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Since Moda Operandi was founded in the United States last year, Abu Dhabi has become the second-biggest city for the company globally after New York. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE VERDY
Since Moda Operandi was founded in the United States last year, Abu Dhabi has become the second-biggest city for the company globally after New York. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE VERDY

Abu Dhabi fashionistas purr over catwalk styles on US retail website

Since Moda Operandi was founded in the United States last year, Abu Dhabi has become the second-biggest city for the company globally after New York.

An American website that sells some of the world's most exclusive designer clothes direct from the runway is proving a hit with Abu Dhabi's dedicated followers of fashion

A retailer offering shoppers the chance to buy designer outfits days after they appear on the catwalk was probably always destined to do well in the Emirates.

Since Moda Operandi was founded in the United States last year, Abu Dhabi has become the second-biggest city for the company globally after New York.

And business across the Middle East region as a whole grew from 5 per cent to about a fifth of the online retailer's total sales.

Moda Operandi was co-founded by Lauren Santo Domingo, a contributing editor at Vogue, and Aslaug Magnusdottir, who has been dubbed fashion's fairy godmother. It sells about 300 established and emerging designers' collections on its site, including Versace, Valentino and Peter Pilotto.

The company takes pictures of the clothes within a couple of days of a runway show and displays them on its website. Customers can select any style in any size offered by the designer, placing a 50 per cent deposit to secure the item.

The company sells everything in a catwalk show, but orders the items purchased only through its website, so the only risk involved to Moda Operandi is the cost of shooting the collection, according to Ms Magnusdottir, who was in the UAE this week to meet customers. The Middle East is the company's largest market outside the United States, and the UAE is the biggest in this region.

"Abu Dhabi is our second-biggest city globally after New York," said Ms Magnusdottir. "Because it is so much word of mouth, we tend to have pockets of women who know each other and are friends and start shopping on the site."

In New York, shoppers typically spend about US$1,500 (Dh5,510) per transaction, while in the Middle East it is about $4,500.

"Abu Dhabi might be a little bit higher than that actually," said Ms Magnusdottir.

"In New York we have a mix of customers who spend a lot and a lot of customers who spend maybe $500. But here it is very concentrated on the individuals who are spending a lot," she added.

"A lot of those pieces are the special gowns and cocktail dresses that are at the higher end of what we sell. We do sell vintage Birkins [a style of handbag made by Hermès], so we do sell quite a bit of them to the region as well."

gduncan@thenational.ae

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