Lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters opens first Middle East store 

The multinational brand has 200 outlets in the US, Canada and Europe. (Shutterstock)
Updated 05 September 2019

Lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters opens first Middle East store 

DUBAI: Lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters on Thursday opened its first Middle East store in the glitzy UAE city of Dubai.

With 200 outlets in the US, Canada and Europe, the multinational brand has also created an Arabic logo tailored to the region.

Well-loved by celebrity fans, the store stocks a range of on-trend women’s and men’s clothes and accessories, along with lingerie and vintage items.

Stefan Laban, the global head of parent company URBN International, said the fashion brand inspired customers through a unique combination of products, creativity and cultural understanding.

“Urban Outfitters is about curating looks for customers. One thing that is special about us is how we pull products together,” Laban told Arab News.

“I think nowadays, people are looking for inspirational retail. They get inspired when they see something new, and I think we bring that,” he said.

The American fashion chain offers more than just Urban Outfitters originals. The store features internationally renowned brands such as Adidas, Calvin Klein, Champion and many more.

“We always style brands with our own products. We never have a rack of all T-shirts. It is all mixed,” Laban added.

Urban Outfitters also has a “home” collection that includes furniture, bedding, tapestries, rugs and shower curtains. “In this store, the home section is large because we believe that is a really nice gap in the market (that we are fulfilling).”

As the first store to open in the Middle East – deemed a culturally conservative region – the fashion brand opted for separate men’s and women’s fitting rooms, which it usually keeps gender neutral in its international stores.

According to Laban, there were factors the brand had to consider before displaying its collection in the Middle East. “Seasonality is very different. It is hot outside so we wanted to find things that people would buy now, but you also have heavier items for people who travel.”

“All the fixtures in the store are made in the UAE. We also work with a local greenhouse in Dubai that supplies us with plants and eventually we would love to work with local fashion designers,” he said.

The brand is aiming to open more stores in the Middle East in the near future.

From Syria to stardom: Zain Al-Rafeea sheds light on his Hollywood highlights

Zain Al-Rafeea spoke to Arab News about his role in ‘The Eternals.’ (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2020

From Syria to stardom: Zain Al-Rafeea sheds light on his Hollywood highlights

LOS ANGELES: A child is forced to leave home to escape a terrible fate. Growing up in a strange land, he develops a special talent and achieves greatness.

It is a familiar story that could describe the lives of a host of superheroes. But it also applies to refugee and actor Zain Al-Rafeea, and his courageous journey from Syria to stardom.

Al-Rafeea was born in 2004. His family fled the Syrian conflict when he was eight, moving to Lebanon, where they were forced to find shelter in the slums of Beirut.

“Unfortunately, refugees face harsh conditions in Lebanon because the country has so many of them,” Al-Rafeea told Arab News. “I never thought I would be an actor or a famous person. I just dreamt of being safe with my family and that nothing bad would happen to them. I was focusing on making money to support my parents.”

In late 2017, Al-Rafeea’s life was changed by a chance encounter with Jennifer Haddad, casting director and collaborator of acclaimed Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki.

“I was in the street with a group of friends. I saw Jennifer, and she asked me if I would like to act. My first reaction was like ‘OK, I have no problem with that.’ She took a video of me, sent it to Nadine and things went on from there.”

Labaki cast Al-Rafeea as the lead in her 2018 drama “Capernaum.” The film was a hit, and the young actor’s performance was lauded by both audiences and critics.

“I did not imagine in my wildest dreams that I have such an international success,” Al-Rafeea said. “I just thought of it as an acting experience, but things went in a much better direction.”

In November, it was announced that Al-Rafeea will join the cast of Marvel’s upcoming “The Eternals.” The film tells the story of a race of immortal aliens who lived on Earth in secret, and features A-list stars such as Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.

“The introduction happened through Nadine. Directors and producers from Hollywood talked to her and she put us in touch,” Al-Rafeea said.

The actor met his fellow cast members on the Canary Islands during the early stages of filming. “They were nice and their welcome to me was very sweet,” he said. “They invited me for lunch and we chatted for hours, I felt so happy.

“When we finished the first day’s shooting, Salma Hayek came up and hugged me. That night she gave me an iPad and iPhone, and we chatted and listened to music together.”

The teenage star couldn’t reveal much about his role in “The Eternals,” only that he joins the alien heroes as a human who can speak a mysterious 7,000-year-old language.

Life in the Beirut slums is a thing of the past for the Al-Rafeea family. With their son’s success, they were able to relocate to Norway.

“It is a perfect country, the people are so calm, and there are no fights or even traffic. Having water and electricity all the time is a great thing.” While he is excited about his new home, Al-Rafeea has not forgotten his friends, family and the home he left behind in Syria.

“Work hard for nothing is impossible — look what happened to me,” Al-Rafeea said in a message to children facing situations like the one he endured. “Simply dream big.”

“The Eternals” is due to be released in the US on Nov. 6, 2020. A Middle Eastern premiere date is yet to be announced.