LO­CAL TAL­ENT

THE FOUNDER OF EMI­RATI BRAND FEATH­ERS FASH­ION

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Where did the idea for Feath­ers Fash­ion come from?

The idea of Feath­ers started when I was study­ing in Scot­land. I was study­ing ur­ban de­sign at the Ed­in­burgh Col­lege of Art. My back­ground is ar­chi­tec­ture, but in the same col­lege, there were spe­cial­i­ties where you could de­sign in dif­fer­ent as­pects—graphic de­sign, ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign, fur­ni­ture de­sign, and prod­uct de­sign. I had some friends who were study­ing prod­uct de­sign, and I was lik­ing what they were do­ing— they were de­sign­ing watches, de­sign­ing pens and so on. And I was try­ing to at­tend what­ever ex­hi­bi­tions they did, or sem­i­nars or what­ever.

The idea clicked in my mind at that time. I thought that it looked like it was easy to de­sign a prod­uct. And it’s a nice idea that we as Arabs, we like brands, and we like to wear nice watches and have nice pens and shoes and so on. So I thought, why do we buy from western brands? Why don’t we do our own de­signs and our own brands?

Once you’d had those ideas, how did get the brand go­ing?

Two years af­ter I’d come back from my Mas­ters, I de­cided to go ahead with my busi­ness. I was not a businessman—i was work­ing for a gov­ern­ment depart­ment. I was a di­rec­tor of ur­ban de­sign. I de­cided to start my busi­ness on the side, and so we started by preparing for the project for al­most a year, de­sign­ing the right logo, find­ing the right lo­ca­tion, do­ing the right dec­o­ra­tions for the shop, de­sign­ing the ini­tial prod­ucts.

We started with hand­bags for women and scarves, and some cases for mo­bile phones and ipads and so on. It was a very hum­ble start. We started the busi­ness on Oc­to­ber 10, 2010—so it was 10/10/10, and even the open­ing was at 10 o’clock in the morn­ing. It was a very small party, where friends and fam­ily came and so on.

In one full year, it was very suc­cess­ful for us. Be­ing the first Emi­rati and Khaleeji brand, most of the cus­tomers sup­port­ing us are lo­cals and cus­tomers from the GCC. We re­ceived good feed­back from them and they were our suc­cess. And dur­ing this year, we in­tro­duced more prod­ucts and in­creased the range. We started with watches, we started do­ing wal­lets for men, per­fumes, and jew­ellery.

And how has the range evolved over this time?

The range of prod­ucts we’re offering is for men and women. We are try­ing to be like the other brands in that re­gard. Cur­rently, there are more women’s prod­ucts than men’s, how­ever we are in­creas­ing the men’s range. We have jew­ellery for women, we have ac­ces­sories for men and women, like cuff­links, key­chains, mugs and things like this. They’re nice gifts for guests. We have

per­fumes for men and women, bags for men and women, watches for men and women, pens, and we re­cently in­tro­duced san­dals. We’re also plan­ning shoes for women, and we will also have sun­glasses, which are un­der de­sign now.

Do you still de­sign ev­ery­thing your­self?

Yes, I’m cur­rently de­sign­ing most of the prod­ucts. There are some prod­ucts for which we got the help of some artists. With some of the scarves, we dealt with two artists—one is from Syria and one is from Jor­dan. They are fa­mous for their cal­lig­ra­phy and Ara­bic ornaments, so they de­signed some scarves for us. There’s also an iphone case which has the poetry of Sheikh Zayed, and the art­work was de­signed by one of the artists. Other than that, most of the prod­ucts are de­signed by me.

How have you found that, com­ing from an ar­chi­tec­ture back­ground?

Com­ing from the back­ground of ar­chi­tec­ture, you usu­ally get ex­posed to many sec­tors of de­sign. There’s graphic de­sign be­cause you have to present your work in a good way. And some­times in ar­chi­tec­ture, we de­sign the interiors and the fur­ni­ture. The de­sign el­e­ment, we have it as ar­chi­tects. And I like watches, and I like pens, so I like de­sign­ing them. And then I started de­sign­ing the hand­bags and so on, and it was suc­cess­ful.

What’s your de­sign process?

We de­sign the prod­uct on pa­per, and then we get it on the com­puter. We do the 3D mod­el­ling for it, and then we sub­mit it to our sup­pli­ers, who do de­tailed de­sign for us, and then we get it ap­proved. Then we start with a sam­ple or pro­to­type, and if we’re happy with it, we go ahead with the full pro­duc­tion. With each prod­uct we have, we try to do some­thing unique, and give it some in­ter­est­ing back­ground to do with the Arab re­gion.

It’s in­ter­est­ing that you’ve tied up with artists at a time when the Mid­dle East­ern art scene is ex­pand­ing. Is there scope for you to tie up with more artists?

I think the next stage is to get fresh ideas, fresh de­signs. We can­not de­pend on me de­sign­ing most of the prod­ucts. Yes, it has a co­her­ent unique­ness, be­cause there’s one de­signer who’s de­sign­ing most of the prod­ucts. But at the same time, at some point, we have to get the help of other artists and de­sign­ers. Yes, in the next stage, we will

try to tie up with de­sign­ers and we’ll get help to de­sign some of our lines, keep­ing in mind the Feath­ers style.

Do you have any plans for in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion fur­ther down the line?

We don’t want to rush it. There are brands which have never left their own coun­tries. We want to first ex­pand in the UAE, maybe open an­other store in Abu Dhabi, open a store in the North­ern Emi­rates, maybe in Ras Al Khaimah or Fu­jeirah. Then we’ll feel like we’ve cov­ered the UAE. The first step af­ter would be go­ing to the GCC coun­tries. We have peo­ple in­ter­ested from Saudi Ara­bia, Kuwait and Qatar, and we are talk­ing to them. Whether we do it our­selves, or if we get help, that will be our next step. And then later, maybe in five years, maybe we’ll look to do some­thing in Europe.

The Mo­hammed bin Zayed pen is made of pure sil­ver.

The Al Salam hand­bag was in­spired by the first ever hand­bag, made in 1300 AD

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1. The Eau per­fume for men 2. The tra­di­tional bracelet 3. The Ara­bic san­dals 4. The Sheikh Zayed Watch

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