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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Here, now: European brand & Other Stories finally opens its doors in The Dubai Mall

The biggest selling point of the label is that it has strong, powerful designs that will attract both minimalist and maximalist shoppers.
& Other Stories will stock shoes, bags, beauty products and ready-to-wear collections in its new Dubai Mall store. Courtesy of & Other Stories
& Other Stories will stock shoes, bags, beauty products and ready-to-wear collections in its new Dubai Mall store. Courtesy of & Other Stories

You may have noticed the large “coming soon” sign opposite S*uce boutique in The Dubai Mall. Now, the wait for & Other Stories is officially over, as the coveted fashion label opened its doors at 10am on April 20, marking its Middle East debut.

Oversized jackets, slip dresses, jewel-encrusted ribbon chokers, appliqué-emblazoned leather bags and suede mules – these are some of the on-trend offerings at the new store in Dubai. The brand is owned by the H&M Group.

Behnaz Aram, head of ready-to-wear from the brand’s Stockholm atelier, made a trip to the UAE a few weeks ago, and met with me to talk about the new store, and why it is sure to appeal to style-conscious Dubai consumers.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the store is that it doesn’t single out a specific style. It has strong, powerful designs that will attract both minimalist and maximalist shoppers. The former comprises the Stockholm collection, full of trenches, culottes and monochrome pinstripes, while the Paris collection is more showy – a pink ruffled dress with a pleated rainbow-toned skirt is the clear showstopper.

“Paris is playful, vintage and quirky, while Stockholm is more minimalist, inspired by men’s tailoring in the coats, jackets and blazers, but with an avant-garde feel in the cuts and fabrics. So if you look at some of the sleeves, they’re quite exaggerated,” Aram points out.

The designer was born in Iran and moved to Stockholm at the age of 6. When we meet, her choice of a simple, all-black ensemble makes it evident which of the brand’s two collections corresponds to her personal style. At 18, Aram moved to London to study fashion. Soon after, she launched her own label, and started designing costumes for operas and ballets.

When Aram was first brought on board for & Other Stories in 2011, the job brief wasn’t to start a high-end fashion label. Rather, it was to work on a premium beauty brand. “When they did the mood board, they always showed full looks, and we thought, oh, this looks so amazing, why should we only do the beauty? Let’s add shoes, bags, accessories, and then we added ready-to-wear,” she recalls. For two years, the team operated in total secrecy; although rumours were circulating about H&M’s new luxury label, details were kept hush-hush until its 2013 launch.

Since then, the label has gained something of a cult following, partly because it’s so hard to get your hands on, if you live outside Europe. Though there’s a website, international delivery isn’t offered, so often times, women in the region would pass their shopping lists on to friends visiting London, Paris or Stockholm. “We notice going into different markets, there are all these schemes, and that’s such a compliment for us,” says Aram. She is confident that the store will be a success here in the UAE because of its trendy appeal, and because it’s the Middle Eastern consumer in Europe, who generally stands out as fashion-savvy. “What people notice more and more is that buyers in this region are a huge market; I mean, they love fashion. At universities, you can see that they’re the ones who are fashionable and interested,” she notes.

Expect to find the label’s latest ready-to-wear collections, along with shoes, handbags, accessories and beauty products at the new store in The Dubai Mall. In addition, the shop will house the brand’s new stationery line. Following the Dubai launch, the brand will also be opening a store in Doha.

In a constantly evolving industry, where seasonal trends come and go, Aram advises customers to take each day as it comes, and to shop and dress according to that day’s mood, rather than getting boxed into a particular style or stereotype. “I would say dress how you feel during that day. If you feel romantic or floral, go for the floral dress, if you feel you just want to be simple, go for the classic shirt or blouse; it depends on your mood.”

& Other Stories opens on April 20 at 10am, and is located in The Dubai Mall, on Level 1 near Fashion Avenue.

hlodi@thenational.ae