Indian designers have long been bringing their haute couture and ready-to-wear lines to the UAE, especially those associated with Lakmé Fashion Week.
While many are still to launch independent boutiques, their collections are readily available in local shops, including Dubai’s Studio8 and Label 24.
Manish Malhotra came to Dubai in October with a special trunk show, followed by a private show with actor Arjun Kapoor as his showstopper. He plans to launch a flagship store in the city by the end of this year.
Grandmaster Rohit Bal was last seen in Dubai the same month, when he presented his designs at a pop-up exhibition.
“A lot of the designers are [available] in the multi-brand stores and some of them are trying to make inroads [into the UAE],” says Pritti Nanda, a fashion and lifestyle curator in the city. “The UAE is really going for Indian fashion big-time. Of course we have Indians and Pakistanis among clients, but Emiratis are also seeking such couture.”
Celebrity designer Neeta Lulla, a Bollywood favourite who has worked on hundreds of films, also makes frequent trips to Dubai. Her daughter, Nishka Lulla, also a designer, showed her work there last year at the designer Indian shopping fair DIVAlicious, alongside Payal Singhal, who is known for modern, wearable designs.
Ritu Kumar, based in Delhi, is perhaps the most savvy of the Indian designers keen to claim a share of the UAE market, with a boutique in BurJuman shopping centre that stocks her latest collections, as well as special occasion ranges for festivals such as Eid and Diwali.
Her brand is bolstered by a savvy publicity campaign that keeps her collections relevant and her clientele growth steady.