Pre-loved fashion pop-up takes Dubai by storm

The Luxury Closet is the Middle East’s premier e-portal for authenticated pre-owned high fashion items. (Shutterstock)
Updated 09 July 2019

Pre-loved fashion pop-up takes Dubai by storm

DUBAI: The Luxury Closet (TLC) is the Middle East’s premier e-portal for authenticated pre-owned high fashion items. It has been in the market since 2011 and made its maiden mall appearance a few days ago. Its pop-up format at Dubai’s Marina Mall will be open till October and houses about 500 secondhand fashion items, ranging from a crocodile skin Hermes Birkin to an animal print Dolce & Gabbana cocktail dress. (The website has an inventory of more than 29,000 luxury items). 

Its timing could not be better. The RealReal, one of America’s leading on-line luxury resellers started trading on the NASDAQ last Friday and its share prices jumped by more than 40 per cent within the first few minutes of trading. As the backlash against excess consumption in the fashion industry grows, “pre-loved” fashion is the industry’s new buzzword.

America is the second largest market for Dubai-based TLC when it comes to buying — but when it comes to supply it is all about the Middle East. Women here are known to love their high-end shopping and TLC offers a great solution for off-loading pieces you may no longer want.

“When we first opened in this market we were not really well received but today the story has changed,” says Pablo Durante, chief marketing officer of TLC.

It seems the under-25s even in the GCC are more open to buying pre-loved items. For them platforms such as TLC are trading places where they can buy pieces they want and sell pieces they no longer desire. “It’s like a trading site,” explains Durrante.

Pop-ups such as the one in Marina Mall are a way of educating this market and showing the region there is also nothing wrong with buying secondhand pieces. “Brick and mortar spaces helps build trust,” says Durante.

You can find some real value buys — a Prada bag that if new might may cost you around 10,000 AED dirhams ($2,700) can be found at TLC for little more than 6,500 dirhams.

The plan for TLC is have more such spaces in the GCC—and one of the next ports of call could be Saudi Arabia. So, it looks as if you could soon be going to the mall to buy secondhand or, as the industry likes to call it, pre-loved fashion.

Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern

Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2019

Sheikha Alyazia’s ‘mishmash’ of ancient and modern

  • Inside the Emirati artist’s inaugural solo exhibition in London, ‘I Met a Traveler From an Antique Land’

LONDON: You are searching for treasure. Several potential locations are marked with an ‘x’ on your map. You move methodically from site to site, always to be met with disappointment — never striking gold. Are you, in following trails set by others, missing the treasure ‘hidden’ in plain view?

This is one of the conundrums posed in the artworks of Sheikha Alyazia Bint Nahyan Al-Nahyan, whose inaugural solo exhibition in London presented a thought-provoking range of work fusing the ancient past with modern life.

Her “Mishmash Trails” featured cave-like shapes cut in marble, with the treasure taking the form of imagined ancient eastern coins, reflecting Arab, Roman and Phoenician influences. She described the coins, embedded in the marble, as symbolic of the great treasures buried in secret locations that were sought out and fought over by many. 

Al-Nahyan named her exhibition — held at Pi Artworks from June 25 to July 7 — with the opening line of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias”: “I met a traveler from an antique land.” (Ozymandias is the Greek name for the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II.)

Mishmash Dirham. (Supplied) 

The poem, published in 1818, imagines a meeting between the narrator and a traveller who describes a ruined statue lying in the desert. The description of the statue is a meditation on the fragility of human power and on the effects of time: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!/Nothing beside remains: round the decay/Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

“Maybe a positive thing from looking to the past is that it proves it is only human to repeat the mistake and the lesson,” Al-Nahyan told Arab News. “Studying the past is a realization of human nature, individually or in groups, right or wrong. This natural feeling of connectivity is something I usually aim for.”

There is humor in some of her work — particularly the depictions of old commercial airline advertisements from the 1950s and 60s with ancient figures superimposed in the frames. They certainly give the viewer pause for thought about how much our world has changed in the short time since air travel became widely available.

The exhibition’s curator, Janet Rady, said of Al-Nahyan: “She has been practicing art from a very young age and is self-taught. She is incredibly talented, and you see this in the wide range of her work, which uses all sorts of different media. I can’t necessarily call her a pop artist or a collage artist or an installation artist; she is in fact all of these things, but it is the concept behind her work — connecting the past with the present — which is important.”

The UAE’s UK ambassador, Mansoor Abulhoul, was present at the opening and he particularly admired Al-Nahyan’s works based on the classic wooden board game Carrom paired with a modern video game.

Carrom Station in Motion. (Supplied) 

“I first played Carrom with my cousins as a boy, and she has combined it with modern computer games, which is very creative,” he said. He pointed out that her innovative work ties in well with the dynamic of the UAE.

“Next year we have EXPO 2020, with its theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.’ It’s very much about our roots and how we take them forward, how we develop the mind and global cooperation,” he said. 

The exhibition included a short clip from Al-Nahyan’s upcoming film “Athel,” written by Al-Nahyan’s sister, Sheikha Shamsa. It centers on a strange encounter in the desert between a pre-Islamic poet and a modern-day TV presenter. “Athel” is set for release later this year and stars Hala Shiha and Mansour Al-Fili.

“The idea behind it all is taken from the tradition of Arabic poetry — its wisdom and, sometimes, risks,” Al-Nahyan explained. “And ending with a realization of one tribal law putting redemption and family before all.” She added that there are some “light-hearted” moments in the film too.

Arabic poetry is an ongoing inspiration for Al-Nahyan’s work, adding another layer of meaning to many of her pieces.

“The Arabic language is poetic, and Arabs and other cultures around the world have documented their lives through poetry,” she said. “So, for example, when tackling the topic of what is considered treasure, we found different meanings in various verses. Like when (pre-Islamic poet) Zuhair Bin Abi Salma refers to glory as the only true treasure.”

There is a much to absorb and reflect on in this exhibition which opens windows into many facets of Arab history and culture and poses universal questions about humanity and what constitutes real treasure.