Wafaa Abbar: The queen of luxury retail therapy

Wafaa Abbar: The queen of luxury retail therapy
Updated 20 April 2016

Wafaa Abbar: The queen of luxury retail therapy

Wafaa Abbar: The queen of luxury retail therapy

After the success of the annual Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience in the fashion capital of the Middle East — Dubai — the unique and exciting event has traveled all the way to Jeddah, the fashion capital of Saudi Arabia.
Rubaiyat, Saudi Arabia’s go-to luxury destination, and Vogue Italia, the most influential Italian fashion magazine, have come together to provide an international platform for Saudi female fashion designers.
Saudi designers were required to submit their portfolios on Vogue Italia’s website, after which it was reviewed and selected by a team of Vogue Italia, who chose the works of ten designers. The winner will get full sponsorship to present her collection in Milan.
All the finalists will exhibit their work at the Rubaiyat department store in Jeddah and will have the opportunity to showcase and sell their collections at the Stars Avenue Mall.
“It is tremendously rewarding to see Saudi women being given such an opportunity on the world stage. We, together with Vogue Italia, are delighted to help highlight some of the Arab world’s most talented and emerging designers,” said Wafaa Abbar, president of the Rubaiyat Group.
Franca Sozzani, Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia, commented: “This initiative builds on Vogue Italia’s deep commitment to promote new fashion talents, knowing how important it is to offer them relevant and concrete international platforms to present and advance their creativity.”
In partnership with the National Home Health Care Foundation, the event will feature a unique opportunity to scout the best female talents, embracing their ambitions and promoting their work on an international platform whilst adding to this initiative a humanitarian dimension by supporting the National Home Health Care — an opportunity that combines efforts and talents for a good cause.
The funds raised, thanks to the organization of a women’s charity gala dinner, will be donated to the World Food Programme, which will encourage and support the empowerment of women living in underdeveloped areas of the world.
Arab News met with Wafaa Abbar, president of the Rubaiyat Group, one of the first Saudi women to start a retail business in the Kingdom, to talk about her career, achievements and the collaboration with Vogue Italia.

1. For those who don’t know you, who is Wafaa Abbar?

I am President of Rubaiyat Company and a main shareholder in the company, which I helped to co-found in Jeddah in 1980.

2. Tell us about yourself, what got you interested in the retail business and how did your career path lead you to be the president of a leading luxury retail fashion store?

I started my career in retail as manager of client accounts at the Abbar Company where I was responsible for purchasing. My interest in fashion wear led me to start with Rubaiyat where I worked as children’s and ladies manager. My responsibilities increased as the company grew bigger and eventually I became President of Rubaiyat.

3- Tell us about the journey behind establishing Rubaiyat.

It has been a long and very fulfilling journey during which I and my colleagues have worked steadily to consolidate the acquisition of the exclusive distribution rights in Saudi Arabia for some of the most prestigious brands including Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Kenzo, Lanvin, Ermenegildo Zegna and many others. Over the years we have continuously reinvested in expanding with outlets in prominent locations and today Rubaiyat is a kingdom-wide chain with branches in Jeddah, Riyadh, Alkhobar and Dhahran.

4. How is a day in the life of the president of a leading luxury retail company?

Let us describe it as challenging but always bringing something new to the table. We are in constant movement, just like fashion and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. time speeds by, between meetings and strategic decisions, reports and mainly a continuous eye on fashion and brands, the day ends with the certitude that 24 hours are never enough in the day.

5. In 2014, Rubaiyat opened the first luxury fashion department store in Jeddah. Tell us more about the concept.

With the Rubaiyat Department Store, we are redefining luxury shopping experience in Jeddah not only by offering the widest range of leading brands, but also by offering an exclusive service provided by fashion advisers that have been trained to cater to our clients’ needs and wishes.

6. How has the 30-year journey with Rubaiyat been?

For more than 30 years, Rubaiyat has been pioneering the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia.

7. How did you manage to keep your standards high and keep up with the fast changing market, given that new competitors have entered the Saudi luxury market?

We have attained our leading position by focusing on the highest levels of quality and customer service, while innovation keeps us apace with the fast changing market.

8. What is your vision of what Rubaiyat should look like in the future and how do you plan to get there? Can you paint that big picture for us?

Rubaiyat has always been a versatile entity that sets the trends in fashion, creating unique models and concepts to satisfy its clientele. Our evolution for the last 36 years has always been the wise consequence of calculated decisions and well placed investments to build on the heritage whilst looking at the future with sharp eyes. With the new retail panorama changes and fashion evolution, Rubaiyat is leading the way by introducing new brands and creating unique concepts whilst always having in mind, the end consumer and his needs from a luxury company. These are principles we have always believed in and worked toward. Going the extra mile when it comes to any service or product is key for us to cater to our clients’ expectations. We build the future with faith and determination, focusing on enriching our client’s experience and pursuing our fashion journey alongside him.

9. What do you feel are some of the best aspects of the retail industry today, and what not-so-great features you would like to see changed?

At the high-end of the retail industry, where Rubaiyat is positioned, the best aspect is the very high level creativity, which keeps on delivering fresh new ideas while maintaining classical traditions and quality. What I would like to see changed is greater prevention of counterfeiting of the top brand names.

10. It was recently announced that Rubaiyat is teaming up with Vogue Talents to spot and promote the best women designers in Saudi Arabia. Tell us more about this collaboration.

In partnership with the National Home Health Care Foundation, Rubaiyat is hosting the Vogue Italia Experience, which will take place in Jeddah on April 20-21 and in Riyadh on April 22-23. The event is dedicated to a global celebration of Arab women, their heritage and culture. It will offer extraordinary experiences to entertain, involve, promote and engage local women.

11. What inspired this collaboration? And what is Rubaiyat’s vision toward it? Will this be an annual collaboration?

Rubaiyat represents many of the most famous Italian fashion brands so it is natural that we team up with Vogue Italia to bring this event to Saudi Arabia. Our vision is to identify young Saudi designers, nurture their talents, and give them an opportunity to appear on the international stage. We would like to see it become an annual event and will evaluate the results to see if this is feasible.

12. Why has Rubaiyat partnered with the National Home Health Care Foundation and how will it benefit the foundation?

The National Home Health Care Foundation (NHHCF) is one of the finest and most worthy charitable organizations in the Kingdom. As an NGO it cannot receive donations from entities outside Saudi Arabia and is dependent on funds raised within the Kingdom, accordingly, all revenues generated by Rubaiyat from the event will be donated to the NHHCF.

13. At the end of the day, what image and thoughts would you wish to come to consumers’ minds at the mention of the name Rubaiyat?

Rubaiyat always aims to be known as the leading retailer of high fashion and luxury goods in the kingdom, through its commitment to innovation and the highest levels of quality, world-class presentation, and thoughtful and attentive customer service.

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