By  on April 6, 2007

Majed Al-Sabah, the founder of luxury retailer Villa Moda, has taken his souk-inspired retail concept home to Kuwait.

Last month, Al-Sabah opened Villa Moda Mubarakiya in a Sixties-era building, a former bank, in one of Kuwait's oldest marketplaces, the Souk Mubarakiya. The store has three floors and features spicy and exotic scents, platters of pistachios and fruit preserves and manufactured breezes.

Al-Sabah chose the Turkish architecture firm Maybedesign to create the interiors, asking for a mood of "chic chaos" in the store.

"I am sick and tired of the repetitive luxury retail concepts, and I wanted to embrace my culture and heritage," Al-Sabah said in an interview. "I have a real passion for souks, bazaars and markets where shopping is easy, welcoming and approachable — and where your senses of touch, taste and smell are all engaged."

In 2002, Al-Sabah, a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, broke ground in the Middle East on the first, 75,000-square-foot Villa Moda in Kuwait City. He grouped luxury brands under one roof in a lavish environment, and has since planted the Villa Moda flag in Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain.

Al-Sabah tested his new souk retail concept in March 2006 in the spice market in Damascus, Syria. That store, housed in a 17th-century former horse stable, is 4,000 square feet.

This latest store covers about 15,120 square feet, and he's tweaked the offerings. The Damascus unit offers Dior, Prada and Fendi; the newest unit carries smaller, niche labels. Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood, Antonio Marras, DVF, Missoni and Blumarine are among the brands on sale alongside contemporary sportswear and denim line Seven For All Mankind.

Al-Sabah also brought in vintage clothing, jewelry and caftans made by local artisans to sell beside the well-known brands.

"We really wanted to keep the original Kuwait Villa Moda as THE luxury destination, and the souk as the more niche, luxury one,'' he said. "The plan is for customers to mix and match their purchases from each place."

At the original Kuwait Villa Moda, Al-Sabah has opened the Middle East's first shop-in-shop for Manolo Blahnik. "I'd been trying for six years, and we finally tied the knot," he said.The shop was inspired by the coronation room in the Golestan Palace (Palace of Flowers) in Tehran, Iran. Al-Sabah had local artisans replicate the mirrored mosaics of the palace, and he filled the 1,296-square-foot space with antique furniture from the region.

In May, he plans to open another Manolo store at the Bahrain Villa Moda, in interiors inspired by the old palaces of Syria. Al-Sabah is to open a third unit for the luxury cobbler early next year in Qatar, inspired by the old palaces of Fez. Morocco.

All three units will offer limited edition and specially designed shoes for the Middle Eastern customer, in addition to Manolo Blahnik's seasonal collections.

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