THE FOUNDER OF EMIRATI BRAND FEATHERS FASHION
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
1. The Eau perfume for men 2. The traditional bracelet 3. The Arabic sandals 4. The Sheikh Zayed Watch