DUBAI: If there is one industry that loves its buzzwords, it is fashion, and right now “diversity” and “inclusion” are definitely trendy. Those pushing these buzzwords want conversations to lead to meaningful change.
“Diversity in the Luxury Retail Industry” opened the afternoon session of Arab World Luxury (AWL), moderated by Candice D’Cruz, vice president for luxury brands in the Middle East and Africa at Marriott International Inc.
Panelists included Alexander Schmiedt, regional brand director for the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent at Vacheron Constantin; Chantal Khoueiry, chief culture officer at the Bicester Village Shopping Collection; Dima Ayad, PR and marketing consultant at 11 Honoré; and Samar Habayab, CEO of Silsal Design House.
“Diversity means so many things,” said D’Cruz. Audience members at AWL were polled as to what they believe companies should focus on — gender and generation came top. Schmiedt said: “For a luxury brand, what’s most important is its relationship with the client, and the client has never been so diverse.” He added that in the Middle East, “the whole industry is run by expats,” yet the clientele is mainly local; this needs to be corrected.
Ayad, who is also a fashion designer, said her focus is “finding a solution for women across all sizes.” One of the ways she has made her voice heard is through her “You As Is” collection, which encourages women to celebrate themselves as they are. She recently collaborated with another Dubai-based designer, Nadine Kanso, for the Arabic version of the “You As Is” t-shirt.
Collaboration seems to be a major tool for addressing diversity, whether it is home-gown design brand Silsal, which has worked with students from the Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation to ensure their products appeal to younger customers, or the Bicester Village Shopping Collection’s “reverse mentorship” program, which helps ensure it remains a millennial-friendly employer.
Ayad said: “It’s naive to think we can only be mainstream. It’s important to stay inclusive and be diverse.”