"Abu Dhabi has got nothing like this," says Richard Foulds, the property manager at Etihad Towers, as he takes us on a tour around Avenue, a new retail space located in the heart of the UAE's capital, at the beachside district of Ras Al Akhdar.
Style-heads make a beeline: connected to the city's first Jumeirah hotel and part of an integrated community of five high-rise towers, Avenue at Etihad Towers happens to be Abu Dhabi's first stand-alone destination for high-end designer brands.
Spread over two levels and comprising 7,000 square meters, Avenue is currently home to 13 boutiques carrying luxury ready-to-wear items, as well as haute couture, jewellery and watches. Twenty-two more shops are scheduled to open by October.
Five shops are making their first showing in Abu Dhabi: Cartier, Hermès, Van Cleef & Arpels, Manolo Blahnik and Salvatore Ferragamo. Two stores are still vacant, with more than 20 brands jostling for spots.
"Gentlemen won't feel left out here," says Avenue's marketing manager Natalie Kardoush. "While other malls and shopping areas are geared towards a more female clientele, here we have a healthy mix of brands catering to both male and female shoppers."
Avenue's environment, its architecture and interiors, are an impressive sight: intimate, calm, easy to navigate. Designed by the Australian firm DBI Design, the space features semi-precious stone finishes in walls and flooring, wide corridors and trendy lighting fixtures. And when you get tired of credit-card swiping (or good ol' window-shopping), there are deep lounge chairs around the area. A "more comfortable, personable experience", Kardoush calls it.
"Abu Dhabi has long played second fiddle to Dubai when it comes to retail options," Foulds says. "We wanted something that would attract the GCC region to shop."
Avenue at Etihad Towers is open throughout Ramadan, Saturdays to Thursdays, 10am to 2pm; Fridays, 8pm to 1am. After Ramadan, regular store hours are Saturday to Thursday, 10am to 10pm; Friday, 3pm to 11pm