19 October 2017Last updated

Fashion | Women

Clothes designed in the UAE

Can you wear clothes designed in the UAE for work and play? Absolutely. Check out the best of homegrown fashion, as worn by some of our favourite local personalities

Hair and make-up: Britta Tess at MMG Artists

Lindsay Judge
30 Nov 2016 | 10:00 am
  • Jumana Al Darwish at home with her daughter, Ayla.

    Source:Photography by Stefan Lindeque; Art direction by Verina Durand

Jumana Al Darwish, co-founder, The Happy Box, at home with her daughter, Ayla, both wearing Mochi

Jumana founded her business, The Happy Box, in 2014. Inspired by her daughter Ayla, Jumana ‘spreads happiness’ with her hand-delivered arts and crafts activity boxes. Originally from Jordan, she’s been in the UAE for 10 years.

How do you feel being in the UAE in particular has helped you build your business?

Prior to establishing The Happy Box, I worked for the government in Dubai and the visionary leadership of the UAE inspired me to believe that anything can be made possible with hard work and perseverance. With this in mind, I established The Happy Box. I’ve seen my company prosper in ways I never envisioned could be possible within such a short time span. I don’t believe it would have grown to this extent or been internationally recognised had it been established anywhere else.

What do you love most about the UAE?

The UAE is culturally enriching. I’m able to connect with people from all walks of life. I also love the fact that it is a safe country and being a parent, I want to raise my child as a global citizen in a secure environment – that is what the UAE provides me with.

What does the future hold for you?

I hope to be able to continue to change lives and impact those around me both directly and indirectly. Happiness for me is creating positive change and my mission in life is to do just that.


Zahirah Variawa (in red dress), managing director of Think Liquorice, wearing Reemami, and colleagues Felicity Stokes (right), wearing Zena Presley, and Elise Butler, wearing Reemami

Zahirah is the managing director of Think Liquorice, a boutique PR and brand management agency in Dubai, as well as a part-time TV presenter and event host. The company looks after the brand and communications needs of lifestyle, hospitality and fashion brands in the region and abroad. South African Zahirah has recently expanded her business into a new office – so we decided to show her and the team in the workplace.

How do you think being in the UAE has helped you build your business?

The UAE has opened endless doors of possibility. It’s given me a renewable source of energy to see no limits and in doing so allowed me to achieve great things. The region’s ‘anything is possible’ approach to buildings, lifestyle, travel and more has laid the foundation for me to see fruitful benefits of hard work and big dreams. That strength in possibility has allowed me as a young, new business owner to see past the risks and challenges in everyday and long-term decisions, and soldier on to the next level.

What do you love most about the UAE?

The cosmopolitan society – on any given day you hear several accents, meet people from a variety of countries, have access to almost any international cuisine and are located in the middle of the world making travel and global discovery that much easier.

What does the future hold for you?

Failing to plan is planning to fail, they say, so while I do like to plan I think life has its own path for us and I do enjoy the surprises. If I had the opportunity to select a few things I’d like to see happen it would definitely be starting a family, growing the business within the region and in key target markets like the US and Australia – and in general doing great things!


Asad Raza Khan, actor, wearing Emperor 1668

Asad is an actor, producer and director based in Dubai. Away from his thespian life, Asad works as a business leader for Prestige Male Grooming, but acting is his passion. Catch the second volume of Shakespeare in the Sand, a screening of films of the Bard’s plays, at The Junction, from Dec 1-3 – his collaboration with London’s Globe Theatre; Asad’s own play, Howzat, set in Dubai, is showing at The Junction from Dec 15-17. When he’s not managing two jobs, Asad likes to chill out in Dubai. We met him at one of the city’s gorgeous beaches for this shoot.

How do you feel being in the UAE has helped you build your business?

The country has a growing scene that focuses both on local grassroots and international talent, which is great for me as an artist. The people of the UAE are slowly embracing the arts and supporting it. This makes for more festivals, music, theatre, art exhibitions, which have helped many explore their true calling. It’s given us a voice.

What do you love most about the UAE?

The diversity. Where else can you find so many different people living and working together in complete harmony? I feel at home here and encouraged to pursue my interests.

What does the future hold for you?

I’d like to play a pivotal role in elevating arts, entertainment and cinema both in Dubai and back home in Pakistan.


Nicole Rodrigues, managing director, Diva Dubai, wearing Bambah, and her husband, Dr Sassan Dieter Khatib-Shahidi, CEO of German Technologies, wearing Threads and Tailors

Nicole, from India, is the founder of the Diva group, which includes Diva Modelling and Events, Diva salons and Diva Laundry, as well as NMI Accounting. She started her businesses from scratch when she arrived in the UAE 13 years ago. Her German husband, Dr Sassan, is the CEO of a tech company. They have been married for three years. Nicole loves date night with her husband, so we took them to new bistro La Môme.

How do you feel being in the UAE has helped you build your business?

We have the greatest leader and thanks to that we have a workforce that is driven and full of life, which is exactly what you need when starting a business.

What do you love most about the UAE?

The fact that it’s constantly evolving and changing, has the best of the east and the west, and great weather.

What does the future hold for you?

I aspire to continue with my successful businesses, adding value to the country.


Maria Conceicao, founder of Maria Cristina Foundation, wearing Zena Presley

Maria runs a foundation that provides education scholarships for children from slum communities in Bangladesh. It currently has over 100 children on school scholarships both in Bangladesh and in Dubai, as well as five who have progressed to university thanks to the help they received. The foundation also educates parents of these families and helps them find gainful employment. Maria, from Portugal, loves to be outdoors, so we took her to the new Dubai Water Canal for a stroll.

How do you think being in the UAE has helped you build the foundation?

If it wasn’t for the UAE I would never have started the foundation. I was working for Emirates Airlines as cabin crew and decided to help poor families after a trip to Bangladesh. I got a lot of support from individuals and businesses, including Emirates, and the foundation grew and grew.

What do you love most about the UAE?

I think that the huge achievements of the country and how much it has developed encourages people to aim high and believe in themselves. The children are also inspired by Dubai, they even want to change their own country to make it more like the UAE.

What does the future hold for you?

We are currently looking for 21 Emiratis to be on our board of directors so we can eventually register the foundation as a charity in the UAE.


Karen McClean, founder of Secret Squirrel Food, wearing Zayan the Label and bag by Amanda Navai

Karen (also known as Secret Squirrel) is a former chartered accountant who gave up her day job 18 months ago to pursue her love for food with her healthy-eating blog Secret Squirrel Food. The blog has grown and now has over 220,000 followers on social media sites. Karen sources all of her ingredients at Al Awir Fruit and Vegetable Market, as she feels it has the freshest and most affordable ingredients in the city.

How do you think being in the UAE has helped you?

I don’t think I would ever be as successful if I were to do this back home in Australia. The market is still young here, so if you are one of the first people to be doing what you’re doing, and doing something that you love, then I think the UAE is the best platform to start your career.

What do you love most about the UAE?

That I get to meet so many amazing people every day from all over the world. It’s the land of opportunity.

What does the future hold for you?

Eventually I want to have my own cookbook. Currently I’m in the process of launching my YouTube channel and eventually I want to sell the food I make.


Clarita De Quiroz, performer, wearing Madiyah Al Sharqi

Clarita is a singer and musician who performs in the UAE and abroad. She also owns entertainment company Groove Master, which provides entertainment for events across the country. When she’s not performing on stage, Clarita, from Scotland, is the life and soul of a party and never misses a girls’ night out. We took her to new karaoke haunt The Blind Dragon for some after-dark fun.

How do you think being in the UAE has helped you build your business?

I definitely would not be this successful anywhere else in the world. We get access to people quite easily here, making it much less troublesome to achieve your dreams. I signed with Sony Music here and I don’t think it would have been as easy for me in the UK.

What do you love most about the UAE?

I love the amount of talent that we have in the region and how easily you can get connected with people. The market here is fantastic for musicians and there are a lot of incredible people here doing some great stuff.

What does the future hold for you?

I would like to see my business expand gaining more clients. On a personal note, I would like to get more gigs, travel more and potentially have a non-music related business on the side.

Where to buy the designers we featured

  • Mochi, available at Harvey Nichols Dubai
  • Reemami, available at
  • Zena Presley, available at
  • Emperor 1668 boutique at Souk Madinat Jumeirah
  • Threads and Tailors suits are made to order from
  • Bambah boutique at Citywalk, Dubai
  • Zayan the Label, available at Sauce
  • Amanda Navai, available at Bloomingdale’s Dubai
  • Madiyah Al Sharqi, available at Symphony
Lindsay Judge

Lindsay Judge

Photography by Stefan Lindeque; Art direction by Verina Durand