They come from very different backgrounds – Sujata Assomull is a fashion journalist, Dr. Lamees Hamdan is an Emirati beauty entrepreneur – but together they are a fashionable force to be reckoned launching a one-of-a-kind boutique – Shiffa Curated at the Waldorf Astoria, DIFC – in order to realise their shared vision of bringing unique, personally-sourced labels and pieces to the discerning, style-savvy shopper.
Harpers Bazaar Arabia: What is Shiffa Curated?
Sujata Assomull: It’s a boutique, which has a very dynamic structure where you will find beautiful things from chic kaftans and exquisite jewellery to unusual home décor pieces. It has been specifically curated for Dubai’s style set, as well those visiting Dubai, who are looking for exceptional gifting items. Plus, we will be looking at keeping our calendar very robust from store take-overs to limited editions – the idea is to be innovative yet be full of real style buys. And of course, there will be a beauty section that will not only feature Shiffa, but beauty buys from other brands hand-picked by Dr. Lamees, so you know these are products that will deliver results.
HBA: Where did the idea come from?
SA: It struck me when I moved to Dubai that we have all the big international brands, but no space that looks at special, unique pieces and artisanal labels in design, fashion and beauty.
Dr. Lamees Hamdan: Everyone keeps asking me where I bring the things I love from – and it’s from diverse places such as Morocco, Lebanon, India and Dubai. Plus, I looked at how I shop personally. Big malls can be overwhelming, whereas little boutiques are more personalised.
HBA: How did the partnership between a skincare guru and a fashion journalist come about?
SA: We both come with our own strengths. I think that is what makes this so special. Dubai is a true melting point that welcomes all cultures and all professions. Dr. Lamees has felt like family since I moved here. She helped me make Dubai my home, and we have the most wonderful relationship. Plus, I admire her style and her work ethic.
LH: I actually don’t see that we are all that different. We complement each other. Sujata has introduced me to new designers and my favourite ayurvedic brand, Kama. We both contribute with differing opinions, which makes the boutique interesting.
HBA: What do your individual areas of expertise bring to the table?
SA: As a fashion editor for over two decades, curating has always been part of my job. As a journalist it is your mantra to stay ahead of the curve, something which is crucial in retail right now.
LH: I choose what I love and what I would wear, so I guess my expertise is based more on emotion and personal taste when it comes to fashion and jewellery. I love well-made, beautiful, personalised and customised pieces.
HBA: Where do you see the project a year from now?
SA: For Shiffa Curated to be the go-to store for anyone looking for something unique and stylish in Dubai. I hope to work with varied designers, home-grown talent and even other international retailers on special projects curated by us that work for Dubai’s vibrant and very style-savvy shoppers.
LH: It is such a fluid concept that, really, we could be anywhere and represent anything. Shiffa Curated should not be so definable, rather it should surprise you every time you visit.
HBA: What inspires you both?
SA: My travels really inspire me, I love learning about other cultures and their history. And that is one of the great things about being in Dubai – it truly is the world’s epicentre, you can go anywhere.
LH: I am inspired by anything beautiful; I love beautiful homes, beautiful clothes, beautiful gardens… The list goes on.
HBA: And what about your personal styles?
SA: I believe in investment buys that are a bit different. I don’t like anything that is cookie-cutter. I want good quality. It needs to be able to make me feel good, from the way it feels on my skin and how it makes me look, to the way a piece of jewellery sits on me. But the key is that I must always be wearing it, it must never wear me.
LH: I have never really thought about my personal style to be honest. I just buy and wear whatever I fall in love with. This season it’s a black silk gold embellished Abraham & Thakore dress that they customised for the boutique. I love pieces that I can wear over and over again and continue to get compliments about.
Photography: Fares Jammal at Shadow Photography
From the April 2019 Issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia
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