What to expect from the new Urban Outfitters flagship store at The Dubai Mall

The American lifestyle brand, which makes its UAE debut today, is already hoping to collaborate with local talent

The Dubai branch will stock brands such as DG, Champion and Fila, as well as in-house Urban Outfitters collections. Courtesy Urban Outfitters
The Dubai branch will stock brands such as DG, Champion and Fila, as well as in-house Urban Outfitters collections. Courtesy Urban Outfitters

It’s hard to believe there are any major brands that don’t already have a presence in the UAE. Online shopping is all very well, but there are a handful of stores that in-the-know shoppers crave. Urban Outfitters is one such chain that did not make its way to the Middle East. Until now.

After welcoming more than 100 million customers worldwide last year, the American lifestyle brand is about to throw open the doors of its first store in the region at 5pm today, with a sprawling flagship in The Dubai Mall. Selling everything from men’s and women’s apparel to homeware and retro electronics, Urban Outfitters has garnered a global reputation as the cool kid’s store – the place to shop to achieve that “I just woke up and threw this on” look that millennials long for.

Urban Outfitters began in Philadelphia in the 1970s. Back then, it was known as Free People, and was founded by three students from the University of Pennsylvania, as part of a project for their entrepreneurship class. Richard Hayne, Judy Wicks and Scott Belair opened their first store directly opposite the university campus, as a place where fellow students could shop.

It was renamed Urban Outfitters in the late 1970s, and Free People would later become a separate brand, operating under the same umbrella chain. Fast-forward to today and Urban Outfitters has more than 250 stores across the US, Canada and Europe, all without losing that grass-roots college vibe.

Urban Outfitters opens its first store in the Middle East in the Dubai Mall on September 5. Courtesy: Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters is where all the cool kids seem to shop. Courtesy Urban Outfitters

The opening of the Dubai store is reflective of the increasing appetite for ­middle-market brands in the UAE, especially those with a focus on athleisure, streetwear and emerging designers.

“We have been exploring Dubai and the UAE for many years, and have seen the consumer evolving,” says Stefan Laban, global head of Urban Outfitters. “Our aspiration is to bring something new to the market and the overall retail landscape, so we have been very thorough in selecting a local partner and finding the right location to launch our brand. We’ve also analysed our e-commerce sales and social media following from the region and believe that now is the [right] time.”

Head of global at Urban Outfitters, Stefan Laban. Courtesy: Urban Outfitters
The head of global at Urban Outfitters, Stefan Laban

Laban promises that the 10,000-square-metre Dubai store will be unique, with both the product offering and environment continually changing, ensuring that there is always something to discover. He adds that, as is the case in its US and Europe stores, Urban Outfitters ME will also feature some local flavour. “Every single one of our stores is unique,” he says. “We believe that it is key to make stores authentic to the region they are in and make a connection with the community.”

Despite taking its time to come to the region, Laban believes Urban Outfitters will be a good fit for UAE tastes. Shoppers here, he says, not only have a strong sense of style and know their brands, but they are also willing to take risks and play with fashion. “Having said that, we are very aware that we will have to better understand and learn more about the Middle Eastern customer, but our concept is flexible and can react fast to local trends,” he adds.

The clothing offered at Urban Outfitters is made up of three veins: a curated mix of globally recognised brands; Urban Outfitters’ own exclusive collections; and its pioneering vintage section, called Urban Renewal, which mixes vintage originals and styles made from recycled or reclaimed materials. Customers will find all three at the Dubai flagship store, alongside extensive home and lifestyle product lines.

Among the brands being stocked in Dubai’s Urban Outfitters store are BDG, Champion and Fila. “We are also very excited to be introducing our cult sportswear brand, iets frans..., to Dubai – much coveted across stores in Europe,” Laban reveals.

Urban Outfitters also has a history of spotting up-and-coming designers and often collaborates with them on its in-house collections. Looking forward, Laban says he hopes to discover and work with emerging talent from the Middle East.

“We are always open to collaborating with local and upcoming designers, brands and artists, and are exploring this in Dubai for the spring season. Urban Outfitters at The Dubai Mall creates a space for like-minded individuals to come together as a community to celebrate creativity and individual style,” he says. “Hopefully, in the future, the Middle East can influence our global product ranges.”

Published: September 5, 2019 07:00 AM


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