Native: A brand that is made in Dubai
It really is about being a proud "Made in Dubai" brand for Native, a high-fashion leather accessory label that is now expanding its homegrown philosophy into a chic concept store
Jumeirah has become known for its all-pampering beauty spas, charming coffee shops and luxurious residential villas. In the middle of all this, you feel the presence of the "Made in Dubai" accessory brand, Native, that has chosen to open a 5,000 square ft, two-storey, plush boutique in the area.
In 2007, Rachna and her husband Rahul Malkani started the UAE's first genuine leather manufacturing unit, and found that local entrepreneurs were more than happy to start working with them. But Rachna still felt there was a gap in the market. "Realising that there was a lack of quality leather goods being manufactured locally, and that the market was more dependent on the trade from other places [leaving clients hungry for quality and custom-made options with timely turnaround], we wanted to create a facility that could cater to those needs."
This made Rachna launch her own label, Native. The Indian-origin creative director of Native has been living in Dubai for 23 years now. "It has become home to us and we are extremely proud of Dubai for the way it has set such high standards in front of the world by realising its visions and achieving so much, even while faced with diversities; it has taught us the lesson of being resilient even when tides are against you. It only drives you even more to create and deliver nothing but the best."
The first bag designed was called Hoity Toity, and Rachna used leather such as camel, ostrich and python; despite its luxurious linings and solid brass-gold hardware, it received mixed reviews, and Rachna says, "It allowed us to improve our next collections." Soon, styles such as Glitzy and Begin Over became hot-sellers for Native and they began to sell in select stores throughout the region, including Dubai's The Fashion Vault and Abu Dhabi's Tyrano. It was the way Native mixed exotic leathers that became the trademark. With the leathers sourced from Italy and France, from ethical suppliers and using only vegetable dyes that have no metal added to them, Native became a brand you knew you could rely on. "We have managed to create a beautiful mix of materials, designs and range with exotics in our collection which has given them [customers] an opportunity to experience exotics at a different level and in a more approachable way."
Still, Rachna wanted to take her "native" message and make it about more than just handbags. And, so a few weeks ago, there was the soft opening of her store House of Native in Jumeirah. The official launch will be in October. "With House of Native, our thought is not only to have what Native offers to their clientele but also to combine the experience by bringing on board mostly regional as well as international established and upcoming designers. It's been done with the thought of clients walking in and being able to satiate their retail appetite and to hang out with friends while chatting over a cup of coffee at the Attibassi Italian coffee shop within the House of Native."
In keeping with Dubai's love of made to order, there is a VIP room for those who want customised stuff. From crocodile to camel, you can decide on the choice of leather, colour and size according to your personal taste. And with the opening of House Of Native, Rachna has started her own shoe line. "We started with flats, ballerinas and sliders, and we will be starting a custom-made shoes service real soon for our clients - again, a very Native concept of having your shoes made to fit you, in your own way." Though the heels are sourced from Italy, all flat shoes and uppers are "made in Dubai". With heartbeat motifs added to ballerinas and heels designed with the signature knot element, there is a touch of Native's trademark 'elegant quirk' to everything they design.
If it's a gifting item you are looking for, Native's new 'Elements' line may be a good option; this smaller leather goods line has great pieces (with prices starting at Dh190) for men and women. The opening of House of Native has made Rachna develop her label into a complete leather accessory fashion house.
While the "Made in Dubai" label is still young, there is competition - especially when it comes to handbags. There are a few established "Made in Dubai" brands - be it Nathalie Trad (that sells out of stores like London's Selfridges), Amanda Navai (who sells in Harvey Nichol's Bloomingdales and Tyrano), and Rula Galayini (a regular at Fashion Forward Dubai and who may also be found at Galeries Lafayette). But Rachna seems to have her strategy in place and is clear for her "home is home even when you love to travel and explore", so Native is staying true to its brand name and focusing on Dubai and the region. And she also feels that the growth of "Made in Dubai" brands is something that works for every brand that is native to the region. "There is the uniqueness and surprise element of creating a handcrafted world class luxury brand and having people in Italy and France ask, is this really made in Dubai?"
She feels that Dubai's fashionable women are slowly becoming proud to wear and carry homegrown labels. "The pride in the makers is there but we are still working on making the consumer feel it too. It will take us a while to bring this awareness into the consumer that 'Made in UAE' has world-class standards and quality. There is huge potential in regional designers which deserves to be recognised and brought forward." And House of Native hopes to be part of this change.