“Shoppers in Dubai are savvy and know what they want,” says one of India’s most celebrated designers, Ritu Kumar, who recently opened a stand-alone store in the city. She spoke at length with City Times on how the UAE and India share a long and strong cultural bond – when it comes to business, food, art, fashion and more. As a designer of international repute, she revealed she was partly influenced by the bilateral relations between the two countries when contemplating opening up a store in Dubai. “We have always wanted to open a store in Dubai since we felt that the synergy with our design ethos and that of the Middle East would work. It was a question of when, not if. And the friendly and cordial understanding of each other’s culture was further encouragement.”
Excerpts from an interview with Kumar, who has dressed a host of stylish celebrities and icons, including the late Princess Diana, and is credited with being the first designer to revive ancient Indian crafts and weave them into a contemporary design format.
Do you have many Emiratis visiting your store? What, according to you, makes your designs appeal to them?
Our designs are very popular with Emiratis. The Dubai market is a very multidimensional and cosmopolitan. This gives brands a good opportunity to grow. People here are open about different brands and they don’t mind trying new things whether they are Emiratis or any other nationality. This adventurous nature of Dubai shoppers makes it a good market. Our brand is a combination of traditional and modern wear, something that makes you look stylish and classy at the same time. We cater to women who love to look good and are in search for Indian soul and traditions, as well as quality craftsmanship, in their garments. The target market is sophisticated young women. So, our fans here should look out for a touch of organic fashion and traditions in a modern, fast paced, industrial world.
Among the collection available at your store here, is there any part that has been tailored exclusively for the locals?
I find that Dubai is an internationally sophisticated market and our line is applicable to most people there.
How much of an influence does Bollywood exert on Indian designs today? Do you believe the Indian film industry, particularly Bollywood, is responsible for making Indian designs truly global?
Bollywood is a huge influence and very popular, its fashion has also moved from being purely ethnic to a global look.
How would you define Dubai’s fashion credentials? Do you believe the local Emirati culture is truly represented in the clothes worn by the locals here?
Dubai shoppers in general and Emirati customers in particular are some of the most travelled and fashion conscious clients. The pure fabrics we use and the shapes that we have introduced in our Label AW16 and SS17 collections have been extremely well received by the Emirati ladies who are now very regular customers in our Festival City store.
Do you stock abayas in your store?
We do not do abayas however there are various fusion garments that we do, that can be worn under an abaya – mainly our kaftans and gowns. It’s a space we are ready to enter as it is a niche and there are a lot of great designers in this space already.
In terms of give and take – between Emirati and Indian designs – what is the most stand out feature?
I think it’s a great exchange of experience and talent. What really stands out is coming up with an interesting idea that can be made into a new piece. I always aim to fuse Indian and overseas influences and come up with a syncretic line that embodies the personality of the modern woman of today no matter where she lives.
DESIGNER TO THE STARS
Among the stars Ritu Kumar has dressed are Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai. From 1994 till date the Ritu Kumar label has been designing the wardrobes of the three winning Miss India’s, for their participation in International Beauty Pageants (Miss Universe, Miss World and Miss Asia Pacific).