Quintessentially Arab

28 Dec 2016
4 min read
How Khalid Basaeed started out the very first Arabic luxury fashion brand, Feathers UAE. By Eva-Luise Schwarz…

How did you have the idea for your own fashion brand?

I had the idea to start up my own business when I was studying for my Master’s degree in architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art in the UK. The same college was teaching different types of design: graphic design, textile design, product design, architectural design, urban design and so on. I was fascinated by product design. And even though I did not study it I tried to attend seminars and tuitions. That’s when it clicked. I thought, on the one hand we like to wear branded products, but on the other, all we wear is usually western, whether it’s European or American brands. So I thought, why do we not have our own brands? An Arabic brand with an Arabic touch. We in the Middle East know what we like – whether it’s a handbag or sunglasses – we know our style. So I started the first Arabic and Emirate luxury brand.

What else did you consider when starting out?

The price was an important aspect. Most of the brands we like – be it Dior, Chanel or Gucci – are all quite expensive for some people. Not everybody can afford to buy from them. That’s because these are old brands and their quality and workmanship is exceptional – it’s not made in China, it’s made in Europe. Hence the price tag. Not everybody can own these products. And that’s why I said, I could do a luxury brand which is affordable: affordable luxury for everyone.

What items did you start out with?

We started with a range of small items. For any business just starting out the financial part is the most difficult. So we thought, we will only do leather goods at the beginning. We started working with biodegradable camel leather which we sourced locally. And we had a partnership with a factory that produces handbags. That’s how the first camel handbags and wallets came into being. And they were quite successful: something unique, something different and something sourced locally.

What are your main inspirations for your designs?

Being Emirati and being an Arab man, the Arabic and Islam culture are a big inspiration, while being an architect and coming from an architecture background, I get inspired by architecture, patterns and textures. For example, the logo of the brand is inspired by a local architecture pattern. It’s the pattern which we emboss on our leather goods as well. The culture is also a great source of inspiration: camels, for example, are animals very close to us Arabs; or the Arab coffee pot or the burqa. These elements we like to use in our jewellery design. I want my brand to be distinguished and be different from other international brands. By incorporating these elements, which no other brand has, I can give people something different.

Where are your products available?

We opened our very first store in Abu Dhabi on a very special date: 10/10/2010 at 10 o’clock. After two years and great success we decided to expand and open our second store, this time in Dubai, followed by two more branches also in Dubai. We recently opened a store in Al Ain and another one in Abu Dhabi. We are also going to open the first store outside the UAE, in Qatar.

What products do you offer?

The range of products we currently have is almost equivalent to what other international brands offer. We have leather goods, handbags, mobile cases, ipad cases, sunglasses, perfumes and jewellery, whether it’s pure gold or Sterling silver. We have accessories for men and women like cufflinks, key chains, watches, pens and shoes both for men and women.

What sets you apart from other luxury brands?

At Feathers we pride ourselves in the very best quality and I don’t want to fool people or get their support just because I am the first Emirati brand. The branding alone is not the answer. People are educated and they are looking for quality and something different. That’s why we try for quality. The minute I discover a mistake or a problem in any of our manufacturing or products, I change the supplier straightaway because at the end of the day people are looking for something with good quality.

Do you still produce everything in the UAE?

Being an Emirati brand doesn’t mean that I have to produce everything in the UAE. Even French brands produce their sunglasses in Italy. That’s why we are looking for quality and we are producing our sunglasses, handbags and shoes in Italy and our pens in Germany. For our perfume, we get the oils from Europe and package them in the UAE. There is also a limited collection of leather goods which we are producing in the UAE.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

Apart from being the owner and founder of the company, I am also the designer. So for me the most exciting part is when I design a product on paper and then see it as an actual product. From 2D to the real world. Most of the products are designed by me. And of course it’s the ultimate joy seeing someone wear my products on the streets of Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

What does it mean to you to have started this brand?

I was working for the government and I am very proud that this brand is carrying our country name: Feathers UAE. I feel proud to introduce this brand as the first Arabic brand. It’s another way of serving my country and carrying the name of UAE to the world. It’s like paying back to my country what it gave to us: free education, encouragement to go out and have a business and to be industrious and creative and that’s what we are doing at Feathers UAE.

Find out more about Feathers here |www.feathers-fashion.com