Priming the pump
Anyone familiar with the Sunset Mall on Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Road will know that its light-drenched corridors are usually surprisingly empty. The glass-fronted mall only has a smattering of shops and is a little bit off the beaten track for those seeking retail therapy. But not so last weekend.
The aisles were full of jewel-encrusted abayas, towering stilettos, hand-painted furniture and a whole array of designer jewellery and clothing that would get even the least fashion-conscious shopper excited to find a one-off piece.
The reason for this overhaul? Sunset Mall is home to Prime Dubai, a new monthly fashion event dedicated to young and emerging designers, giving them a platform to display their wares in the comfort of a mall but with the atmosphere of a market.
What can you expect to find?
Clothes, shoes, jewellery, bags, furniture and even made-to-measure orders were for sale in the 45 pop-up stalls that appeared on Saturday morning for the one-day event. Due to the fact that many of them were young designers trying to get a foot in the market, the prices were surprisingly low for some of the exquisite handcrafted items.
“We usually sell these for twice this amount,” explains Sandhya Lalloo from Style Innovation, holding up a beautiful silk jacket. “But because this is our first time here, we have reduced the prices.”
Maria Iqbal, who makes furniture by hand and paints the pieces in her own designs, says she has been trying to get established for a couple of years – and events like this help her get started. “It’s a great concept and I love the location. It certainly has potential.”
Are they all Dubai-based designers?
Most of the stalls are showcasing home-grown brands but there are some who have come from farther afield. Sacha Gemayal is selling jewellery designed by her mother, who lives and works in Lebanon. The handmade gold-plated pieces from Kat Chi Design are popular on social media but this is the first time they have been displayed in a shop format outside of Beirut. There is also Maria Gonzalez, who owns Carioca, a very successful Spanish brand with 14 stores across Europe. Gonzalez is in Dubai for five months selling her wares at the Spanish Pavilion in Global Village and heard about Prime Dubai on social media so she decided to give it a try. “It is a different clientele here in the mall,” she says. “I like it.”
What if we want something that has never been seen before?
The sisters Noor and Maha Al Quaiti are 23-year-old Saudi twins who opened their boutique Noor’s Closet four months ago. They began operating from their home in Dubai, making dresses for themselves and their friends and now they have a range of abayas and ready-to-wear items.
“This event is a good opportunity for us to open our first shop because it is for young designers like us,” says Maha. “We really enjoy having our own business and being our own boss is great. Especially in fashion because we get to benefit ourselves as well as other people.”
Who is behind the event?
Melanie Beese and Monica Kubik, two German entrepreneurs who first met working for an events company, founded Prime Dubai this summer and launched the first event this weekend.
Beese is no stranger to the world of street commerce. She started Dubai Flea Market five years ago and went from a few hundred weekly visitors to more than 15,000. She is hoping for the same success here.
“In the UAE, there are no regular platforms for designers, so we have created this as a monthly event,” says Beese. “We do screen all applicants because it is important that we maintain a certain quality across all the vendors. Actually, we rejected 60 per cent of applicants. We want to create an awareness between designers and DIY designers and then we hope that this event becomes a trusted platform for new talent to get started.”
• Prime Dubai happens on the second Saturday of every month at Sunset Mall on Jumeirah Beach Road. Visit www.prime-dubai.com