'When we started there were no other Dubai labels'

Meher Mirchandani and Riddhima Wabhi, the founders of Affascinare by Meher & Riddhima, talk about their lives in fashion.

Meher Mirchandani (left) and Riddhima Whabi at Villa Moda in Dubai.
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Wabhi: Meher and I have known each other since we were in the third grade. We went to school together, then we studied fashion and marketing together. And so eight years ago, when we launched, we did it together. That was cool because we were one of the first to originate here; when we started there were no other Dubai labels.

I guess I started getting interested in fashion because of an aunt of mine in India; she always looked good. But also, I had a huge Barbie wardrobe. She always dressed so creatively, and eventually I made clothes for her myself. Meher's father is also in the garment industry - he has a factory in Jebel Ali and that's where our studio is. We learnt about things like quality control there. Things have changed a lot here. There weren't always so many malls or expats. Now Dubai is so cosmopolitan, it's such a blend of East and West. And these are our customers: they're from all nationalities; locals, Europeans, Australians, Saudis. These clothes are for confident, successful women; our pieces are high-priced.

There's a lot of detail on our designs. We add our own touch and that comes out in the detail. When I was a teenager I wasn't wearing the nicest clothes. I would have an idea of something I wanted to wear but it wouldn't be available here, I just wouldn't be able to find it. I wanted fitted clothes. I wore dresses, I can't remember exactly what else. I dress better now. Mirchandani: We're Indian originally, but the inspiration for our designs comes from the Middle East. We've lived here all our lives. I grew up in Jumeirah. As a child I was always very focused. I liked the arts and drawing - I'm a painter too. As a child, I used to paint portraits of old men and old women. As a teenager, I liked bright clothes; jeans and a brightly coloured top. I wanted to stand out individually in a crowd. Now, I want the same type of thing, so I wear my own designs.

That's kind of what Dubai is about. And we've seen Dubai grow around us. It used to be all small brown houses and mosques - those were the most beautiful things. Now, it's transformed into this amazing international city; there's all these high-rise buildings, it's all new and clean and shiny. Our own lives have been influenced by the vision of Dubai. Every season we find inspiration in different things; it's never something directly from the UAE, but it's always something to do with the Middle East. For our spring/summer 2010 collection, called Pearl of Aegean, it was the Greek chiton; we were inspired by those drape dresses and we wanted to reinvent part of those silhouettes.

Our designs are bright, sophisticated, elegant. They're for the international woman; they make her happy. These clothes work from New York to Shanghai, from Dubai to Paris. The international woman knows about quality, about these fabrics, about the details in all our pieces. Now, we're seeing our clothes on Hollywood and Bollywood people. I felt a great sense of achievement when Beverley Knight, the British queen of R&B, came by Villa Moda after her show at the Irish Village in Dubai and picked up two dresses. She's the perfect Meher & Riddhima woman; she's successful and confident. Recently one of the sheikhas ordered almost an entire collection. When women put these clothes on they feel happy. That's what this is all about.

Affascinare by Meher & Riddhima is available at Villa Moda