- Online Shop
- Our Designers
...dripping with luxury
It’s strange to think that fifty years ago, Abu Dhabi was basically just sprawling desert with a semi-nomadic people herding camels and diving for pearls. Currently, each Emirati citizen has a median estimated net worth of around 10.7 million GBP, making it the richest city in the world, a stark contrast to it’s humble roots. There were no buildings or cars until fairly recently and yet a fantastical city has been created, something almost beyond the realms of imagination. Abu Dhabi is positioning itself to become a global luxury capital and an ultimate tourist destination, which will be able to sustain in the desert when the oil is no more.
The second largest mosque in the world stands here. It is a breathtaking specimen with marble floors and white and gold pillars, truly an Arabic masterpiece. The Emirates Palace is the second most costly hotel built in history at a whopping 1.9 billion GBP bankrolled by the government and opened in 2005. A golden glare from the massive stained glass dome at the top illuminates this auspicious palace, with its incredible amount of gold detailing.
There are two main malls: the Marina Mall and the Abu Dhabi Mall with a mix of western and Indian stores, and a scatter of Arab stores selling crafts and home goods. Currently under construction is an island off the coast called Saadiyat Island, which will become a new cultural district. It’s set to include a Guggenheim, a Louvre, a Sheikh Zayed National Museum, a performing arts center designed by Zaha Hadid, a Maritime Museum and the world’s largest indoor theme park called Ferrari World. Formula 1’s Grand Prix has been hosted in Abu Dhabi over the last few years drawing princes and playboys alike.
And while there are so many new things springing up in this Middle Eastern city, there is still a preservation of the Islamic culture and local customs. Muslim blogger Rania explains why their culture protects modesty based on the writings of the Qu’ran.
The city is opening to foreigners and allowing alcohol and less modesty for visitors but it is still a Muslim country. There are censors on the internet and the watchful eye of the government on people's musings. Stories of unmarried couples caught sleeping together and banished from the country are circulated by expats.
The women of Abu Dhabi dress in full hijab which means their clothing must cover the entire body, only the hands and face may remain visible. The material must not be too thin and must hang loose enough that the shape of the body is not revealed. They are also not to wear bold designs which attract attention; many women wears a very basic black hijab, some only showing their eyes.
The men wear turbans or head scarves with a red and white check patterns called Keffiyeh or white scarves held with a black rope called an agal. They wear these headpieces with white long sleeve robes called a thobe.
Under the hijab, women don beautiful silk and cotton dresses, heavily embroidered and typically in bright colors. Stores stock many Indian and European designers. For women, dresses and accessories are the main pieces found in shops. The women love to carry luxury handbags. Many couture houses have accessories stores in Abu Dhabi.
Fashion is starting to heat up here. World Luxury Fashion Week will be held October 23-27th with the likes of Givenchy, Burberry, Lanvin, and Tom Ford holding court. Some home grown talent is also taking off. Ahmed Abdelrahman, an elegant young man from Dubai has become a fashion darling of sorts, wooing the hearts of editors from New York to Paris. He is the protege of Michele Lamy (muse and wife of Rick Owens) and has started a line called Thamanyah which means 8 in Arabic. His clothes are beautiful renditions of the Islamic inspired pieces done in an ever so sleek way, a la Rick Owens. He is currently showing at Paris Fashion Week.
Another Emirati taking the fashion world by storm is Sultan Al Darmaki, a luxury shoe designer from the UAE. His line Darmaki was inspired by a princess he met in Abu Dhabi. These beautiful works of art have gotten press in Grazia, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. One of Damarki’s debut designs was recently acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London to be housed as part of its permanent collection of significant footwear through the ages.
The veils of secrecy combined with the enormous power permeating Abu Dhabi seem to be a fatal recipe for seduction. Its fashion and architecture are intoxicating and it’s quickly becoming a destination for all things luxury. This strange amalgamation of modesty and modernity, secrecy and censorship, extreme wealth and dedication to religion are a bit mind boggling for the Western soul. It’s definitely worth a trip to have a look behind the veil.