von Furstenberg is definitely another favorite. As for local designers I always love the KAGE collections - they are always extremely elegant, yet easy to wear, and best of all - fun! I love their over-sized tees and cute dresses.
What are some of your style tips which work with Fall/Winter 2011?
Colour has been huge for spring/summer 2011 and judging by what I saw on the catwalk at Fashion Week, it will be sticking around next season too. Warmer colours are always great for winter and for FW11 I'd recommend investing in plenty of rich, autumnal hues and maybe some brighter colors too. Texture is set to be huge next season so mix and match butter soft leather, chunky and gossamer fine knits, luxurious silks and anything else you can get your hands on.
I love all of the sleek monochromatic lines of Michael Kors' 2011 collection, and would recommend his slinky gowns for a glamorous night out. The Burberry Prorsum maxi dresses have also caught my eye - they are so sophisticated and charming. As for Chanel, I just love the entire collection, as ever!
What are your favorite shoes and accessories and how do you like to wear them?
I am obsessed with Louboutin heels and have lost count of the number of pairs I own! They are definitely a worthwhile investment as a good quality pair of heels can be incredibly versatile. I dress my Louboutins down for daytime with skinny jeans and a simple sweater and then pair them with statement jewelry and a cocktail dress for the ultimate in evening glamour. Also in terms of shoes I am a huge fan of Charlotte Olympia, and love the drama and regality of Nicholas Kirkwood designs.
What items do you recommend for travelling?
For an elegant travelling outfit I recommend going for a pair of really well-fitting jeans - J Brand and Acne are some of my favorites, and you can never go wrong with flat ballet pumps. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to be chic AND comfortable! Manoush tunics are perfect for feeling glam and comfortable while you are on the move. I would always advise, when travelling, to pack a pair of neutral colour shorts or a skirt. This is a really easy way of having a base with which you can mix, match and accessorize to your heart's content. Oh, and I would never go travelling without a neutral clutch bag.