How one Dubai princess is creating opportunities for regional fashion designers
- 18 September 2018
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An avid photographer, designer and businesswoman, Sheikha Maytha Hasher Al Maktoum believes in one thing: passionately following one’s dreams. Through BEYOU, her business venture, she promotes new and emerging talent from around the world, but she also encourages pursuing a way of life where one is comfortable in their own skin.
“When we were thinking of the name, I asked my younger cousins what they wanted to be, and the answer was, ‘Famous’,” she explains. “And it just struck me, famous for what? I realised that the young generation is consumed by appearances, and I believe that’s wrong. It’s important for me to be myself.”
BEYOU Boutique is a concept lifestyle store located in the relatively new Dar Al Wasl mall in Jumeirah, Dubai. The store acts as a platform for young, emerging designers who want to showcase their talents, from fashion and art to food. “Like a lawyer who makes baby shoes from camel skin and organic colours that are safe for baby skin,” Sheikha Maytha said.
BEYOU was founded as a joint venture between Sheikha Maytha and her sister, Sheikha Wafa Hasher Al Maktoum, who later left to focus on her own art gallery. In the beginning, she did hear some whispers of opposition to her decision, as some did not approve of her working in “sales” rather than doing charity work as was expected of her. “But when you take that first step, you will be surprised how much support you can get,” she said with a grin.
It was her father who found the first location for her boutique. “We started in 2012, and at first I placed my flip-flop collection there. But I remembered a store called Colette in Paris which I loved and thought the concept could work here. So I started looking for other designers who would like to place their collections in my store, ensuring that their products were of a high quality but at a reasonable price point.”
Using the experience from her flip-flop brand, Sheikha Maytha decided to provide a place for creative people to showcase their products without having to worry about the technicalities of operating a business or a store. “We lacked a space that offers support and guidance to people,” she said. “When I started, it was just me, an accountant, and a salesgirl. I even learned how to tag products myself. Now my role is predominantly that of a curator: I go to exhibitions and find new, emerging talent and bring them to the boutique.”
Over time, BEYOU has worked with over 125 designers and is always looking for more. It is now placing its collection online and has moved to a bigger venue with a cafe, which is something Sheikha Maytha always wanted, thanks to her regularly downing karak (tea) by the bucketload at her boutique’s last location. “I think the cafeteria there ran on our business,” she laughed.
So why designers are keen to sign up?
Feiruza Mudessir, owner of the Ethiopian brand Finchitua likes it for the way it sells the apparel, and creating opportunities for diverse range of designers.
“The store gives thought to how each brand is displayed, and ensures the designers stand alone in their own unique space. The support they provide is invaluable.”
Emirati-Danish designer Latifa Al Gurg, who sells her label Twisted Roots at the boutique, is a fan of the unique business model.
“The boutique offers a curated array of brands that each offer an individual perspective. This is what makes BEYOU very unique in the region.”
With the popularity of the boutique growing thanks to strong word of mouth, Sheikha Maytha can see herself exporting the concept to different cities or even countries in the region. Now that her digital presence has been launched, talks are being held about exporting the concept to Paris. This will work as an exchange programme whereby designers from France can sell in the UAE and people from the UAE will have a platform in France.
“My goal is to help people, which is why I am particular about what we sell,” Sheikha Maytha. “Higher prices would mean more profits for us, but it would defeat the purpose of the boutique. I want to maximise the opportunities for creatives from all fields to showcase their talent. And I want to tell people that it is not that difficult to be yourself. Even if you don’t succeed the first time, keep trying. Go out and do bungee jumping if you want or go paint something, as long as you are being true to yourself.”
(Writing by Umaima Tinwala; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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