Complex Made Simple

Exclusive: Damas CEO Asil Attar on empowerment and expansion

Asil Attar shares her insights on premium retail giant Damas' new design philosophy, putting people before products, and plans to expand the business.

"We're celebrating the launch of our 25 renovated stores in total throughout the GCC. In fact, three of them are new." The "vision is to create a community where like-minded women of all ages come and experience us" "We take you from 1907 to our latest campaign ... everything from the artisan, the crafts, to our manufacturing."

Retail giant Damas is setting the tone for premium luxury in the Middle East. The company has completed renovations at 25 stores, closed 8 stores and opened more than 9 new ones – an incredible turnaround for its first female CEO Asil Attar, who has also honored the heritage of the brand during her first seven months at the helm.

"We're always talking about our tagline, which says – "Disrupt, Lead, and Inspire". When we first met it was about disruption. Hence, we did the big campaign on reclaiming Damas – "Damas Reclaimed." The second one is that we wanted to lead, and we created a campaign when we launched the Dubai Mall flagship, which is about "Feeling Precious” … Today, we're launching the "Inspire" bit. So – "Inspire" means that we are looking at a couple of key messages. One of them is that we're celebrating the launch of our 25 renovated stores in total throughout the GCC. As a matter of fact, three of them are new. The balance of them is a pure investment in renovating and rejuvenating our portfolio,” Asil Attar said in a conversation with AMEinfo.

And yet, it’s not entirely about business with Damas. Premium luxury has always been about emotionally and meaningfully engaging with people. Now, Asil has announced a new design philosophy centered around “people”, specifically women, rather than the “product”.

“A very key message for us is continuing that tone of voice that speaks to women. As we discussed the first time, being the first female CEO of this retail giant is a huge responsibility for me. For one, it's a very big turnaround. It's a whole new vision and direction, whilst honoring the heritage of Damas. But at the same time, my responsibilities as a female running an organization is to speak to other women. And so, tonight, we reveal our tone of voice – the message of woman empowerment – the campaign that we launch is centered around women with a vision to create a community where like-minded women of all ages come and experience us,” Asil Attar added.

With a wide-open, uninterrupted view of the sea at one of its flagship stores in the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Asil spoke freely to AMEinfo about the welcoming tone of each renovated store.

“For us, the experience is much more personal and intimate. As I said, we break up space with leveling; different levels where we can actually sit and spend time understanding about the product; engaging with our retail teams and making it a more comfortable transaction let's just say. Also, we have a very key feature in our new stores, where we have the heritage wall. I'm very proud of the heritage that we have. We've created a space where you can sit, you can dwell, you can story-tell. We take you from 1907 to our latest campaign. We talk to you about everything from the artisan, the crafts, to our manufacturing. You'll be able to see so much from a visual storytelling perspective,” Asil Attar explained.

… and this is just the start. Damas is also looking at moving into new re-emerging markets to the East.

"I think imminently, for us, India is a key market for a number of reasons. Malaysia is another key market that we're looking at.   But you know, when you have such a powerful brand, the world's your oyster really. It's just about time, and strategy and making sure you get your ducks in a row because the great thing when you've done luxury and retail and brand for 30 years is that you sit back and watch the mistakes of other brands trying to enter markets. So, the good news is I have a whole bunch of information and knowledge on how not to do it. So I’m going to take all of that experience, put it down on a one-pager and know exactly how to enter a market,” Asil Attar said.

Although founded in 1907, Damas Jewellery unveiled its first store at Dubai’s celebrated Gold Souk in 1959 – a store that is open to this day.