There’s no shortage of shopping malls and department stores in Abu Dhabi, but while these retail utopias offer variety and choice, there’s also a wealth of hidden gems for shoppers who prefer niche labels, exclusive pieces and a more personal retail experience. These boutique stores are of course well known to local fashion lovers, but if you’re visiting the capital, you might unwittingly pass them by. To make sure that doesn’t happen, we’ve scoured the city to find the best boutiques for you to visit during your stay.
Tucked away on the first floor of Dalma Mall you’ll find Feathers Fashion, a high-end accessories boutique specialising in fine jewellery, wallets, pens and handbags. The brainchild of Emirati entrepreneur Khalid Basaeed, Feathers Fashion is the first ever homegrown luxury goods brand and it has taken the UAE shopping scene by storm.
“The concept behind Feathers Fashion is to reflect the culture of the UAE. The heart of the brand is local, from the raw materials we use, such as camel leather, to the Arabian pattern designs,” explains Basaeed, who originally studied architecture before a love of product design led him to open the first Feathers store in 2010.
The brand, which Basaeed likens to international players such as Carolina Herrera and Aigner, is a fantastic find for visitors who are after something exclusive. “Our products make wonderful gifts and mementos, because you won’t find these pieces anywhere else in the world,” explains Basaeed. One such item is a special-edition Swiss watch, which was designed to commemorate the late UAE president HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and features an engraved silhouette of his face on its dial. As one of the stores best selling items, buyers are often required to go on a waiting list, which only adds to the air of exclusivity. Other popular pieces are the camel leather wallets, pearl jewellery, which has strong regional significance, and accessories such as charm bracelets bearing traditional Arabian coffee pots.
While Feathers Fashion prides itself on being an exclusive local brand, Basaeed has plans in the future to open more stores in other Gulf countries over the next few years before going international.
“We’re a local brand with ambitions to go global. Hopefully, over the next decade, we can establish ourselves in the fashion capitals of the world and perhaps one day sell our products in London, Milan and Paris.”
A labour of love is perhaps the best way to describe multi-brand boutique, LA Rags at Al Seef Village Mall on Salam Street. The California-inspired fashion store, which started life in the living room of part-time designer and personal shopper Salma Saad, was originally called Mirabelle Boutique, but was re-branded last year when the store moved premises and introduced menswear to its range. Despite the change in location, this chic concept retains all the intimacy and exclusivity of the original shop that garnered Saad a faithful following. “When I decided to open LA Rags in Abu Dhabi,
I knew it needed to have the warmth and cosiness of my home, so we used vintage materials and natural woods throughout the interiors. Ultimately I want my customers to experience the personal touch when they visit us.”
That personal touch is exactly what sets LA Rags apart from so many other boutiques that are present in the emirate.
“We have a seating area at the back of the store where I get to know my customers. I then make it my mission for them to walk out with that one piece that makes them feel good. I like the challenge of it all and the best part of it is that my customers then become part of the LA Rags family,” explains Saad.
The boutique stocks everything from floaty maxi dresses to shoes, swimwear and accessories, and Saad travels far and wide to acquire her carefully curated selection. “I go to a lot of the big fashion trade shows in New York, Las Vegas, LA, Milan and Berlin. There is something for everyone and we cater for customers who are seven years old, right up to 50.”
While Saad acknowledges that LA Rags is one among a growing legion of boutiques in Abu Dhabi, she believes that the approachable and individual feel of her store makes it one of a kind.
Home décor enthusiasts will be in heaven at Mosaique, a high-end boutique at Nation Galleria. With an eclectic choice of accessories and furniture, everything in the store has been carefully selected by owner and creative director, Lama Qaddumi-Shahin. “Whether visitors are looking for alternative gift ideas, an original mix of home accessories, interesting art or interior design consultations, Mosaique specialises in the unique.”
As an interior designer who has always been passionate about beautiful furniture and accessories, Qaddumi-Shahin opened Mosaique two years ago when she moved to the UAE capital and was after one-of-a-kind pieces for her home. “That is where the idea of having a concept boutique began,” she recalls.
Since then the store has grown to become one of the highlights of the Abu Dhabi home-fashion scene and it’s not difficult to see why. With pieces from all over the world, Mosaique currently stocks more than 20 elegant designers from as far as the US and Thailand, and many places in between, making it very much an east meets west story. “A large majority of our pieces are handmade, some are limited edition and we have a few designers who are exclusive to Mosaique in Abu Dhabi.”
On top of all this, Mosaique offers customers a retail experience like no other. “Upon visiting us at Mosaique, customers always receive a warm welcome. It’s like Aladdin’s Cave in that you never know what you will find the next time you visit. So it’s always exciting and definitely a surprise when people come to see us.”
The first of its kind in Abu Dhabi, Minbart is a boutique and gallery at Al Raha Beach that acts as a creative platform for artists and designers to display their pieces. “There are lots of creative communities around and they were lacking a platform to showcase their work – hence the idea for Minbart was born,” says founder and owner, Sheikha Alia Al Qassimi.
Al Qassimi first conceptualised Minbart – which is a play on the Arabic word ‘minbar’ that means ‘platform’ and ‘art’ – 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until April 2014 that it became a reality. The store’s inaugural theme of ‘Keep Tribal Simple’ received rave reviews and explored the idea of uniting designers from around the world. “It involved designers from Brooklyn to London, Istanbul and beyond, as well as interpreting fashion trends, sourcing unique talents and forming this into collection themes,” explains Al Qassimi. Since then the store has collaborated with a number of local, regional and international designers and now stocks an upbeat collection of fashion pieces, artworks and furniture items.
“We take an interest in designers that have unique background stories. Whether they are international brands that are rare in the region, or homegrown names that have something different to offer,” explains Al Qassimi. This is certainly evident from Minbart’s current selection, which includes pieces from British label Bionda Castana, Tibi from New York and Toga Pulla from Japan. There have also been collaborations with local label No/3, Kuwaiti designer By Nouma and Saudi designer Nasiba Hafiz, to create a collection that is exclusively made for and sold by Minbart.
Infused with Al Qassimi’s innate flair and style, everything about Minbart, from the minimalist interior, to the rails adorned with inventive fashion, is exceptional. “Ultimately, we’re all about capturing, educating and investing in today’s modern discoverer. The bottom line is that we sell stories and consider Minbart to be the perfect space for creatives to showcase their work.”