When I first moved from the cultural hotbed that is the Holloway Road out into the desert, I did wonder if it marked the end of my life tripping over East End pop-ups and smugly showcasing niche bracelets made in a mate of a mate’s airing cupboard. (Note: to my knowledge, I have never actually worn a bracelet made in an airing cupboard. But I like to think that if I had wanted to, it would have been easy to procure).
My point is, I thought that moving to Dubai would be the exact opposite of this; devoid of any emerging local talent, with the only brands able to take root in such an arid sandscape being the ones able to water themselves – the likes of Prada, Gucci, Saint Laurent etc. And while the big boys have certainly stamped their authority all over the malls, happily, there’s life outside them too. Mostly on Instagram. I found these five running riot on social media, proving that a) we’ve got serious game and b) days of my life spent zoned-out and scrolling have not gone to waste.
Artisan embroidery, Bardotesque off-the-shoulder tops and pom poms for days, Mochi founder Ayah Tabari has cornered the market on “Oh this? I just picked it up in a market in Goa” chic. Not only does the brand have legs (ASOS bought it, then Harvey Nichols-Dubai), but its Insta is a guaranteed jolt of sunshine.
So Gaelle is technically based in Beirut (still Middle East!) but I’m commandeering her as one of our own. Especially since it was marvellous, Dubai-based bag designer Nathalie Trad (also her sister-in-law) who told me about her. Although I’d been following her on Insta already because I’m clever like that. Gaelle’s high-end jewellery comes with a dark side and I am more that ok with it.
Shop-gallery-salon hybrid Soh is exactly what Dubai needs more of. Things that pleasingly aren’t really sure exactly what they are but they’re going for it full throttle anyway because who needs restrictions, man? Have your hair dyed purple whilst some chancer* paints your Birkin with a jaunty slogan.
*probably not a chancer. More likely to be an exceptionally talented pop artist who’s a dab hand with a paintbrush.
Tales Of Rebels (@talesofrebels)
Ok, this one I have a confession attached to. I didn’t actually find them on Instagram, they found me. But thank God they did, cos otherwise I would have never met the incredibly charming and impossibly cool founder, Camilla. She’s also the first woman who convinced me that I could rock an abaya. A leopard-print one, mind, but still.
Another Beirut baby, Hussein has just won the Style.com Arabia fashion prize for awesomeness. It’s always encouraging to see a high-end ready-to-wear designer coming out of the region – someone with formal fashion training, a real in-depth knowledge of their craft and a completely fresh eye that has the potential to take them the whole distance. Someone like Elie Saab, for example, who – incidentally – Hussein used to work for. It’s about time we had a new-gen Elie, and my money is definitely on this young man.