News > UAE Armenians > Seza Aslanian: Coming up roses
A. Hester meets with Seza Aslanian, owner of "Desert Rose" boutique in Wafi Mall (Dubai), to talk new fashion designers on the rise in the local market.
Any stereotypes one might have of fashion industry divas definitely don't apply to Seza Aslanian. Bright, chatty, informed and driven, this entrepreneurial lady is a supremely likeable bundle of energy who puts the fun back into funky.
Owner of the Desert Rose boutique, and the woman responsible for bringing Miss Sixty to Dubai, Aslanian has always had a love affair with fashion. "I have always loved clothes," she says. "I have always been very close to my mum, and I grew up girly." She proves the point by adjusting her pretty peasant dress (a Millie Rostock design).
Aslanian's family moved to Dubai in 1978, but she pursued her higher education abroad attending McGill University in Montreal, where she studied finance and international business. "I was supposed to go into investment banking!" she exclaims, with an infectious laugh.
Finding it difficult to buy the clothes she liked in Dubai, in 1991 she started the "Desert Rose" boutique in Wafi. This was followed by an offer to open the flagship Miss Sixty store in Dubai, also located in Wafi.
Miss Sixty has proven to be very popular in Dubai, fulfilling the needs of women all over the emirate who had flirted with jeans that never quite hit the spot, before finding the perfect pair. "Miss Sixty does well here," she says. "It's good quality; the stitching is good, and the styles are excellent. If you find a style of jeans that fits, then it fits you for life - you're set."
Aslanian is a true fashion expert, the rare kind. She sees fashion as a genuine art form, examining particularly beautiful pieces with the reverence of an art critic. And a look around Desert Rose in Wafi is an education in modern fashion, revealing designers to watch for in the coming years. On a tour of the boutique, she pauses to enthuse about Thai-born, US-based Thakoon Panichgul (aspiring fashionistas take note!).
"I love his attention to detail," she says, demonstrating her own informed eye. "The finish is fabulous." Thakoon's designs are simple and understated, but undeniably sexy, classy, and modern. She picks up a sleek black winter coat, points out its faultless satin piping, then selects a wool jacket. "See what I mean? This is woven in Italy, with impeccable finishing. It's timeless, durable, designed with an amazing eye for detail." Also worthy of mention is Thakoon's pink peony-sleeved top and a navy silk 1920s style shift dress, both staggeringly beautiful and designed with concentrated quality impossible to replicate for a high street store.
Aslanian travels a lot for work, seeking out new designers to introduce to the Dubai market, and her views on the different international fashion worlds are illuminating.
"Milan is the hub as far as I'm concerned," she states firmly. "The Italians have such a flair for fashion. Their stuff is different - you can spot it a mile off. The feel of fashion week there is also different, and this translates into the clothes. The Europeans are more sophisticated - the fit is incredible."
However, the Americans are encroaching on European territory. "Recognised US brands are overshadowing European designers," she says. "Obviously not Gucci or Versace - they're in a different league - but day-to-day people like Phillip Lim are gaining ground. And nobody wore Anna Sui for ages. But now they are the designers everyone wants to wear."
Aslanian has an almost preternatural instinct for what will be the next big thing - an instinct built on quality and detail, rather than fads and trends. "I build up certain brands because I know what I'm looking at and I believe in these brands," she says with a confidence which, in the futures market, would send investors diving to get in on the action.
Apart from the arresting Thakoon, another one to watch is Sue Stemp - a British designer based in the US. Stemp's offerings are sensuous and floaty, with a hint of the diva. The style is "rock chick goes upmarket", according to Aslanian. Think pretty dresses and tops with touches of decadence - velvet trim on printed silk, for example.
She highlights her new favourite label at Desert Rose, the US-based What Comes Around Goes Around. Here her enthusiasm is palpable. A vintage-inspired contemporary collection grew from the world-famous vintage store in New York, and at first sight Aslanian fell in love. It would take a heart of stone not to do likewise, as she shows off a 1960s black wool dress with sequin trim that is pure homage to Jackie O, and a sweet black buckle dress that just cries out to be worn.
Travels around the world have not left Aslanian oblivious to local talent. A locally-based designer supported by Desert Rose is Danish-born Millie Rostock. The designs appeal to every woman's feminine side, with an emphasis on silk. "The clothes are very cute," she says. "I love the style and it appeals to the Dubai market." Also popular are long skirts by Delia Covezzi, specially commissioned for Ed and local clients.
So, based on her international travels and local observations, what's hot this season? "Grey," she answers immediately. "Dresses, lots of girly dresses, wide-legged trousers and sequins."
And what's not? She thinks for a moment. "Skinny jeans are slowly waning, though there will still be a market for them. And leggings are on the way out," she heaves a sigh of relief. "Personally, I hate leggings. They're so 80s."
What's the biggest fashion mistake she observes? "Oh, definitely animal print top to bottom." A pause ensues for much laughter, then she grows serious. "I mean, you see so much of that here, people matching animal prints. You can't match tiger-print trousers with a tiger-print top. You just can't do it."
She also believes people should change their styles and be more self-aware. Yes, an hour with Seza Aslanian is an instructive experience, She may have rejected a career in investment banking, but one would be fashion-wise to heed her advice and unerring eye by selecting a few signature pieces from Desert Rose and make an investment in their fashion future.
Source: "Wafi Collection", November-December 2007
A publication of "Wafi Mall", one of the biggest Malls in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
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