Luxury publisher Assouline brings 'authoritative' eye to Dubai with flagship store

Operations chief tells The National how the brand, famed for coffee table books, is like Google Images, but well read

Assouline's bookshop is open at That Concept Store, Mall of the Emirates. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The value of a beautiful coffee table book cannot be understated.

Like a work of art or an installation, a book or a bookcase can offer a window into someone’s cultural journey.

Luxury publisher Assouline's new flagship store in That Concept Store in Mall of Emirates, Dubai, is sure to be exciting news for bookworms and collectors alike.

“Our publications and our books are real, high-end, luxury creations,” Alex Assouline, chief of operations, brand and strategy, tells The National.

“When you look at one of our books, it's really the right images, the right text, the right point of view. You come into it, through the beautiful objects and packaging which makes a great home decor piece, gifting or a piece of cultural education.”

Collecting books is not dissimilar to collecting art, and Assouline has been a testament to this since it was founded in Paris in 1994.

The new store includes a wall of bookshelves displaying their intricately crafted books, aiming to inspire visitors about how they can incorporate book displays and collecting into their spaces.

“It’s education, emotion, intellect and inspiration blended together through the text and images,” says Alex, who is the son of founders Prosper and Martine Assouline.

“We work on 100 books every year, along with a lot of other projects. So that aspect of education for us, as well, it's very interesting. We learn from different subjects that we work on.”

Prosper and Martine positioned Assouline as the first luxury brand on culture.

Since its founding, Assouline has produced more than 1,700 titles across four main collections – Icons, Classic, Legend and Ultimate. Their books cover an array of topics in art, architecture, fashion, history and many other facets of culture, collaborating with renowned brands, writers, artists, photographers and designers.

Alex, who lives in New York, joined the family business in 2016 starting out as a graphic designer. He started working on other departments of the business, gaining an understanding of the different facets of Assouline, including how the luxury brand can exist and grow in an overwhelmingly expanding digital world.

“When you go online and search Andy Warhol on Google, you're going to find thousands and thousands of images and information," he says. "But we come with a point of view, with that authority that we find through the author or the curator that's going to select the best and the right aspects of curation.”

Alex elaborates that in a society that is becoming more digital, it only reaffirms Assouline’s position as a luxury publishing brand that can utilise what it needs from the online world.

“The aspects of digital that we're going to start using and utilising more is additional content,” he says.

“So you will be able to access in the future more content, unlocked content from the book on the screen, but it's never going to replace it. We're a tangible brand.”

The brand has also delved into the Middle East over the years exploring both historical and contemporary cultural topics pertaining to the region.

Books on the UAE include Dubai Wonder; Expo 2020 Dubai: The Definitive Edition; Sheikh Zayed: An Eternal Legacy; and Dubai Mall: A Mall Like No Other. To date, Assouline has published 18 books focusing on Saudi Arabia including Saudi Dates: A Portrait of the Sacred Fruit; Saudi Arabia: Flower Men; and Saudi Coffee: The Culture of Hospitality.

“There's are a lot of stories to be told from the Middle East,” Alex says.

“It's an ever-growing region, fast-paced, but also one that has a lot of heritage. There are not a lot of people worldwide who don’t know about that. So, we're here to work with every government or country to shine lights on specific topics that are important and deserve their own publication.”

That is one aspect of Assouline’s future that Alex is most excited about.

“It's been very exciting and inspiring as well because there's so much to cover and there's so much to learn from in this region,” he says.

“These doors are starting to open and I want to be able to tell these stories as well, because each country has its own, interesting factors.”

Updated: October 23, 2023, 11:15 AM