No longer do Dubai residents have to trek to Satwa or Deira to find a good tailor. From off-the-peg jalabiyas for Ramadan to bespoke abayas for Eid or even designer-label inspired evening gowns - La Beaute in Jumeirah Beach Residence can do it all. We sat down with the boutique's owner, Najat Al Redha.
You started your career in finance, so how did the shift to fashion come about?
Yes, I was a broker at the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) and I left my job to open this boutique and start living my dream. That was in 2005, and before then I hadn't studied fashion but just used to design clothes as a hobby. I would make pieces at home and participate in most of the bridal exhibitions in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Qatar.
In 2008 you realised your dream of opening a ready-to-wear boutique in JBR. Was the business an immediate success?
When I opened the shop, the crisis hit. I was really struggling because of the economic situation, but I just kept pushing forward and wanted to show everyone that I could succeed. Originally it was just a boutique and then came the tailoring section to add value for customers. In the shop, I began by selling my children's-wear range, from special occasion clothes to daily-use outfits, but soon realised I could do more. So I designed abayas, evening gowns and shorter summer dresses for our foreign clients. People really welcomed it back then as we were the only boutique/tailor in the area. I had been planning the business for so many years, thank goodness it all worked out.
Presumably your background at the DFM helped you weather the downturn?
Yes, of course. At the DFM, I learnt how to manage everything from money to late-payers and defaulters to staff. It taught me many aspects of business and I've learnt so much from my husband and father, who had a tailoring company in Al Jafiliya for many years - and before I opened mine.
Has the tailoring side of your business now overtaken the prêt-à-porter aspect?
Well, people originally started to come here to buy ready-made pieces and now we have clients for both the boutique and bespoke. Every few days, I'll put new pieces on the racks. The abayas start from Dh500 and go up to around Dh800. With special details, like Swarovski and leather trimmings, that's more expensive. Some clients like to bring in pictures of abayas they've seen in a magazine and we can replicate it for them. We do many alterations too, which can start from as low as Dh20.
How is trade for you during Ramadan and Eid?
Ramadan is our busiest time as people buy non-stop during that period. They go crazy for new designs. They are looking for dresses and jalabiyas that can be worn mainly at family gatherings like iftars. They have to wear something new and striking but most importantly, comfortable. Some like traditional designs, others modern, but most prefer the plain long-sleeved look. Light colours, like peach, pistachio, baby blue and shades of pink are popular. Instead of embroidery around the neck and sleeves we tend to keep things simple during Ramadan - adding a bit of lace more than beadwork, for example. Many of my designs for this Ramadan have belts, too.
Tell me about the abaya you are wearing, I see it has one of the obi-style belts that you mentioned. Are the belts on your designs detachable, interchangeable?
They come separately, for all different shapes and sizes. They are detachable and the jalabiya or abaya could be worn with or without them. They go from around two to four inches in width.
Nowadays the big trend is to wear abayas with belts, they are everywhere. My idea was that instead of using a plain black one I would use colour or highlight the black with gold, lace-like material. I detailed the shoulders with the same fabric, most of which I source locally from Deira and Bur Dubai. But I make sure lace - designed by me here - is handmade in India or Pakistan. Other fabrics might come from as far away as Cyprus or Greece.
What's next for you - is another boutique on the cards?
We've just expanded our staff here in JBR to seven tailors from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines and I'll hopefully be adding more soon at a second venue. I have plans for accessories too, but can't say too much just yet.
• La Beaute, Shop P08, Plaza Level, Murjan Tower 1, The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai, 04 434 2323
* top tailor
Name: Zahid Hussain
Profile: La Beaute’s master couturier has worked with the owners, the Al Redha family, for nearly 15 years
Client demographic: Emiratis, Australians, Britons and Italians
Seasonal colours and trends: Citrus, neon, animal prints
Top customer requests: Evening and summer dresses, 1970s-style jumpsuits
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