UAE designer trumpets style at any age

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UAE designer trumpets style at any age

Comfort and style at any age is the ethos behind Judith Hobby Clothing. We talk to lawyer-turned- designer Judith about her passion for clothes and her personal campaign to get women ‘of a certain age’ back into the spotlight.

By (Jenna Powell (

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Published: Mon 28 Apr 2014, 12:43 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:28 PM

Judith Hobby, on the cusp of 50, quickly found it was hard finding anything to wear in Dubai’s malls. She wanted to dress with a stylish edge, not like a grandmother. Apart from the structured-work look of the items in many of the department stores in Dubai, she found there was next to nothing that catered for her demographic. The occasional outfit she did find was always extremely expensive.

She says the stores in Dubai are overwhelming for the younger set, and it was this lack of options that spurred her to create Judith Hobby Clothing.

It all started as a bit of fun. She and a friend would travel to places like Bali and India to pick up clothes and accessories to sell here in the United Arab Emirates.

“It would cover the cost of our trips. It wasn’t a successful business but it was a load of fun. It was just a way to keep myself entertained, really,” she says in her broad New Zealand accent.

But during their trips away, it became more and more difficult to find new and interesting things the

Dubai market had not seen before, so she decided to try designing a few of her own pieces. The items sold out in a day.

That success and the lack of clothing options for stay-at-home mothers and non-working women made her think she might be on to something.

“The structured work suits are beautiful and they have their place, but if you’re just going to pick up the kids from school and take them to a sports match, that’s not what you want to wear – yet that seems to be one of the only options for older women.”

Judith says many women lose their way when it comes to style because of the way society and clothing manufacturers make them feel about getting older. Women are being “silo-ed” into dour clothing because they aren’t given affordable options by mainstream shops.

“Once women get older we just disappear off the radar in so many different ways. With clothing, it used to be that you started wearing silk and pearls once you hit 50 because you were considered a grandmother. But we’re not like that anymore. Women of my generation came up from an era where we were told we could do anything. We don’t want to just give up and buy a nice pair of tailored trousers when we’ve reached a certain age.”

Once women feel they can’t keep up with fashion they often lose interest in putting effort into their overall appearance, which can lower their self-esteem, she says.

“If you feel like you look good, you’re so much more confident. If leave the house feeling fabulous you have a much more positive outlook on everything.”

The mother of two says while women are realizing they don’t have to conform to society’s ideals of how a woman should dress post-40, most clothing manufacturers have yet to clue into that change in attitude. She had a rude awakening when she attended a wholesale exhibition, Pure, in London.

“I just wanted to see if it could be something interesting for my brand. I was shocked. It seemed to fall into three categories: nightclub outfits, poorly made clothes for younger people, and grandmotherly outfits. There was nothing in the middle.”

She says the secret to her designs’ success is their versatility. Simple but stylish clothes that can be taken from day to night suit the busy lifestyles of stay-at-home and working mums. Judith says a woman can go to Carrefour to do the groceries in one of her outfits and then nip home, add a pair of heels and the right necklace, and be good to go out to dinner with her friends or husband.

She says she also considers the climate of the UAE when she designs her pieces. Non-clingy, machine-washable and breathable fabrics, which are comfortable to wear in Dubai’s sizzling summers, make up her collection.

Judith Hobby Clothing also offers style advice on its website and hosts open-homes where women can come and enjoy what she calls an “entertainment and shopping experience”.

“I have a very talented set of girlfriends who make jewellery, shoes, bags, homewares, and do make-up tutorials and cooking demonstrations. It’s more than just shopping.”

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