x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

The Insider: The Luxury Arcade

Abu Dhabi's latest boutique, The Luxury Arcade, will open it's doors in the next few weeks. We speak to the store's founder, Lina Mustafa.

Lina Mustafa, owner of The Luxury Arcade. Ravindranath K / The National
Lina Mustafa, owner of The Luxury Arcade. Ravindranath K / The National

Abu Dhabi born and bred, Lina Mustafa is the latest twenty-something to try to tap into the capital’s potential. And the founder of The Luxury Arcade, which is due to open in the next few weeks, is everything you would expect from a savvy business owner: well put together, sharp and focused.

After a three-year stint at the prestigious Istituto Marangoni in London, where she studied fashion design, Mustafa knew that her heart lay elsewhere.

“Initially I wanted to become a fashion designer, but I was more interested in the business side of it,” she says. “I did a year at London College of Fashion studying fashion business and I really enjoyed it.”

After graduating and moving back to the UAE, Mustafa became aware of gaps in Abu Dhabi’s fashion offering, particularly when it came to the limited number of multi-brand stores in the capital. While Dubai offered an existing network of boutiques and department stores, Mustafa wanted to introduce something new to her birth town. “I didn’t just want to take an idea and go to Dubai like a lot of people do,” she says.

When it came to the concept behind The Luxury Arcade, Mustafa wanted to choose a creative theme that carried well throughout her chosen space at the World Trade Centre Mall. The shop’s design speaks for itself – grey and black graffitied walls (painted by 23-year-old Syrian artist Saif Chilmiran and his friend Rami Schoenthaler), custom-made light fixtures, designed to resemble claw machines, and sleek, spinning clothes rails.

“I wanted my customers to feel like they were inside a claw machine at an arcade,” explains Mustafa, “and the prizes were the clothes and accessories in the store.”

What can we expect from said prizes? An array of approximately 20 labels for both men and women, including some of Mustafa’s personal favourites, such as Prabal Gurung and Damir Doma.

Mustafa was keen to add menswear to The Luxury Arcade’s repertoire as she is a big fan of the men’s collections, in general, because of their clean and sleek aesthetic. When we meet, she’s wearing one of her men’s T shirts under an oversized baseball jacket.

“I really love simple, minimalist themes, all of which I’ve introduced to the store and what I buy,” she says.

Every item in the shop is carefully curated by Mustafa herself, who flies to Paris to buy her collections. “The way it works is that I contact the showrooms and these showrooms represent a lot of different designers. When I go to meet with one brand, they’ll introduce me to another brand. It’s a really nice way of learning more about new up-and-coming labels.”

Mustafa’s design background means that she’s an excellent candidate when it comes to selecting pieces for her store. She makes her choices based on fabric quality and good tailoring, paying attention to even the smallest details, such as the stitching on a garment.

Flying around the world to shop for clothes sounds like most women’s dream job. However, Mustafa assures me that the rest of her duties are a lot more painstaking.

“A lot of my time is spent checking up on orders, which is really the most time-consuming thing about this whole process. Arranging shipments and communicating with different people through different time zones is the hardest part,” she says.

Later this month, Mustafa will be flying to Paris to place her orders for the autumn/winter 2014 collections, a whole seven to eight months before they are due to arrive in store.

I ask how difficult it is to start thinking two seasons ahead from now? “In theory it’s a lot easier, but when you’re there it’s impossible to predict what the trends are going to be for that season,” she notes.

As for what will be available when The Luxury Arcade first opens its doors, Mustafa tells me that she stepped out of her comfort zone for the spring/summer pieces. “I tend to gravitate towards black and leather, so for the new season I had to focus on getting a lot more pastels and colours in, which I’m really not used to.”

In addition, customers will be able shop from the discounted pre-fall and autumn/winter 2013 collections.

With its ever-evolving fashion scene, I ask Mustafa whether she thinks that the UAE will eventually become a new New York or Paris? “ I wouldn’t want local designers to turn to that style, because we’re in the Middle East; we have our own style here.”