x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Fashioning a growing business

q&a Ziad Matta is the CEO of the Dubai fashion retailer Boutique 1.

Ziad Matta at Boutique 1 in Dubai's Emirates Towers.
Ziad Matta at Boutique 1 in Dubai's Emirates Towers.

Ziad Matta is the CEO of the Dubai fashion retailer Boutique 1.

a My interest in fashion originates with my wife, Lena, who's my business partner. The whole idea started while we were on our honey­moon. Now we have very ­talented people in Boutique 1 who do a great job in buying, marketing, operations, recruitment, training, etc. My role is to provide them with the support they need and put in place the infrastructure that enables them to thrive and reach their full potential. I try to interfere as little as possible, but it is difficult as I am quite ­passionate about what we are doing.

Product is obviously key, and our aim is to choose items that make our customers fall in love. Staff are undoubtedly a vital ingredient too, as even the best product needs courteous and knowledgeable staff to handle it: we look for passionate people who go the extra mile as a matter of routine and we invest a lot in training. Our aim is to employ personal stylists rather than sales staff. The team is a dynamic mix of people who are passionate about fashion and are in the know about what's happening in the fashion capitals around the world and have their fingers on the pulse of what the clients need and expect. The store environment is another important ingredient: the interior design, music and visual merchandising all play a critical role in the customer experience. And we don't shy away from taking risks; it is part of who we are. We did this when we opened at the Emirates Towers in 2003 and we are doing it again with the opening of our new store at ­Jumeirah Beach Residence this year.

Missoni, Chloé and Elie Saab are some of our best-selling brands - they bring out great products consistently and know how to ­reinvent themselves while remaining true to their DNA.

We have a mix of established well-known labels as well as up-and-coming designers. Both are important to us. We source product from around the world. As well as Europe and the US, we buy from Australia, Brazil, Japan and Lebanon, to name a few. The criterion is that it has to make our customers fall in love. It has to generate that "got to get it" reaction.

Yes, in some cases we do request some changes in design, and the designers are usually very happy to do that as long as it does not compromise the spirit of the design. We actually do more than that and we have some designers do exclusive pieces for us, pieces that are only available at Boutique 1 and nowhere else in the world. That's a real point of difference.

We have a very diverse customer base - we serve UAE residents from all over the Emirates as well as a lot of tourists from the GCC, Russia and Europe. What our customers have in common is they love fashion and they tend to be quite fashion-forward and cutting-edge.

We add about 20 brands every season, so the answer is a definite yes. We review our brand mix on a regular basis. There are great designers emerging every season and we are generally always the first to spot them and bring them to the region.

Boutique 1 at The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence is opening this summer. As well as fashion and beauty, this will have furniture and home accessories, an art gallery, a spa, books, music and a cafe. This is quite new both in terms of the interior design - we are using some very innovative materials - and the overall concept. The combination of all the categories under one roof is unique. Our aim is to redefine shopping. It will not just be a great store by Dubai standards, but would be equally amazing if it were situated in London, Paris, New York or Milan. We are also opening monobrand shops for Chloé, Missoni, Mulberry, Furla and Tabbah at the Dubai Mall in September. We're opening in Beirut by the end of the year and Abu Dhabi will be the next step, followed by other GCC cities.