'Most of Kuwait think 4 is crazy, but a niche gets it'
Since opening its doors late last year, 4 has been embraced by like-minded aesthetes who appreciate individual, beautiful things that aren't available elsewhere. Al-Bahar was determined that her store would challenge as many people as possible. "I wanted a place to provide the excitement you feel when you discover a label like MA+ or enter the world of Droog or [jewellery designer] Jacqueline Rabun ... "and the support has been fantastic. One of our customers said recently, 'Your store supplies personality to personalities'. We're never elitist, however, and offer something for all budgets."
The store's dark, garage-like space makes a dramatic contrast to the gleaming racks of desirable clothes, chairs draped with accessories, lifestyle objects, furniture, art works and books. A café area means that shoppers can prolong their experience - making it their hangout, to refuel with a coffee, use the complementary Wi-Fi or soak up 4's customised music collection. Al-Bahar isn't a fan of shopping malls, and finding something alternative, that was centrally located, wasn't easy. "I genuinely believe in community ... and I wanted somewhere living, breathing ... with lots of character. Part of the charm is that we are in a real, working area ... next to a spare-parts showroom and a printer. We define the word 'destination store', I believe, and I love seeing people gasp when they find us, and really enjoy the fact that people are seeking us out." 4 provides a breath of fresh air in Kuwait's retail scene - and word is spreading further afield. "We regularly get enquiries from all over the region."
Such has been the interest, 4 is launching its online store next month, and expanding upwards and into the building next door. "We hope to increase our product andcategory offer, launch our gallery and restaurant, while remaining true to ourselves: the space that rewards the time spent in finding it." Al-Bahar adds that many people said that there wasn't a market for such niche designers in the Middle East. "They're wrong. Our customers adore the fact they are part of an authentic story, a singular vision and, of course, they own something often unique or produced in limited quantities."
The sourcing process is aided by Mark Quinn, 4's London-based creative director. "I was looking for someone to help launch 4, we were introduced, and the rest is history. I couldn't have done it without him -and Sabah Ouennadi, our store manager; we absolutely share the same vision." This also comes across in 4's delightful blog, which gives a taste of the 4 experience, with a quirky take on the latest fashion and lifestyle happenings.
So, alongside Established & Sons' furniture and Fornasetti's trompe l'oeil homewares - and underground fashion labels that include Boudicca and Unconditional - what can we look forward to? "The Rick Owens furniture range (coming in June) and the Henrik Vibskov clothing label - Danish eccentricity at it's best," reveals Quinn. "Eventually I want to source more Middle Eastern products," adds Al-Bahar. "I'm 100 per cent committed to supporting local artists or brands and we showcase them whenever we can.
"Many of the brands we stock are delighted to be represented in Kuwait as they don't expect demand there," says Quinn. "Most of Kuwait thinks 4 is crazy, but a niche really gets it." Says Al-Bahar: "I wanted 4 to be a beacon of individuality. Introducing someone to a label or brand they've never heard of, and seeing the initial doubt followed by the conversion process whereby the person ends up being excited about what is due next season, is immensely satisfying. It's all good."
4, Shuwaikh, Kuwait, +965 249 25444, www.thenumber4.com
Published: January 23, 2010 04:00 AM