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A blue carpet of victory lays the foundation for Scandinavian fashion in Dubai

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is one of the world’s natural leading retail destinations. What was once an arid desert is now home to several of the world’s largest and most dynamic shopping mall experiences. The iconic Dubai Mall contains over 1,200 stores on 4 floors, and its smaller sibling, the Mall of the Emirates, has over 700 stores. Dubai is actually second only to London in terms of the number of international brands which are present in the market (57% of global brands are present in Dubai).

Apart from a significant retail base, Dubai is also the emerging fashion hub of the Middle East. In 2013, the Dubai government created the Dubai Design & Fashion Council whose mandate is to lead the way for Dubai to become one of the world’s leading design and fashion hubs. The city is home to two major fashion events: the locally based fashion event “Fashion Forward”, held at fashion and creative arts hub, “Dubai’s Design District” (d3), and “Arab Fashion Week”, which is the only fashion week in Dubai recognised in international fashion calendars, are both hosted in the city twice annually.

While most designers tend to go initially for the more well-known fashion markets such as New York, Milan or Paris, during the fall of 2016 Business Sweden in Dubai worked with an up-and-coming designer from Stockholm who is creating her own, strong, story. Victoria Senkpiel, a designer who creates collections under the same name, had a clear unique vision in mind: approach the Middle Eastern market first, and thereafter expand to more “traditional” fashion markets.

Victoria designs high-heeled shoes for strong, independent, primarily business women. The sole of her shoe is blue, signifying a “blue carpet of victory” on which the women who wear her shoes walk on. The shoes are handmade in Italy, and her designs are inspired by Swedish nature. Her products and underlying theme of women empowerment are an interesting fit for the complex Middle Eastern market.

Business Sweden in Dubai worked with Victoria during the fall of 2016 to analyse the high-end shoe market in Dubai, understand the purchasing structure of the industry, and more importantly assess the market demand for Victoria’s products, which in the Middle Eastern context can be deemed relatively Scandinavian minimalistic, although not necessarily in their home market of Sweden. As the first Scandinavian designer, Victoria exhibited her products at the Arab Fashion Week during the fall of 2016.

Victoria further visited Dubai during the opening weeks of 2017 and together with Business Sweden met with potential partners and distributors such as the iconic Level Shoes outlet in Dubai Mall, but also with additional actors of relevance, such as leading regional fashion bloggers, and the Dubai Design & Fashion Council. The people who met with Victoria expressed that she has a unique and strong story that resonates well with the local market. Potential collaboration with local designers could further heighten the local attractiveness.

As Dubai is a highly competitive fashion market, additional work is needed for Victoria. Therefore, Business Sweden will continue to work with Victoria during the first half of 2017. The next steps are for Business Sweden and Victoria to follow up and further discuss with the actors who were identified and who met with Victoria during the first part of the project. Victoria will most likely once again visit Dubai, to further shape her products for the local market, and prepare the women of Dubai for the coming of her “blue carpet of victory”.