A better class of flea: bargain-hunting goes upmarket

Recession and social conscience have conspired to produce the 'designer market' in Dubai, where the owners of unwanted luxury items can put them back into circulation.

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With a wardrobe packed full of Valentino and Kenzo suits, the interior designer Marina Kreidi does not look like your average bargain hunter.

But the 42-year-old Lithuanian, dressed in an immaculately tailored suit and snakeskin heels, spent Saturday afternoon ferreting through second-hand bags and clothes in search of a good deal.

She was one of a number of visitors to a designer market held at The Meydan Hotel in Dubai, where the usual clientele is made up of racegoers dressed to the nines in the latest catwalk gear rather than discarded fashion.

Horses for courses, though - while the shoppers who browsed at about 20 stalls were not cash-strapped, they certainly appreciated a bargain.

"I like coming to fleamarkets for vintage items and old pieces of cloth I can use as decoration," said Kreidi, who wears labels ranging from Zara to Valentino. "You can find unique pieces that are a change from the normal shops."

Last weekend was the third time Melanie Beese had staged a designer-themed event at the five-star hotel, a step up from the popular monthly Safa Park fleamarkets she usually runs.

She decided that in post-recession Dubai, there was a gap in the market for expensive, high-end items to be recycled with the chance of some money back for making their owners, especially with the help of euphemistic phrases such as "gently used" and "preloved".

British-born Joanna Reed, 51, had a clear-out to "make room for my husband-to-be". And if one woman's junk is another woman's treasure, there were Louis Vuitton handbags, Dior heels and Fenn Wright Manson suits to be had for a fraction of their usual prices.

So tempting was her range of new unworn items that Reed's friend, 46-year-old Anne Anderson - who was selling her own goods on the same stall - could not resist a Dh400 Chanel handbag.

"I think I am missing the point - we came here to sell, not to buy," she grimaced. "At least I got it down from Dh600."

Reed said the clear-out had given her a chance to make some space in her home. There were the unwanted Dolce & Gabanna handbag friends had bought her for her 50th birthday, a Louis Vuitton handbag she never used and dozens of pairs of shoes, all for less than half their original prices.

It was all too much for Dianna Abilmona, 29, a Lebanese human resources assistant who snapped up a pair of kitsch ballet pumps for Dh165 from another stall.

"I saw them and instantly thought I had to have them," she said.

Among the stallholders, who each paid Dh300 to display their wares, were artisans, designers and jewellery makers selling their newly made items.

Among them was Sheba Bashir Kichloo, whose one-off pieces included clutches, embellished abayas, kurta tops and semi-precious jewellery.

The former IT consultant designs the pieces herself under the label Afaaf and has them made in Turkey, with cloth sourced from India and China. She said having a market stall helped her cut overhead costs, a saving she could pass on to customers.

"The venue attracts a quality crowd and the right people who appreciate the brands selling here," she said. "These are items you cannot get on the high street. I have had interest from lots of different nationalities."

Not every item was for those carrying spare change, however. The vintage store Garderobe had a new Lana Marks crocodile skin handbag on sale for Dh29,990 and an ostrich skin Yves Saint Laurent Muse 2 bag for Dh27,000.

"They are worth far more," said the stallholder, Dina Kurbatore. "These are hard times and women love bargains.

The next designer market at The Meydan will be on Saturday, October 8, from 1pm to 7pm