Homegrown luxury brands face fierce competition in the UAE; Aficionado speaks with local brands to talk about opportunities, performance and expansion.
Ajmal perfumes is one of the largest fragrance brands in the Middle East, but getting there was not an easy journey.
“There are a lot of opportunities, but the problem is that people take too many shortcuts here. Compromising on the juice of a fragrance is very easy, but I would never do it. If you want to attain pure luxury, you have to attain good quality. If you look at any luxury product, people are paying money for the craftsmanship. They want to know the story, the history and where it has come from, because they want to use it with the knowledge of the product. It is the knowledge. Today, luxury is knowledge. It is the know-how that makes a product luxurious,” explains Abdulla Ajmal, general manager of Ajmal Perfumes.
In the fashion industry, the country is shining, with events like Fashion Forward or Design Days. Local brands are doing well. “Dubai is more of a retail centre than a production hub, but that is not a negative. The city has other strong points, such as tourism and the fact that it is a high-end fashion retail city. Here, we sell alongside brands, such as Alexander McQueen or Dior and, at Galleries Lafayette in The Dubai Mall, we are one of the top-selling concessions in the entire menswear department,” explain the Golkar brothers, founders of Emperor 1688.
Another brand that is doing great, but does not agree with the Golkar brothers, is House of Nomad. “Our products are made in the UAE, so we make sure that everything is made here. For us, it is a way to show people that you don’t have to go all the way to Italy to get good quality,” says Saleh Al Banna, co-founder of House of Nomad.
Local brands have very different ideas about expansion as well: “Expansion is part of our plan in the long run, but if we are to serve the international, market we have to do it from here. A lot of designers start in the GCC and, when they expand, they go to Europe and base their operations there, which, in my opinion, is a mistake. We really want to stay true to our roots and to the region,” explains Ahmed El-Sayed, co-founder of House of Nomad.
Emperor 1688, on the other hand, is ready to conquer the world. “The US is the next step for us, we are working on it and, hopefully, after that, we will move on to other markets. Marvin Traub deals with Oscar de la Renta and Matthew Williamson, and it does a lot of brand positioning for Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. We are the first Middle Eastern brand to sign with and we are going to New York soon to open our showroom,” reveal the Golkar brothers.
The UAE is a beacon of talents in different fields. Ideas and visions might be different from one brand to the other but, at the end of the day, the country can be proud of the quality and level of craftsmanship available.