When Zayan Ghandour, Fatima Ghobash and Dina Saleh first launched the S*uce brand back in 2004, their aim was to create "a fun, inspiring shopping experience like no other, offering a curated mix of regional and international up-and-coming talent, diffusion lines and designer labels," says Ghandour, who is S*uce's creative director and head buyer, as well as the designer of the eponymous Zayan label.
S*uce has since evolved into one of Dubai's best-loved boutiques and currently stocks more than 600 fashion brands in its three outlets across the UAE. It has also been responsible for launching community initiatives such as the S*uce Benches Project, #Webuiltthiscity and A to the R to the T (Am so Ridiculously Talented), and is committed to supporting local talent with projects such as the annual Design a Dress competition.
"Our founding principle has always been to love what you love without hesitation and that was something that carried through in our buying strategy - with us often buying undiscovered brands simply because we loved them. Basically, if we believed in something, we made it happen, and we wanted everyone to join us on the ride."
When it came to the launch of S*uce Gifts, which opened last month in the Al Wasl Square complex, the principles were the same: to offer a fun, unusual mix of lifestyle and homeware items and gifts that couldn't be found anywhere else in Dubai. "S*uce gifts grew organically out of the S*uce concept because we always bought lifestyle items for S*uce and wished we could buy more but never had the space to display them.
"So eventually things just worked out and we found a beautiful location next to [Al Safa] Park and S*uce Gifts was born," says Ghandour.
I ask whether it was harder this time around - whether there was more pressure involved in launching an extension of a well-known and much-loved brand than a new concept, because the expectations were higher. "It was actually just a lot of fun for everyone because it was something we had been excited about for a while and we couldn't wait to make it happen," Ghandour enthuses. "We launched S*uce Gifts because we were so totally in love with all the pieces we saw and wanted to share them with the world."
It's certainly an eclectic mix. The startlingly white store has been designed to look like a mini town - voluminous light fixtures float overhead, mimicking fluffy white clouds; shelving units take the shape of houses and a life-size tree sprouts from one corner with bags and brightly-coloured T-shirts hanging from its branches. Jumping out from this charming backdrop is a colourful and quirky mix of pencils, books, bracelets, picnic hampers, party favours, vases, cushions, knick-knacks, designer furniture and everything in between.
It's a veritable treasure trove of the weird, wonderful, whimsical and slightly wacky. There are bags, deliciously scented candles, greeting cards and striking pieces of affordable art. There are the Creature Cups, which have ceramic creepy-crawlies lurking in their depths waiting to startle unsuspecting drinkers; gold skull paperweights and a book for every occasion - ranging from snazzy journals to the intriguingly titled Fortune Telling Book for Moms to Be.
"We really go that extra mile to find items that are super unique and special and not available anywhere else," Ghandour explains. "I absolutely love each and every product we've bought. The cross-stitched armchairs are a must-have, the picnic hampers are so charming, adorable and absolutely useful, and the party sticks are simply the best conversation starters at any dinner party. I can go on and on. I am most excited about all the local and regional talent that has been contacting us and sending us super creative ideas for products, art pieces and novelty items, which we will be having regular events and launches for. Watch this space."
One of the regional designers currently being showcased at S*uce Gifts is the Kuwait-based Farah Al Humaidhi, whose delicate yet bold home accessories are one of the highlights of the collection. Al Humaidhi studied interior design at the American University of Sharjah and went on to launch Pieces by Farah, a collection that includes everything from trays, vases and coffee stands to candle holders, lamps and furniture. With her trademark "dantelle" styling, Al Humaidhi transforms the intricacy of lacework into hardened forms, creating stunning lamps, vases, bins and bowls that look like they have been draped in lace.
"Pieces by Farah is a step I decided to take in pursuit of creating engaging, functional and unique handcrafted furniture pieces. Mixing philosophies and techniques that derive from modern and classical approaches is what spurs the final pieces to comes out as innovative and unpredictable as they are," Al Humaidhi explains.
S*uce Gifts has been designed to appeal to "anyone and everyone", says Ghandour. "There is something for everybody and every possible occasion. Whether it's a birthday, a baby shower or an anniversary, you can find the perfect gift. We also have a dedicated gifts consultant who is on hand to help you with your choices at any time. All you need to do is give her a call and book an appointment and she can help you find the most suitable gift for your occasion."
Or you could forget your friends and treat yourself instead. Just saying.
• S*uce Gifts is located in Al Wasl Square, opposite Al Safa Park, Jumeirah, Dubai; www.shopatsauce.com