DUBAI – In a city where everything twinkles, there is a new star in the retail firmament.
Earlier this month, some 400 guests gathered to celebrate the opening of Etoile by Jacques Garcia, the newest addition to the Etoile Group’s universe. The opening of the approximately 800-square-foot space at the Mall of the Emirates here – at 4.3 million square feet, the second-largest mall in the world – was followed by a gala dinner at the Emirate Towers.
Group founder and president Ingie Chaloub, one of the region’s most successful and visible female entrepreneurs, was the first to introduce European designers to the Middle East, starting with a Chanel store in Kuwait in 1983. Since then she has opened 37 multibrand stores across the region for brands such as Christian Lacroix, Valentino, Alaïa and Tod’s.
“With Etoile by Jacques Garcia, we wanted to create something luxurious but modern and fashion-forward, something on the crossroads of fashion and art that would appeal to locals and international visitors alike,” Chaloub said.
Interior designer Jacques Garcia decorated the curved walls with gold leaf, embellished pillars with ceiling-high resin sculptures of his own design inspired by Brancusi and hung dressing room doorways with real pearl curtains (the name “Ingie,” as it happens, translates as “pearl”). A limited-edition line of Bernadaud porcelain was commissioned for the space.
Guests at the gala included Burberry president Rose Marie Bravo, models Angie Everhart and Yasmin Le Bon, and designers Renaud Pellegrino and Jonathan Saunders. French actress and chanteuse Arielle Dombasle entertained guests with songs from her latest album, including “As Time Goes By” and “Besame Mucho.”
Saunders noted that it was heartening to see such an eclectic range of designers on the shelves, from Dior and Valentino to Emma Cook, FrostFrench and Bruns Bazaar.
“In a culture where dressing up happens not once but several times a day, there can be great opportunity for smaller designers,” he said.
“In an era when there is so much minimalism in retail, this concept is extremely adapted to an Oriental market and at the same time it will appeal to visitors,” observed consultant Jean Jacques Picart, who admired the accessories-as-art display designed to draw shoppers toward the clothes. He pointed out groups of women gathering in the dressing rooms, clothes in hand, adding, “There is a fairy-tale quality about the shop that makes women want to dress like a princess.”
And speaking of sparkle, Chaloub’s next project is to bring Chanel Joaillerie to Dubai. It will be the brand’s first franchised store outside France.
The Etoile Group is privately owned and does not reveal numbers. But the city, which has risen from the desert to become perhaps the world’s biggest shopping mecca, expects to see tourist numbers swell to 15 million in 2010 from six million this year. Forecasts project that by then, Dubai will account for $7.6 billion of the United Arab Emirate’s projected $10.2 billion in retail revenues.