A Colorful Life

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, June 2016 issue

Emirati entrepreneur FATIMA AL SHIRAWI decodes color therapy and its many shades, writes PRIYANKA PRADHAN
VILLA 88 JUNE 2016 113-page-001
Download PDF here: https://www.scribd.com/document/321128083/A-colorful-Life

She lives, breathes and dreams in color. For Fatima Al Shirawi, hues have dictated every aspect of her life from home to work and from

her wardrobe to her inter-personal relationships. Perhaps this is why she chose to help people use colors to change their lives. “It’s been a very long and colorful journey,” says Fatima. “When I went to England to study fashion design, we had to take a class in color psychology and that’s when I was introduced to the world of color for the first time. It was an instant calling since the first day of my class and I’ve been mesmerized ever since.”

“When I came back to Dubai after my course, I realized this was something lacking in the market. People weren’t aware of how emotions could be associated with color. They didn’t know how in-depth the concept could go and how it could a ect various aspects of their lives. This was an opportunity waiting to be explored,” she says. This is how her brand The Gracious F was born.

Her client profile is truly diverse — ranging from age 26 to 50, working professionals to housewives, new moms to singles looking for love and from the newly wed to the newly divorced, who come looking for help to either change or simply enhance their lives through colors. The process is fairly simple. Starting with a general questionnaire about personality and preferences, a typical consulting session involves an in-depth analysis of the client as well as several color tests against their skin, to determine which palette suits them best. This palette is further customized into a personal color kit for the client, which can be used in their wardrobes, home interiors or workspace, depending on which area of life the client wants to work on.

“You also receive a full report on personal grooming according to your personality and body type- which colors to wear, hairstyles, fragrances, fabric, jewelry and make up choices, what careers suit you—it’s a complete lifestyle package,” she adds.

While working with clients to create personalized work and private spaces, she stumbled upon an idea to create a multifunctional piece for her clients— an interior décor project and her personal labor of love. “‘The object’ came about as a result of my own di culty while working in interior design,” says Fatima. “When I analyze an individual, I aim to customize and personalize their private space to the best of my ability. In the market, I couldn’t find something to match their individual personalities so I created something that my clients could use as an art piece in their homes and also something that was multi-functional. I further personalize ‘the object’ according to the client’s color individual therapy session.”

However, it hasn’t been the easiest journey to convince the market to buy into a concept that is fairly esoteric. “In order to create awareness about color therapy, I have been working on a lot of workshops and talks to educate people, which has in turn helped potential clients understand and try it for the first time, ” she says. “There was a considerable amount of skepticism when I started out first. I found that individuals are becoming more and more open to fresh, creative concepts to improve their lives as opposed to corporates, who are more hesitant to try something new,” adds Fatima. “In such a fast-paced environment such as Dubai, stress is a big problem amongst adults and they’re ready to try something new in their lives.”

The color therapy concept applies itself to the corporate world on a larger scale. Fatima will first assess the customer profile and target group of the store and carefully categorize them into groups. “We create each section for each type of personality. We blend in colors, textures and designs together to appeal to the customer profile or target group for the store. So when the customer enters the store, they automatically gravitate towards the section that appeals to them. For example, the majority of customers from the UAE, Levant and the Mediterranean belt are autumn personalities, so we can derive general characteristics of these personalities and determine the kind of colors they’re drawn towards.”

She may have scaled up her business by several leagues since she started in 2012 but she says her biggest achievement so far is something that cannot be quantified. “The feedback that I get and the happy faces of my clients —that’s the ultimate satisfaction for me and it keeps me going. They come in with questions and concerns and leave with a happy, positive feeling and that’s something that’s irreplaceable for me. My biggest achievement is seeing my clients’ lives turn around due to the positive e ects of color therapy.”

As for future plans, Fatima will continue to build The Gracious F and expand internationally, travel and acquire skills that will further enhance her work. With a wealth of experience, years of training as well as her inherent personal charm, Fatima aims to offer the world the ultimate color experience. http://www.thegraciousf.com


Saudi Sartorialst

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, June 2016 issue.

Womenswear designer NASIBA HAFIZ talks fashion, philosophy and philanthropy to PRIYANKA PRADHAN
VILLA 88 JUNE 2016 064-page-001
Download PDF version here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/316861203/Saudi-Sartorialist

It took no less than ten years in the fashion industry for her to realize

her teenage dream. After successful stints in styling, buying and merchandising across Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, life came a full circle for womenswear

designer Nasiba Hafiz when she re-opened her sketchbook, a decade after being rejected from a top fashion school in her late teens. Now, with an arsenal of experience in the fashion industry, Jeddah-based Hafiz sharpens her pencils and her skills as designer-entrepreneur. “I learnt so much in my journey within these di erent roles,” she says. “I think I was meant to do those things and learn everything from scratch, because it helps me tremendously today.”

Nasiba has a trained eye for global and local market trends and creates collections that aim to be both, comfortable for the local climate as well as stylish. This understated and practical style aesthetic forms her signature that’s seen across all her collections. “For example, as a buyer, I learnt that every collection has a story and every aspect of a piece in that collection stems from that story—the fabrics used, the design and ultimately who it appeals to. So as a designer, when I start a collection, I always start with a story behind it and from it, come di erent aspects of design,” she adds.

“My designs are very modern—they’re for working women, designed with a strong functional aspect,” she adds. “For example, most women here wear the abaya over their clothes so the fabrics used in my collections are very light and breathable—I use crepe, silk or blends that are apt for this climate.”

Her most recent collection showcased at Fashion Forward in Dubai this season and combined this practical sensibility with a philosophical touch. Inspired by one of the most powerful and iconic women in Egyptian history, Queen Nefertiti, and the mysteries behind the sun and the stars (which were first worshipped by Nefertiti and her husband), the collection is about the concept of duality. “I wanted to find a balance in my personal life as well as in the chaotic world,” says Nasiba. “So in my collection, you’ll see a lot of silk, monochrome, velvet, a bit of red and burnt thread in my new collection, to represent balance and duality in fabric and color as well.”

The designer is also a campaigner for responsible fashion, with the conviction that one should be aware of where and how their fashion products are made, in order to make ethical choices. For the same reason, she’s an ardent admirer of designer Stella McCartney, who is known to use vegan alternatives for leather and wool for her collections. Inspired by social responsibility, Nasiba works in collaboration with a local CSR initiative for one of her bestselling Ramadan abayas, to support underprivileged women in Saudi Arabia.

Another big inspiration for Hafiz is vintage fashion, seen in her own collection of handmade, vintage pieces made from items her mother has collected over the years and from her father’s timeless collection of ties.

“I started o with a 40s and 50s inspired collection last Ramadan and used a lot of my mother’s vintage flowers and broaches—she never threw away these things! Last season at Fashion Forward, I used my father’s ties to make skirts and tops from vintage ties. They were all handmade and were very intricate and beautiful. Every season I try to do something di erent in this aspect—either vintage or something I can create from my parents’ old things—its handcrafted, sustainable and recycled!”

Post summer, the designer will be working towards the launch of her fragrance, inspired by all things vintage such as old black and white Egyptian movies, combined with her signature style—understated, elegant and functional. http://www.nasibahafiz.com

The Crown Jewel

Published in Villa 88 spring 2016 issue

H.H. Sheikha Mariam Khalifa Bin Saif is carving her own niche in the jewelry world with her symbolic, contemporary designs and a touch of Emirati pride, says PRIYANKA PRADHAN

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 4.45.48 PM

Download PDF here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/303388113/The-Crown-Jewel

Not everyday does one come across a modern-day princess. Even rarer is the opportunity to encounter one who’s single-handedly making a huge impact in the entrepreneurial world.

As granddaughter of UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, she comes from a royal lineage but did not shy away from stepping into the very public domain of entrepreneurship by starting her own brand, MKS Jewellery, from scratch. “We were raised to work hard and achieve high goals,” says H.H. Sheikha Mariam Khalifa Bin Saif.

“Whatever we achieve in life is from our own merit. These principles helped me a lot. I knew that, in order to succeed in such a competitive market, I needed to work hard. Nobody was going to hand me a successful business on a golden platter.”

Not surprisingly then, she delves into the day-to-day affairs of her business from designing jewelry to packaging and communicating directly with clients on orders. With four collections comprising charms, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, pendants and rings, apart from made-to-order jewelry, it’s an exciting challenge for her.

Although running her own business had never crossed her mind, her inherent love for jewelry while growing up, played a major role in finding her calling and shaping her métier as a designer-entrepreneur. She recalls how she’d love to wear some of her mother’s jewelry and has fond memories of her first few brushes with jewels—such as a white gold heart shaped pendant gifted to her in her teenage years, which she still loves.

“One of the things I love most about designing MKS Jewellery, is that a part of what I have designed would be passed down to generations forever,” She says. “I am part of someone’s story, someone’s life. A necklace bought in 2016, one day in the future, someone would remember that their great-great grandma was gifted the jewelry from a significant other. Jewelry is a piece of art that gets passed down—a wearable art that has a story.”

Her designs are at once eclectic and contemporary. In 2013, she started MKS Jewellery to share her love for unique pieces that symbolize something meaningful for her and for the wearer. “Most of my designs are symbolic,” she says. “Maybe when I designed it, I had a personal meaning in mind, but when someone else wears or gifts MKS Jewellery, they may associate a different meaning to the design.”

“For example, one of my pieces is ‘the dove’ from the Geo Collection that symbolizes love, peace and hope. Another item from the same collection is the ‘Honey Bee’. As a play on words, I like to call it the “Bee Mine” necklace, pendant and ring, but perhaps the person wearing it could relate it to work or business—it could mean ‘busy bee’, for someone who is ambitious and hard working,” she adds.

Sheikha Mariam is also influenced by royal heirloom jewelry that she has seen since she was a child. “My grandmother has a necklace created from the pearls her father and grandfather collected,” she says. “It’s really old and beautiful. It’s a special piece because it’s rare to find natural pearls that are not cultured, old pearls prior to Japanese pearl farming. There is a tremendous value in antique Emirati pearl jewelry.”

This was the inspiration behind designing the Al-Otaiba collection for MKS Jewellery, which uses pearls from the UAE. Moreover, she produces all of her jewelry within the country, as a tribute to Emirati heritage. “We (the UAE) produce items of the highest quality, and as an entrepreneur, I find that whatever I need, the majority can be produced in the country, so why should we go abroad? I am proud of the items produced in the UAE,” she says.

“Pertaining to my brand, many people assume that we make everything outside,” she adds. “MKS Jewellery is a luxury brand, made in the UAE, incorporating other components of UAE heritage and products, such as our signature camel leather jewelry pouches, that we use for packaging.”

Sheikha Mariam also emphasizes the importance of engaging in the burgeoning local entrepreneurial community by exchanging ideas and exploring potential together. “Being an entrepreneur has given me an opportunity to meet and interact with many people and it opened up my circle of connections,” she muses. “Learning from other entrepreneurs and seeing results, both positive and negative, has taught me how to approach different areas of business.”

“It’s inspiring to see so many talented, young Emiratis are setting up their own businesses,” she says. “They are talented and have great ideas. More young people should turn these ideas into reality and I’m sure they will achieve a lot. It’s easy to sell from home on Instagram, without a shop, without going global. Opening a business like that is easy, but opening a business that people recognize, takes a lot of hard work.”

Going forward, H.H. Sheikha Mariam Khalifa Bin Saif is planning to make MKS Jewellery a globally recognized brand. Unafraid of challenges or the fear of failure, she parts on a pensive note. “Someone once asked me if I ever experienced failure, and I told her that I have never failed!” she asserts. “Even if I failed in my business, I wouldn’t consider it a failure. I would consider myself a failure if I had a dream and never pursued it, or if I gave up on a dream.”

As she winds down after a long day with her usual chai haleeb, Sheikha Mariam embodies the spirit of enjoying life’s simple pleasures, staying grounded and working hard. She truly is is one ‘busy bee’ that inspires—on the shelf and off it.

MKS Jewellery can be found at the jewelry department,Bloomingdale’s Dubai, The Dubai Mall, Abu Dhabi Dutyfree Airport and Mosaique UAE. You can also shop at the online store mksjewellery.com/shop


Life of L’Afshar

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, Spring ’16 issue

A homegrown Dubai label reveals how it has influenced global fashion, says PRIYANKA PRADHAN

afshar 1-page-001
Download PDF: https://www.scribd.com/doc/303185958/Life-of-L-Afshar

She’s no ingénue on the global fashion stage. In just two years since its birth, Lilian Afshar’s accessories brand, L’Afshar, is loving the spotlight in the luxury retail world. Her dragonfly bug detail box clutches have made it to the pages of fashion editorials in French Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New York Times Magazine, and not to mention, into the hands of editors and bloggers from New York to Singapore and from Georgia to Australia.

A look at her extensive list of global stock lists makes one wonder how this homegrown Dubai brand rose to instant fame. “Oh Instagram!” she says. “It played a huge part in creating awareness across the world and sparking interest from boutiques, fashion editors and bloggers. It just happened so organically and naturally… none of it was pre planned. But apart from exposure, it also translates into sales because a lot of boutiques contact me to stock my clutches in LA, Singapore, London—from everywhere. When I ask them how they heard about my brand, they almost always say Instagram! It leads to private sales and customizations as well.”

But what is it about her clutches that catches the eye? Perhaps her 25,000 social media followers will be happy to answer that. It could well be the materials she chooses to work with. She managed to turn industrial-use elements such as marble and glass to craft delicate box clutches and emboss them with her signature emblem.

However, it hasn’t been the easiest journey for the designer. “I had to literally force the factories into creating the clutches for me,” she explains. “I had to look for industrial product makers because the kinds of materials I was using needed heavy machinery and techniques. These factories were not used to working with things like clutches or accessories—they used the techniques for huge walls of massive slabs of uncut stones so I really had to convince them to do it.”

Even the process of creating each of these clutches is remarkably unique. The colors are in liquid form when they are mixed on an industrial sized sheet for that marble effect. The marble swirl look on the clutches are created by hand, so each clutch is unique and by default, no two clutches can be identical. As a majority of her clients are from the Middle East, she also takes special care to cater to customizations such as names in Arabic on her clutches, making them even more exclusive and personal.

“I also want to experiment with unique and colored stones, maybe a rare marble,” she says. “It’s always a challenge because factories can’t use too many colors and options are limited, but its about find a way out.”

Speaking of challenges, Afshar’s main hurdle was the lack of any business background, to run her own label. But with help from family and by continually re-inventing herself, she now enjoys her multitasking life as an entrepreneur. “I’m not just a designer now,” she emphasizes. “I take charge of the creative side but also manage day-to-day business and run the brand. No two days are alike and I love that! Some days I’m in the factory when my hair is a mess and I’m sweating, while on other days I’m at a photoshoot. If I had just one position or role, I guess I’d get bored or maybe stagnant… perhaps because I’m a Gemini.”

Next on her radar is costume jewelry, using the same industrial materials and techniques that shot her clutches to fame. Soon, she is also looking to mix leather handbags with her box clutches—another intriguing juxtaposing of forms, textures and shapes.

Her inspirations and influences are at once minimalist, simple and bold. She admires labels such as The Row and would love to see one of her clutches in the hands of actress Jennifer Lawrence. Judging by her popularity amongst international stylists and editors, this might just happen sooner than later.

As she takes off to prepare for a more proximate dream, a bridal collection of clutches from L’afshar, one can’t help but observe her ethos as a designer— inventive, avant-garde, and transformative— precisely what her signature dragonfly-bug stands for.



Download PDF: Interview with Laura Mercier, IWC Ladies Magazine, October 2015

Tête-à-tête With Laura Mercier

Published in IWC Ladies Magazine Middle East, October 2015

Beauty goddess Laura Mercier talks make-up, Madonna and the manic backstage world since the 1980s to date. Ladies finds what makes her tick, in ten questions.
By Priyanka Pradhan

Download PDF: Interview with Laura Mercier. Published in IWC Ladies Magazine, October 2015

Download PDF: Interview with Laura Mercier. Published in IWC Ladies Magazine, October 2015

You’ve been a make–up artist to icons such as Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker, which is the single most memorable face you’ve ever worked on?

All the celebrities I have worked with such as Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Sarah Jessica Parker were all wonderful experiences and challenging in their own way. The most demanding in terms of creativity was my work with Madonna. I had a wonderful experience working with Madonna for many years and the level of perfectionism was extreme doing different make-up looks from video to video. It was a very enriching experience.

You graduated as an art major and then went to beauty school in Paris. What turned you into a make-up entrepreneur?

Because I loved working with the skin I initially became an aesthetician which allowed me to learn quite a lot about it. When I started my career combining skin with make-up it seemed like a natural fit.

You started out as make-up artist in the 80s, when Photoshop touch ups for models were not available. Could you recall some of those times as a budding make-up artist and the challenges you faced?

In the 80’s photo shoots evolved quite a lot with fashion trends and were taking place more and more outdoors. I needed to adapt the make-up in a very invisible way even if the model was in a swimming pool, running on the beach or splashing water on her face. The make-up needed to be super natural but perfect. The challenge was to hide the flaws on the face without layering. I had to perfect the retouching secret. That is when I became obsessed with making the skin perfect and became known as the flawless expert.

What is your advice regarding everyday make-up?

The best advice I would give is to always do your make-up in a subtle way by choosing the right formula and texture for your skin. Don’t try to layer. If you have for example two pimples, cover them with Secret Camouflage and use Tinted Moisturizer on the entire face. Keep in mind showing skin is not a bad thing. Just cover the flaws where needed. Everyone can certainly benefit from a bit of make-up to boost their confidence. Take the time to do it for yourself.

What changes have you observed in the beauty industry since you started? How do you see the beauty market in the future? Product technology and textures have evolved tremendously. We have many more make-up options with more refined and sophisticated textures. Another change in the beauty industry is the new generation’s desire to sculpt and paint the face such as contouring. However, the goal in the beauty business remains to empower women and exhale sensuality and sexiness.

What would you say is your biggest achievement as an entrepreneur? What was the biggest challenge or even failure? My biggest achievement is that in almost 20 years I have very loyal customers that would never change their Laura Mercier products. That is my biggest reward. The greatest challenge was to bring to market make-up products I strongly believed in and put in place a structure which would allow the customer to enjoy and learn how to use the products as some required a lot of technique and teaching. These have now become part of our cult-following products.

Which is your favourite product from the Laura Mercier range and why?

I love them all of course. However Secret Camouflage is my baby. It is an amazing secret that when you learn how to use, the result is magical!

In today’s fast faced and time-strapped culture, what are the most essential items to have in a make-up bag for a quick beauty fix?

I am a big believer that everyone always looks polished with lips – carry a gloss, a lipstick, a lip balm for touch-ups on the go. Besides lipstick, if you are oily, carry a matte compact powder for touch-ups. Always matte down the skin before applying more product, so it doesn’t become blotchy. If you have dark under eye circles, use a concealer. In the make-up bag I would also suggest a mascara and a blusher such as the Bonne Mine Stick Face Colour.

What is the colour palette and the top three make-up trends for the season?

Colour trends are any oranges. From corals to bright orange to more pink undertone oranges. Another on trend colour is fuchsia, steel blue and greys. Fall will be about experimenting, playfulness and glamorous looks.

What inspired the Laura Mercier AW 2015 collection?

I love the steel blue and grey colour trend which I have used in our AW Colour Collection called Chrome Extravagance which is playful, sparkling and Glamorous. As part of the collection, The Eye Chromes Limited Edition Palette when applied wet delivers a high coverage metal chrome effect. When applied dry it delivers a shimmer foil effect.

The Eye Chromes palette can be used over the entire lid or as an eye liner for a more subtle look. The other key item from the AW collection is the Kajal d’Orient in Noir Suprême. I have always been a Kajal lover and wear it quite often. I am therefore delighted to have one part of the collection. Glide the Kajal along the inside of the lower eye lid, working from the outer to the inner corner of the eye. Smudge at the base of the lower lashes for a dramatic look.

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

True Grit

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine ( July August 2013)

True Grit

The glamorous Ingie Chalhoub, widely recognized as fashion’s first lady in the Middle East, is carving a successful niche in the region’s luxury retail market as head of the Etoile Group.

By Priyanka Pradhan

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

It was at a quaint art gallery in Dubai’s financial district that I first met Ingie Chalhoub. I had heard of her, of course, but what I discovered that day was that

even the chief of the luxury retail firm ‘Etoile Group’, has butterflies in her stomach before every show. I could tell that by the way she paced the floor as her designer label’s Autumn/Winter 2013-14 press preview took place at the same gallery, on a grand runway created especially for her.

She then ascended the ramp, after a little coaxing from her team, to take a bow and pose shyly for the cameras – quite unlike the intimidating persona I had expected.“There is always great excitement but also some stress before any seasonal launch of the collection,” Ingie says. “All the preparation is tiring and energetic at the same time. I am a perfectionist and I feel extremely conscious about every single detail.”
As I also came to realize that day, the ambitious, influential and rigorously detail-oriented Ingie Chalhoub is also exceedingly charming, and truly humble.

even as she single-handedly navigates multimillion-dollar deals every other day in the fiercely competitive Middle East luxury retail market, she carries herself

with rare panache and a certain je ne sais quoi that makes her all the more intriguing.
As president and managing director of the Etoile Group, which operates more than 70 luxury boutiques in six Gulf countries, and as creative director for her eponymous designer label, she has her hands full. But 30 years ago, when she opened the first Chanel

boutique in the Middle East, she didn’t know she was making fashion retail history.
It was serendipitous that the franchise deal was finalized on her wedding day, making her big day even bigger. The groom happened to be Patrick Chalhoub, scion of one of the most established business empires in the region and son of the illustrious Michel and Widad Chalhoub. Having married into a powerful lineage of retail moguls, and with the advantages that come from being part of the influential Chalhoub family, Ingie set out to make a remarkable debut in the regional retail industry and to carve out her identity as a persuasive entrepreneur and luxury retail powerhouse in her own right.
In the years that followed, she worked hard to build credibility and earn the confidence of global luxury retailers such as Christian Dior, Tod’s, Hogan, Valentino, John Galliano, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Lacroix, and she came to be credited with making a huge contribution to the

UAE’s luxury retail segment.
But before one can call it a charmed life, Ingie says it’s been far from easy. The Gulf War in 1990 changed things irrevocably for Ingie, as her Chanel and Dior stores in Kuwait were looted during the conflict, and her business ran into the ground. But despite the devastating loss, she pushed herself to pick up the pieces and get to work as soon as the Chalhoubs moved to Dubai after the war, even with a newborn baby in tow.
After relocating, Ingie quickly became a formidable retail empire. “Challenges test your mental strength; you need to turn them to your advantage.

Let obstacles motivate you to strive even harder. I am now even more driven and determined to reach more milestones and push myself further,” she says.

The motivation to go on, she adds, came from her supportive husband and her inner resilience. She not only had the task of rebuilding her business from scratch, but now also had the additional responsibility of being a mother, and had to manage the two roles – a balance she describes as most challenging.
“I would say balancing a personal and family life with a professional one is probably one of the most difficult challenges businesswomen face. You need to be disciplined, organized and efficient with your time, and set boundaries, not just for employees and your business colleagues but even for yourself!”

But just as things were settling down, the global economy, and subsequently the Middle East economy, was hit by the tumultuous financial meltdown.

The luxury retail sector was in the eye of the storm, but the Etoile Group showed remarkable resilience at this time. The mood in the retail industry may have been very somber, but just then, in 2009, Ingie launched her own luxury designer label, Ingie Paris, a move that showed nerves of steel and sparkling self-confidence.
Inspired by French sophistication and old-world glamour, she applied her sharp business acumen and innate sense of style to create a capsule collection for the

essential “Ingie” woman, someone she envisions to be a lot like herself.
“The Ingie Paris woman is refined, modern and dynamic,” she says. “My designs cater to her multifaceted, playful nature, interests and lifestyle, from dramatic, glamorous eveningwear that she might don for a red carpet event to chic yet comfortable daywear she can wear to a museum or show off at a relaxed brasserie. That is why I think the collection appeals to women across all cultures; they understand luxury but want it interpreted in a contemporary manner that suits their

international lifestyle.”
The launch of her own label was yet another dream realized for Ingie, but, not one to rest on her laurels, she’s now hoping to expand internationally through

luxury retailers and eventually have more standalone stores. For the Etoile Group too, she says, the emphasis is on expanding horizons to focus on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
The Ingie Chalhoub success story has been peppered with setbacks, but she has overcome the hurdles each time, due to her dedication and strong belief in herself, something she hopes will inspire other female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.
“[You need] hard work, passion and a strong vision of what you want that can never be downplayed. But there are also those things that are part of one’s character that can also help you to succeed. For me, it’s a strong eye for detail, and my creative ability. I have the ability to look at something and know immediately whether it’s right or wrong, or what needs to be changed; it’s a skill that is rare.”

She adds: “You also need to believe in yourself. We are often our own worst critics, but we need to focus on the positive, as self-belief is a key factor in order to succeed.”

Storyteller- By Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (May 2013)


Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (May 2013)


He has sold more than 250 million books in the course of his career, but author Jeffrey Archer’s success has been punctuated by introspective pauses and even some arresting question marks. T Emirates unravels the persona of a writer who continues to thrill and entertain at the age of 72.

By Priyanka Pradhan

Storyteller- By Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (May 2013)

Storyteller- By Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (May 2013)

It may come as a surprise that the man who has authored many a Machiavellian scheme and plenty of meandering conspiracy theories is, in person, a hard-as-nails straight talker. He’s also quite a number-cruncher for someone who is so entrenched on the literary side of the world. He rolls off numbers, figures and statistics with the ease of a seasoned marketer.

“I have to say my figures are very cool,” he says, comparing his latest book in The Clifton Chronicles Trilogy, with his last published novel in 2009. “For my last book, hardback sales were up 40 percent, e-book was up 26 percent and softback was down 7 percent.”

But then he suddenly floors you with his witty, animated (and somewhat geriatric) charm. He worries as he predicts a bleak future for bookstores in the face of competition from the e-readers and Kindles of the world.

“If this [trend] continues, soon there will be hardbacks and Kindles, no paperbacks. Next, hardbacks will go and Kindles will remain, and sadly bookshops will go too. I much prefer to hold the physical book and read the old-fashioned way, but looking at the statistics, it’s going to be very tough on bookshops.” His voice wavers with emotion, but only for a moment, before the shrewd marketer within him reappears.

“Personally, this trend doesn’t affect me, because more people are reading me now on the digital platform than ever before, so no, it doesn’t affect me as a writer – look at my readership figures, for example. In the digital world today, it’s the bookshop that will be affected, not the author,” he says.

According to Archer, there’s a positive side to the democratization of the publishing world.

Today,” he says, “anyone can showcase his or her talent on the digital platform by being a self-published author or even a blogger. So yes, I’d encourage young talent to get going by themselves. If I had had this sort of opportunity back in the day, I would have adapted to whatever was needed, as I always have.”

Archer has picked up a few survival skills along the way, to maintain the momentum of his success. One of those skills happens to be his sharp marketing acumen, something he acquired the hard way.

“In my first experience of promoting my book Kane and Abel on an American TV talk show,” he recalls, “I learnt that time is money. I was on the show with other guests such as Billy Carter and (believe it or not) Mickey Mouse, and we all had just six minutes to share between the three of us.

The first two guests had taken up 4.5 minutes by the time the host said ‘Hi Jeff, I see you came over on Concorde,’ and I answered. ‘Yes, indeed!

The Concorde – it’s a feat of mankind built by the British. It’s twice the height and speed of any aircraft built by man so far.’ I rambled on, ‘You can have breakfast in London, lunch in New York and dinner in….’ and I was cut off by the host saying ‘That’s great. Thank you, it’s been lovely having you on.’ My publishers were livid.”

Looking back to his early days, Archer says his main literary influences were American author F. Scott Fitzgerald and English writer Richard Crompton, but there were also others. “My all-time favorite remains the classic, The Count of Monte Cristo– it is a masterpiece. Of late though, I’ve been reading

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared and the Hilary Mantel book, Bring Up the Bodies.”

What interests him most in the books he reads (and writes), he says, are people and characters.

Being a steadfast admirer of the late Margaret Thatcher and an ex-politician himself, he says he always writes strong female characters, drawing inspiration from the women in his life, and the villains in his books are inspired by politicians he has come across.

“Most of my own characters are based on people I know, because then they become more real to me and to the reader. Also, people even inspire me to write – normal people I meet everyday. You see, stories are in people… sometimes they just don’t know it.”

So, then, there’s no writer’s block for Archer, one would imagine? He confirms: “No, I never experience writer’s block, because I’m a story teller… and

characters and stories are everywhere! Another thing is that I don’t plan a particular plot more than two pages before I write it – mapping things out in detail beforehand really scares me. It’s a hell of a risk, but it’s a lot more fun if I don’t know, otherwise the plot may become predictable and stale for me and for the reader.”

Archer’s last 16 books have all been interntional #1 bestsellers, and his top-selling work, Kane and Abel, is on its 97th reprint. He was recently in Dubai at the

Emirates Literary Festival 2013 to promote his latest book, the third in his Clifton Chroniclesseries, which he hopes will surpass his previous record. Does he feel under pressure to outdo his previous accomplishments, then? “

Of course there is pressure when I sit down with a pen,” he agrees, “and it gets worse in a way, because I am expected to churn out another number one with each book. There’s always pressure, but what I think any author must do is not buckle under it and do what is popular or fashionable at the moment – don’t just toe the line. Remember, Jane Austen came from a small village and she wrote about a mother trying to get rid of her daughter by way of marriage. It was a great hit. Next, she wrote about a mother trying to get rid of four daughters! But you see, Austen was a genius because she didn’t move with the fashion of the day – she stuck to what she was great at, and did it exceptionally.”

Another strong motivation for Archer is recognition, though not necessarily by way of literary awards or prizes. “I have won awards in France, one in Germany

and one in the us, but I have never won anything in England and I never will, by the way. I am what is known as an ‘entertainer’ in the UK, and I’m not allowed to be a storyteller and win a prize – only ‘writers’ win prizes in England, and I’m happy this way. I’m happy that my books are read by the masses. In fact,” he sums up, “if you asked me ‘What do you want in life, Jeffrey?’ I’d say I want to be read by more people than any other author on earth.”

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Bohemian Billionaire

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)
Bohemian Billionaire

She may be one of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires, but for Tory Burch, creative director and CEO of her eponymous fashion label, it has never been just about the money.

By Priyanka Pradhan

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Tory Burch was just another New York socialite with a privileged upbringing and a glamorous life when she decided to venture into the luxury fashion retail business. Despite having no formal qualifications in either fashion design or business management, Burch has built a $3.5 billion women’s clothing and accessories business in less than ten years, ultimately surpassing long-established rivals such as Michael Kors and Coach in revenues.

With starting capital of $2 million, Burch established a boutique in New York with the help of her husband at the time, venture capitalist Chris Burch. By leveraging her previous work experience in the PR and marketing departments at fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Loewe, along with her reputation among New York society’s upper echelons, the designer’s premiere collection sold out on the opening day of her flagship store in 2004.

“People imagine the fashion industry to bevery competitive, but I’ve found the opposite – I have had many great mentors and friends willing to help along the way. This journey is beyond anything I could have imagined, and it’s a journey we’re still on” as a business, she says. “In so many ways I feel like we are just beginning.”

Burch pioneered the concept of “affordable luxury” in 2004, retailing a “preppy-bohemian luxe” style for the masses.

“I love fashion, from Uniqlo to Celine, but at the time I felt there weren’t many options in between,” she says. “I recognized a void in the market for beautiful, well-designed pieces that didn’t cost a fortune. I knew what I was missing from my closet and thought other women might feel the same way, so I began developing the concept, which was embodied by my parents, the most impeccably stylish couple I have ever known. They remain my greatest source of inspiration but, of course, each collection has its own distinct influences; in addition to my parents, my team and I are inspired by art, music, travel and other cultures.”

This is how Burch’s $200 Reva Ballerina shoes, one of the least expensive items found in the luxury category, came to form the backbone of her multi-billion fashion business. Having expanded her retail network to more than 83 stores worldwide, while generating revenues of more than $800 million a year (2012), she has come to challenge large global fashion houses that have been in the business for decades longer.

Burch attributes her success to hard work and perseverance.

“There are no shortcuts – starting a company takes a lot of time, energy and good, old-fashioned hard work. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it if you have a unique idea that you are passionate about,” she says.

Despite coming from a financially secure background, Burch faced challenges common to all entrepreneurs. “Everything that went into building a start-up – raising capital, finding partners, hiring the right team – was a challenge,” she explains. “The two and a half years before our launch were very intense and I worked harder than I ever thought possible.”

One of Burch’s biggest tests came in 2006 with the end of her marriage to her husband and business partner. A messy legal battle followed the divorce, with Chris Burch claiming in court that his wife’s business had hindered the growth of his own fashion retail chain, ‘c.Wonder’. Tory counter-sued, claiming he had created a knockoff brand with mass- market versions of top-selling Tory Burch items. This compelled her ex-husband to resign from the board of directors of Tory Burch and sell his stake in the brand.

Never one to focus on the past, Tory Burch is currently working on her Autumn/Winter 2013- 14 collection. The self-confessed workaholic is creating a “Gustav Klimt and René Lalique-inspired free-spirited and romantic mood”.

Burch says, “We focused on the details: dragonflies and scarabs printed on dresses, as well as wrapped around the heels of shoes; metallic prints and patterns; mixed textures; and subtle volume. It all centers on the idea of 24-hour dressing – special pieces to wear from day to evening.”

Burch has also designed a limited-edition scarf especially for her Abu Dhabi store, opening this year, to woo her target consumers in the region. Burch identifies young aspirational women, collegians and even high school students, as her brand’s main clients. Given this demographic, she says social media remains an important communications tool.

“I tweet and Instagram myself, and our team manages platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Weibo,” she says. “Our social media conversations have to be organic and authentic to who we are.”

Burch is equally invested in her non-profit foundation, which provides grassroots financial support for female-owned start-ups, mainly in the US.

“I wanted to help other women and their families,” she says. Based on our experiences starting a business, I thought we had something to offer aspiring female entrepreneurs. Through research I learned that it was extremely difficult for women to get small business loans in the U.S. But women are a great investment – they pay back their loans at a high rate, and invest earnings back into their communities. I felt loans and mentoring for female entrepreneurs were the best way for our foundation to contribute. We had a mentoring event in Marrakech last year, and we hope to expand all of our programs internationally at some point.”

But despite the hectic traveling schedule, a business empire to run and three children to raise, Tory Burch seems full of energy. She’s looking forward to her fragrance launch and a women’s activewear line in the near future. “I want to be like Wanda Ferragamo and work until I’m 85,” she says.

Being Micheal Cinco- By Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates and T Qatar: The New York Times Style Magazine ( March 2013)

Being Micheal Cinco

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (March 2013)

Being Micheal Cinco
Radical and unapologetically flamboyant, Dubai’s renowned couturier Michael Cinco reveals why the Middle East luxury fashion cognoscenti continues to intrigue him.
By Priyanka Pradhan

Being Micheal Cinco- By Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates and T Qatar: The New York Times Style Magazine ( March 2013)

Being Micheal Cinco- By Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates and T Qatar: The New York Times Style Magazine ( March 2013)

His self-effacing demeanor may throw you off, but Michael Cinco is every bit the grandiose designer, well known not just for wearing his signature sunglasses at all times but also for his extravagant wedding couture and awe-inspiring evening gowns. Even his office gets his signature design with a pristine all-white door, replete with crystal embellished furniture and long-stemmed white roses. The man does know how to woo. And the ladies are falling in line.

Celebrities from Tyra Banks and Lady Gaga to Naomi Campbell and Sofia Vergara are known to swear by Cinco’s ingenuity. In fact he was taken completely by surprise when actress Sofia Vergara picked his black evening gown for the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in January 2013, out of the scores of designer dresses that came for her.

“The dress was a sample and did not even fit her! And yet she insisted on wearing it, so it had to be reworked and tailored to fit. It was so unexpected and became a huge red-carpet hit!” he says excitedly.

This child-like enthusiasm and passion for couture comes from a deep love of the opera and classic Hollywood movies, he says. “I grew up in a small town, away from the city, in rustic Philippines, and there were not many pastime activities, apart from watching black-and-white classic Hollywood movies. I’d watch these movies to observe Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn and the clothes they wore – I was so in love with them! I was only six or seven when I started to admire the couture dresses seen in the movies and just knew I’d be a designer some day.”

After graduating in fine art and working in the Philippines as a designer for a few years, Cinco chanced upon the opportunity to work to Dubai in 1997. But things were not as smooth as he expected and there was some

learning and unlearning to do in the new market. “When I first came to Dubai, it was during the economic boom. People were inspired by fashion in Europe but the aesthetic was very different here. Wedding dresses would weigh tens of kilos with heavy crystals and embellishments and were very overwhelming. It was a completely different scenario for me and I had to learn to adapt to the Middle East consumer. However, I saw a slow evolution of style and aesthetic, as women started getting more aware and refined in fashion, with their travel schedules abroad and frequent shopping excursions to Paris, Milan etc. They started opting for more minimal, lighter, and more sleek and elegant looks, fabrics and designs. That’s the crucial change that has come about in the Middle East couture market.”
After a break in his career and a stint at Central Saint Martins College in London, he made a comeback in the Middle East with the launch of his own fashion house, Michael Cinco Couture. Even after his European stint, Cinco says the intrigue of Middle East couture brought him back.“Women in the Middle East are like no others when it comes to fashion. I have never seen women who are more demanding, exacting, particular about design, than here in the Middle East. They really challenge your mind, your ideas and your capabilities and, in turn, expand the creative horizons of the designer. One has to travel with them into their fantasy world and sometimes one ends up telling an idiosyncratic story of fashion, through them. The designs for couture consumers here not only have to be trendy and up to date, but also very, very unique – out of the world, never seen before and yet wearable. And that’s the challenge!”
He continues: “The economic crisis in 2008 turned out to be favorable for local UAE-based designers because the couture consumers, who previously got all their designer ensembles from Europe and other parts of the world, turned to Dubai for a more economical option. That was our foot in the door, luckily

for me. My clients who came to me then have never left ever since!”
But apart from his exhaustive client base in the Middle East, Cinco sees a cult following in Russia and even China. Demand is also pouring in from the United States, but he’s taking it slow at the moment.

“The issue with the American market is that pricing has to be lower, in accordance with the economy there at the moment. Also the design aesthetic is different there, but Russia is more profitable right now. I do get calls from LA, Canada and NewYork, even from Brazil, but I’m currently in the process of building a solid base to set up a global business and cater to the American and European markets later this year.”
He recently worked with celebrity singer Britney Spears on an ensemble for her music video “Scream and Shout”, and his eco-friendly designs showcased on the US-based reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model” in 2011 received rave reviews, prompting his recurrent guest appearance on the show ever since. Late last year, he was also involved in the pan Asian version of the reality show “Asia’s Next Top Model”, as guest designer and mentor.
Currently in the midst of preparations for his show at LA Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2013, Cinco is seen dividing his time between preparing for upcoming fashion shows abroad and at

home, and working on the launch of his perfume, “Impalpable”, in Dubai. With so much on his plate for the year ahead, he lets off steam by traveling and watching movies at home.

“I also love watching YouTube videos of my favorite opera singer, Maria Callas, who also happens to be my ultimate inspiration. Apart from that, it’s just staying in and relaxing with friends… and no,I don’t sleep with my sunglasses on,” he smiles.