You are currently reading Issue 22: Dubai Special, January 2015

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Womanthology Icon

Khulood Thani, Fashion Designer and Founder of BINT THANI on building an innovative global fashion label using local inspiration

Cubist Moods

Born and raised in Dubai, Khulood Thani is the first UAE national to hold a degree in Fashion Management and Marketing from ESMOD Paris, the oldest sartorial institute in France. She also studied at London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins, received a Master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from the University of Wollongong and a B.A. in Marketing Communication from Zayed University in Dubai. Combining the meticulous skill of a designer with the sharp mind of an entrepreneur, Khulood launched BINT THANI in 2012 with her strong interest in fashion history, together with major art and design movements heavily influencing the label’s collections.

Khulood Thani
Khulood Thani

“…For me it’s a kind of society where men and women are completing each other and not competing with each other. That’s the way that we are brought up and that’s something good. We’re getting the same rights. We’re supported and they’re supported…”

The path to global entrepreneurship

I studied Fashion Management and Marketing in Paris whilst I was doing my creative classes for the same degree, but most of the creative classes were at the London College of Fashion at St. Martins.

Before I started the company I’d worked for all almost 11 years before with the Dubai Shopping Festival Office, which is now the Dubai Events and Promotion Department under Dubai Tourism.

It was a long time ago and I learned a huge amount. I joined them as Marketing Coordinator and I left as Marketing Director. During those years when I worked for the Government, I was really supported to join a leadership programme. The people who were very active working in Government were handpicked. It was a very interesting course for us.

Setting up a luxury, design-led fashion label in Dubai

We started three years ago and our business was focusing on our range of high end turbans, which are one-off accessories we were producing under our BINT THANI label. The turbans became very popular in the GCC, [Gulf Cooperation Council Countries] in particular in Dubai and Doha.

Aside from the turbans we started getting into more artistic projects. That’s when we were picked up by Not Just a Label in London. They picked up our brand as one of their ‘black sheep’ brands and we got the opportunity to present at one of their artistic projects in Italy. We did this exclusively for the “Origin. Passion and Beliefs” exhibition, supported by Not Just a Label in Vicenza, Italy. That took place last May.

BINT THANI: Global brand, local inspiration

BINT THANI Between the Dunes dressFor projects we try to get inspiration from our local environment and put it into an international frame. We believe the world is now global and we have to present our brand as global. We like to export our ideas to the world from Dubai. All the production is done over here with a very small team.

So for this project, one of the inspirations was the desert, so we used laser cutting to create a mini dress that’s made of sand dunes in different shades, all made out of organza. We used laser cutting to make up the layers of the dress and we also used camel leather to accessorise it.

We have a tannery for camel leather over here in Abu Dhabi because we have a product market for camel meat and camel milk, so we sourced our camel leather from there as it is a by-product. We are the first designers to use camel leather. It’s all dyed in a very natural way. When they dye the leather it’s using a biodegradable vegetable base.

After this project we started another project, our ready to wear collection, which we launched on 26th November.

Our beliefs: Fashion; design; art

This year we were picked by the Middle East Excellence Awards. We were recognised in the ‘Passion and Art’ category for the things we are doing. We prefer to position our brand as a design brand, not just fashion. We believe in fashion and we believe in design and we believe in art, so lots of our inspiration also comes from the school of thoughts of different art schools.

For our up and coming project we worked closely with an artist photographer, so that’s why you see an artistic perspective when it comes to our photo shoots. We care that they have to be contemporary because that’s something we’re emphasising. It also has to reflect luxury.

In terms of contemporary brands, we are one of the few contemporary fashion brands in Dubai. We are one of the first brands to push the boundaries when it comes to contemporary fashion.

Childhood inspiration

BINT THANI Punk turbanMuch of my inspiration comes from my own childhood. When I went to London during the 80s, saw a lot of punks in the streets. I was approached by one retailer to come up with something punk influenced two years ago, so I came up with the idea of turbans that reflect the punk movement, because that was one of the first things I saw when I was five or six years old. It was so different for me in London.

These were exhibited exclusively in one boutique in Dubai. We also did another exclusive line for them that sold out.

Designs for the global traveller

We believe in the global traveller; in Dubai we have more people coming from abroad and also travelling to other places around the world. Firstly we sold the lighter turbans, but we also sold the thicker ones. The stores were saying, “Maybe it’s summer and people won’t be buying something for winter,” but we were saying, “Try it out and let’s see!” So it went very well. We came up with a style that allowed it to be worn seven (or more) different ways.

Setting, not following trends

In terms of brand, we try to push the boundaries. We try to be trend setters. We’re not trend followers. We like people who are independent and sophisticated, people who think about styling. We like to empower the customer to create their own styling with our garments, so it’s not the garment that’s making them; it’s them making their own style.

That’s why we’re really careful in terms of how we position the brand. Even with more of our classic lines, they’re not really for people who want to follow a certain trend. It’s for trend setters.

It’s becoming increasingly global and we’re getting more and more response. In the beginning people tried to link our turbans to religion, but they aren’t a replacement for the Hijab for a very simple reason, because they don’t cover what Hijabs cover. It’s two completely different things.

We’re positioning it as an accessory. If customers want to wear it as a replacement for the Hijbab and cover the other areas, such as the neck, with a scarf as per the job of the Hijab it’s up to them. If they want to wear it as a turban it’s up to the customer. We don’t interfere in the styling.

Inspired by Cubism and architecture

Cubist Moods inspirationOur up and coming collection comes from the Cubism movement and the reflection of modern architecture in Dubai. So we tried to take different elements we really liked from Cubism. You will see a lot of Picasso’s work, a lot of Cubist furniture and some of the modern architecture in Dubai. Our story is based in Dubai so we wanted customers to be able to see that connection.

In terms of the colours we’ve collected, they are colours you would see on a normal day in Dubai. It could be sky blue, or dark blue or navy blue because of the reflection of the buildings. We’re also using a lot of grey and a bit of nude colour, but it’s very light.

The double colour we used in the collection comes from the Picasso pieces. There are two particular buildings opposite the Dubai Mall, two curvy buildings that inspired us.

Growing design studio with a focus on quality

We make everything ourselves internally, but as we grow we are looking at outsourcing production, because we believe we’re more of a design studio and we should focus on the design and then get someone to do the production for us.

This is our first ready to wear collection, so we’re really focusing on quality. We want our story to be strong, so we don’t want to give anyone else the production at this stage, but definitely at a later stage.

For the laser cutting, we create the designs ourselves on the computer, but then we give these to the supplier to make a customised roll of fabric for us. Aside from the laser cutting we’re also using organised pleats, which look quite Japanese in style.

It’s for spring / summer but we prefer to have it in retail from late November because as some of our garments are thicker, people would like to have them now, especially as we are in Dubai. The customers don’t want to wait.

Female entrepreneurship in Dubai

Between the Dunes leather hoodieMore recently, aside from that as working as a female entrepreneur in Dubai, I’ve been approached by the British Council Cultural Leadership Programme and I’m now doing the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) and the British Council’s Joint Cultural Excellence Fellowship (CEF) programme. We’re very lucky to be in this part of the world.

When I started my brand, I was also approached by the Goethe Institute for German language in the UAE and we’ve done a cultural exchange between Dubai and Berlin.

We are very lucky because our Government have been supportive of women for a long time. Women have been supported by Government in developing their ideas and for their contribution of the work they do. You’ll find women in most leading positions now, often more than men.

For me it’s a kind of society where men and women are completing each other and not competing with each other. That’s the way that we are brought up and that’s something good. We’re getting the same rights. We’re supported and they’re supported, so we’re really lucky to be here.

What’s new for 2015?

Cubist MoodsWithin the brand, now I’m focussing on the next two collections, profiling it as a purely contemporary cutting edge brand and a luxury cutting edge brand. After that we’re looking at sales in international cities. We’re really trying to focus on the image of the brand in these two up and coming collections. We’d like people to grasp what BINT THANI is all about.

We did a huge event next week in The CARTel, a retailer in one of Dubai’s artistic districts, Alserkal Avenue, because our concept is all about Cubism and modern architecture it’s the right place to launch the collection. So we had our collection over there for a private preview for ladies only, because some of our ladies only like exclusivity and they like to be treated differently. We also invited some ladies’ press.

Then we had an event for potential clients and for people who have been supporting us for the past three years.

We’re going to start selling with ‘Not Just a Label’ because we believe in their strategy of contemporary fashion and they have their interest in our brand and they have been very supportive of what we’re doing to push the boundaries.

They believe in our brand and I hope in 2015 we will go back to Vicenza in Italy. That is something really interesting for us as a brand and last year we were the only brand from Dubai. From three brands from the Middle East we were the only one from the GCC Countries. Two were from Beirut, but we know that they started a long time ago. It’s really promising that there was someone picked from Dubai and I hope we will be part of it for the coming year.

Share this article