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While it is true that time flows from East to West, when it comes to high-fashion, couture, and lavish lifestyle, the air has certainly shifted and it is high time we start focusing on the Middle East. That only means one thing – dear fashionistas, it is time to pack your bags, but instead of purchasing a ticket to Milan, New York or Paris, you might want to rethink and go with Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, the new homes of high fashion and extravagant shopping experiences.

According to Patrick Chalhoub, Co-CEO of the Chalhoub Group, the Arabian consumer is now a lot more knowledgeable, demanding and volatile. Hence, the store must become an extension of the home, with large spaces, including private areas, comfortable seating and the legendary Arabic hospitality all being a part of the experience. There is also a need to be digitally enhanced, enabling easy screening of the whole boutique. Customers want to be recognized when stepping into the store; their tastes and needs anticipated. Even more important than that is the fact that, due to such high demands, products will have to be launched in the Gulf at the same time as in the West – to the minute, including special lines for Gulf customers in terms of sizes, cuts, shades and scents, and these will need to be launched exclusively in the Gulf, or at the very least ahead of the global market. In short, some of the most exclusive items one will only be able to find in the Middle East.

The group has gone as far as to identify three different consumer categories. The first one is the Omnivore Horse, represented by the markets of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Jeddah and also more skewed towards females. These are the UAE countries in which the market is mostly focused on the increasingly fashion-apt females, who follow fashion and beauty blogs, magazines, and update their wardrobe with the latest from luxury lines almost on the dot. For this type of loyalty and frequent shopping, they are rewarded with invitations to previews and access to personal stylists. Let us not forget one of the largest shopping malls in the entire world is located in Dubai – The Dubai Mall, a home to 1200 shops. When it comes to fashion, the Middle East does not come to play, they come to own the luxury game. However, these countries don’t only enjoy the exclusivity and the ability to purchase high-end items first. As the needs shift, and this is one of the wealthiest markets, luxury brands are also adapting their cuts and styles to cater to the more modest needs of Middle Eastern women. Long dresses, structured jackets and loose, flowing wraps are always in style here– silhouettes that are rapidly being adopted by western brands.

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When it comes to Qatar, this country is categorized as the Opinionated Horse. They look for great prices, the latest offers and recognition. They look for brands that are immediately recognized, because for them, it is all about appearances. ‘The Conservative Horse’ is mostly seen in Riyadh. For them, fashion is about reassurance. They require knowledgeable staff, as well as a tremendous amount of attention and respect for them as loyal customers.

When it comes to Saudi Arabia, there is an entire fashion girl’s guide to what to do in Jeddah. While it is true that this is the most conservative of all the Middle Eastern countries, and you are required to wear an abaya every time you step out the door and you won’t be able to show your sense of style, you will be more than able to bring the latest fashion back home, as Jeddah is home to numerous (and enormous) shopping malls, such as the Red Sea Mall that is home to every brand there is, from fast-fashion and affordable to high-end and prestige. Saudi Arabia may be conservative when it comes to many things, but as you will be able to see, they are quite liberal when it comes to flaunting their wealth and income on clothes, makeup and accessories.So, at least at the mall, every true fashionista will feel right at home.

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Although the Middle East is a new shopping force that is slowly becoming unmatched by anyone else, luxury shopping is not the only aspect of fashion they are involved in. As Vogue points out, names like Razan Al Azzouni, Reem Al Kanhal, Madiyah Al Sharqi, Toujouri, Noon By Noor, and Reem Juan are beginning to resonate in the minds of fashion-forward buyers and international socialites. Let us not forget the Dubai Showcase AW 2017 during which designers Azzalia and Deborah Henning kicked off the first Dubai fashion showcase with their spectacular new high–end design collections, making their mark on the Western market. It is no wonder that fashion inspired by the Eastern motifs and embroidery in general is now an integral part of designer resort wear collections sported by global fashionistas, socialites and jet-setters and in a great number of popular Western destinations. This means that it is not only Western brands that are dominant in the Eastern market, we are increasingly experiencing the arrival of Eastern fashion names that are bound to make an impact in the West. Who knows whether it’s the influence of social media platforms and the fact that fashionistas all over the world are now making world-wide connections, but the mutual fashion influence of the two worlds has never been stronger.