x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

When flea market means 'luxury'

In Sharjah, the woman who created a successful trading space in Dubai's Safa Park goes for a decidedly richer profile.

Azza Alaskar, left, and Nuha Asad at their stall in the flea market organised at Al Qasba in Sharjah.
Azza Alaskar, left, and Nuha Asad at their stall in the flea market organised at Al Qasba in Sharjah.

SHARJAH // Dressed in a designer abaya and Louis Vuitton sunglasses, with immaculate cerise lipstick, Nuha Asad did not look like your typical early-morning flea market trader. And the second-hand collection of Roberto Cavalli, Fendi and Moschino handbags laid out on bright velvet fabric in front of her was hardly typical flea market ware.

But at the UAE's first "luxury" flea market yesterday, at Sharjah's picturesque Al Qasba, the 26-year-old Emirati graphic designer fitted the bill perfectly. The market is the latest brainchild of Melanie Beese, the German expatriate responsible for the hugely successful Safa Park flea market in Dubai. While that flea market continues to draw huge crowds, Ms Beese is hoping to use the "luxury" version of the market to entice UAE fashion-lovers to clear their closets of old and unwanted high-end items for the enjoyment of the Emirates' more discerning bargain hunters.

"There are so many people here with designer brands that they no longer want to wear or use, and I wanted to offer a place where they could sell them on to others for a reasonable price," Ms Beese said. "It is so difficult to sell them on the internet, because shoppers never really know if they are buying a fake or the real thing. Here they can see them and feel them before they buy." For Ms Asad, whom Ms Beese says is exactly the kind of trader she is targeting with her new venture, the market's launch coincided nicely with her decision to move house. "I am moving to a new house, so I do not want to take all of my old things with me," she explained.

"I'm not using them any more. Perhaps they are not in fashion any more, and I also brought along some bracelets which I like to design myself." Among the bargains on Ms Asad's table were a black Roberto Cavalli handbag that she bought for about Dh1,600 (US$435) and sold yesterday for Dh400, and a brown Fendi handbag that originally cost around Dh2,400 and which she had reserved for a keen bargain hunter for around Dh900.

On the next stand, glamorously dressed in a straw hat, leopard print top and pale gold pashmina, the British antiques collector Heidi Gorton fielded questions from a small group of visitors riffling through her selection of designer and antique dresses, ornaments, jewellery and handbags. A selection of Lladró ornaments, she told one western shopper, ranged between Dh350 and Dh950 and included a "pre-Occupied Japan, hand-painted figurine - she's very pretty".

One bright blue figure-hugging Dolce & Gabbana print dress worth thousands was priced at Dh800. "I used to feel amazing in this dress", Ms Gorton said. Despite leaving empty-handed yesterday, Astrio De Tiger and her husband, who are from Holland, said they would definitely visit the market again. "I have had some very good buys at the Safa Park sale, including a beautiful gold necklace which I bought for Dh25 from a lady who said it was an unwanted gift from her sister," Mrs De Tiger said.

"When we went to have it valued at a jewellers here, it was worth Dh450, and it is very beautiful. I also bought Christian Dior sunglasses for Dh10." While yesterday's market launch was quiet, with only around 20 stalls, Ms Beese was confident that as people became accustomed to the nature of the "luxury" flea market and what was required from traders, it would grow in popularity and size. "I think some people who came here were expecting the same as the Safa Park flea market, but the idea behind this is very different," she said.

The event offers young and new local designers, including mother-and-daughter clothing brand Mia & Me, designed by the Dubai resident Nadja Broadbent, 42, and a selection of hand-embroidered abayas and original paintings by Yasmin Sayyed, to showcase and sell their work. Ms Sayyed, 34, a former equestrienne from Germany who has been in Dubai for more than four years, said Ms Beese's market was important in allowing entrepreneurs such as she to establish themselves.

"We don't have to pay Dh700 in rent; this is how we start, and this is something that is needed for new designers and for shoppers, rich and poor," she said. "It is a nice thing to gather people, to make contact, and the location is beautiful." Wherever there are designer brands on offer, inevitably, rogue traders will attempt to sell fake versions. Ms Beese said that while the first market had not proved problematic, any traders found selling fake goods would simply be shut down and sent away, with no refunds.

"I have a friend who goes through the stands checking, because she is a professional in this business, and anyone she finds will be closed down," Ms Beese said. "It's very simple." loatway@thenational.ae