Your favourite regional designers may soon be available on Moda Operandi

A chat with Mary Chaim, vice president, merchandising and planning, for the shopping website, reveals that she is on the lookout for Middle East talent to add to the Moda Operandi stable.

Mary Chiam decides which designers can showcase their collections on shopping website Moda Operandi. Courtesy Moda Operandi
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Global online shopping site Moda Operandi is attending this season's Fashion Forward Dubai.

With a track record of supporting emerging labels, the company is at the forefront of a retail trend that allows customers to pre-order looks straight from the runway. This is its third time in the region – an indication of he rising importance of the local fashion scene.

Describing the visit as a scouting trip, Moda representatives are actively seeking new labels to sign. Company bigwigs Deborah Nicodemus, who oversees business strategy for Moda, and Mary Chaim, vice president of merchandising and planning, will be in attendance at the event.

Known for supporting rising talent, Chaim is widely held to be one of the key forces behind the rapid growth of online shopping sites Net-a-Porter, The Outnet and Moda Operandi.

It was she who brought Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Roberto Cavalli, Naeem Khan and Elie Saab to Moda Operandi, as well as expanded the site to offer bridal, fine jewellery and haute couture to customers.

Well regarded for possessing a sharp eye for talent, Chaim’s presence will, no doubt, stir up excitement among the designers. We caught up with her before her trip.

What in particular will you be looking for in new ­regional designers?

What we are seeking from new designers in the region does not differ greatly from our strategy in all of our markets. We have always taken our international scouting trips seriously – it will be thrilling to engage first-hand with designers from the region and potentially discover amazing talent for Moda’s website.

What catches your eye when scouting new designers?

The key attributes we look for are: impeccable construction and quality; a unique point of view; the ability to produce; a collection that isn’t too widely available; and innovative silhouettes and fabrics.

On this, your third trip to the ­region, have you noticed a growth in the fashion scene since you first arrived?

Yes, most definitely. On Moda Operandi’s previous two trips to the region, our mission was to bring our designers to the Middle East, whereas now we are looking to scout regional talent to introduce to our clients.

How does the Middle Eastern market compare with the New York market?

The New York market tends to be lifestyle-focused, whereas the Middle Eastern brands we currently carry are generally more evening- and occasion wear-focused. As this is my first time in the region, I’m excited to learn more about this market and to discover the amazing talent here. In terms of our Middle Eastern clientele, generally they gravitate to the unique, exclusive and one of a kind. Our customers here also have a flair for the dramatic – they love statement items that are showstoppers. They love new talent and are excited by runway.

How do you select the brands you work with? 

The most important factor in determining which brands we consider adding to our roster is whether the collection fills our clients’ needs – whether it is occasion dressing, holiday pieces or general lifestyle wardrobe pieces. We have a strong representation of Middle Eastern designers featured on the site, and we hope to add to this list of talent after our trip.