Fashion’s love affair with bygone days has never wavered. Only recently the S/S15 catwalks gave a huge nod to the 1970s and instantly we put flares, fringing and platforms at the top of our style wish lists. The popularity of vintage fashion has been sky-high in cities like London, Berlin and New York for some time. The shove-your-sleeves-up-ready-to-rummage vibe of weekly flea markets and stores with messy rails has fashionistas overseas giddy at the anticipation of their next great find.
Dubai isn’t like any other city. It does things its own way, but a love of all things vintage – oh yes, old, used-before pre-loved things – is penetrating the city’s shiny veneer. This new love of old clothes can’t go unnoticed in a region with a reputation for only embracing gleaming newness.
Thanks to the UAE’s uber-glamorous approach to shopping we’ve all become a bit blinkered by new trends, designs and ‘it’ items. But with more nationalities moving here, the demand for great vintage clothing and accessories is growing fast.
Independent specialist boutiques and pre-loved pop-up sales (pre-loved meaning newer second-hand items worn once or not at all) are emerging. Expect to find a 1990s’ Gucci handbag, a gorgeous 1950s’ brooch or the Valentino heels that sold out in a blink last season. Presented in the luxury look of designer stores, each item comes with the promise of being unique. We meet the women behind the UAE’s old-meets-new fashion revolution.
Lynda Kirby, 50, is founder of vintage jewellery and accessories brand Audrey’s Cat
British-born Lynda Kirby moved to Jumeirah 15 years ago, and while she’s been an avid collector of vintage jewellery and accessories for 30 years, it wasn’t until two years ago that she decided to launch her own business, Audrey’s Cat.
She sells authentic vintage pieces across all decades, with some even dating back as far as the 19th century. Every room in her house is an Aladdin’s cave of antiques, a treasure trove of vintage fashion. It’s also the location of her appropriately named – thanks to her love of felines – store, Audrey’s Cat.
Lynda is keen to highlight her pieces are authentic vintage and not pre-loved. “There is a difference. The pieces I collect are original and date back at least three decades,” she says. “I always try to find pieces that have a story behind them, and only choose items that are of the absolute best quality.”
For example, Lynda once picked up a 1920s’ bag after finding an old cinema ticket that was left inside by its original owner, making it truly authentic.
Despite the popularity of Lynda’s business, with more than 100 regular customers, she did think twice before opening her doors. “I was worried about starting my business as I don’t think everyone in Dubai understands vintage yet,” she says. “It’s not just about cheap old pieces; some of my pieces are more valuable than any diamond ring because of their history.”
While her items start at around Dh50, you can pay thousands for the more rare items but Lynda thinks it’s money well spent. “Most pieces are one-of-a-kind. You’ll never find them again anywhere in the world, and I think that makes them really special.”
While her fashion icon is Sarah Jessica Parker, when it comes to her own style Lynda lives and breathes vintage. “My go-to outfit for any event would be a classic 1920s’ dress. The ladies of that day were so elegant,” she muses. Even if Lynda isn’t wearing full vintage she adds touches to an outfit – a beautiful brooch or a pill-box hat.
“My dream is to set up a millinery fair in Dubai,” she reveals. “Just in time for The Dubai World Cup. I have so many beautiful hats I’d love to share.”
Lynda sources her pieces from all around the world, but she does have a few favourite cities. “Paris, New York and London are of course the best places to find vintage, but I also travel to Australia looking for vintage gems.”
When she’s not at home assisting customers who arrange private appointments to choose from the collection, Lynda pitches up at the Wafi Bazaar, at Wafi Mall. Here she sells to a wider range of customers.
“The Wafi Bazaar attracts tourists from all cultures so I get a much wider range of customers here,” says Lynda. “My main personal aim is to get every woman wearing a [vintage] brooch. Kate Middleton has started to wear brooches, so I think that will encourage people to try them.” And with her passion, we feel she might just succeed.
Audrey’s Cat, www.facebook.com/AudreysCat. The Wafi Bazaar runs every third Saturday of the month at Wafi Mall.
Micha Maatouk, 37, is owner of Garderobe Boutique on Jumeirah Beach Road
Micha Maatouk decided to launch her own pre-loved clothing boutique four years ago, having worked in the fashion industry for 14 years. With stints as a buyer at Harvey Nichols Dubai and a store manager at Chanel in The Dubai Mall under her belt, Micha, who lives in Jumeirah, wanted to take fashion into her own hands and provide women with something she felt they couldn’t find anywhere else in the market.
Micha, who is from Lebanon, sources pristine unwanted pieces from ladies’ wardrobes in the UAE, many of whom come to her with clothing they no longer want or need, having found out about the store through friends. She then sells the pieces at a fraction of what they were worth originally. In fact, sometimes 90 per cent less than the original price tag, so you can pick up a Chanel handbag for as little as Dh2,000.
“When I opened the store, I didn’t know whether people were going to understand,” she says. This is perhaps because pre-loved clothing was a very new concept to the region. “It has been a learning curve, but with trial and error of the types of pieces we sell we’ve got it right.”
Inside the store you’ll find pieces from every designer you can imagine, each piece is in mint condition, often unworn and just one or two seasons old.
“I am very strict with the selection process and see every piece before it reaches the store,” says Micha. “Every piece has to be high-end designer and in almost flawless condition.”
And her pickiness pays off – the quality is as close to the originals as it could be and demand is high. “We have dozens of ladies visiting every day from all kinds of backgrounds. They want a dress for an event, or something unique their friends won’t have,” she says.
While her priority is the women who visit her store, Micha can’t help but purchase a few pieces for herself; “Chanel is my favourite brand so I often find myself purchasing pieces before they make it into the store!” she says.
Micha feels it’s a great way of getting value for money. “I’d never pay full price for some of the items I own!” she says.
Garderobe, Jumeirah Beach Road, 04 394 2753, www.garderobe.ae.
Founders of pre-loved clothing company So Chic, Alex Bouvy, 35, from Belgium and Emma Di Rito, 40, from France
Best friends Alex and Emma first met on the beach in Dubai three years ago and instantly bonded over their love of fashion. They have a chic and minimalistic style, which they found hard to replicate in the UAE.
“It’s very hard to find certain pieces in Dubai,” says mum-of-two Emma. “Designers like Sandro and Isabel Marant are often a lot more expensive.”
It soon became clear there was a gap in the market for pre-loved clothing. “We decided to set up a service that makes some of our favourite designers more accessible to women in the UAE.”
And So Chic was born. The idea is to present pre-loved clothing to women in the UAE through regular events. All you need to do is turn up and shop, you don’t even have to pay to get in!
Alex and Emma make their money from sales, taking a 70 per cent cut, with the remainder going to the owner of the item.
Alex and Emma visit ladies’ houses in Dubai, many of whom are friends of friends, or have found out about the events through word of mouth,sourcing unwanted pieces that stay true to their chic European style.
“We are looking for a certain style, so there are items we turn away,” says Emma. “We won’t take anything that isn’t in pristine condition.”
Most pieces have had one previous owner, but they also source direct from European boutiques – items a couple of seasons old that didn’t sell. Prices start at Dh50 and 3,000 women attended their third event at the Nyla House in Jumeirah in December.
“This is a very interesting city,” says Alex. “People are coming from so many different places with many different styles allowing women to experiment with fashion. I’d love to see this grow.”
For details of the next So Chic event at Nyla House, Jumeirah Beach Road, visit www.facebook.com/SoChicUAE.
Maha Abdul Rasheed, 29, is owner of Bambah, a vintage boutique on Jumeirah Beach Road
When Maha Abdul Rasheed set up Bambah four years ago, she felt she was taking a huge risk as vintage was a very new concept in the region and she wasn’t sure how shoppers would feel about it. “All of my research told me that nobody knew what vintage was in Dubai,” she says. But luckily she went ahead in the hope she’d convince other women to share her passion.
“It only seemed right that I bring to Dubai a little of what I know is out there in the world. But I needed to change the experience of vintage,” says the Egyptian-born fashionista, who has been in Dubai for 18 years. “I didn’t want the old vintage smell you get in some stores, and I didn’t want my customers to have to rummage through rails.”
So Maha created a minimalistic boutique with a few select pieces on each rail (the LBD area is a must-visit), and maintained a vintage vibe by adding old-world furniture and floral decor.
And it worked! Bambah has been a huge success with 65 per cent of customers Emirati- or GCC-born women who love unique pieces they won’t see on any one else. Spurred on by this success, Maha creates her own vintage-inspired pieces, which draw from her love of 1950s’ styles and cuts.
And in the future? Maha would love to see the equivalent of London’s Portobello market in Dubai. “I’d love to see Dubai make vintage stores and markets a go-to destination for shoppers everywhere.”
Bambah Boutique, 142, Jumeirah Beach Road, 04 349 5585, www.bambah.com.