April 12 2011
Mark C O’Flaherty
Trawling online fashion sites can become dispiriting when so many offer the usual suspects: big New York-, London- and Paris-based brands, with a smattering of Milanese chic and Antwerp gothic. There’s a whole wider world of fashion design out there, but so few heavyweight e-tailers support it. Which is why Dia Boutique is such an interesting proposition.
Part style magazine, part fashion store, it has a global outlook, its offices in London, but its focus squarely on the Middle East. As well as being an unusual, accessible periscope into Middle Eastern art and design, its retail side has an attractive collection of little-known luxe labels that you’re unlikely to find on that business trip to the UAE, because they don’t exist offline. With a core of 24 labels, Dia Boutique represents a fantastic opportunity for an overseas shopping spree of Arabic insider labels – and other brands from across the globe – without leaving home.
Each brand has its own profile page: we learn that Lina Audi’s label Liwan, for instance (one of the best known, as she has stores in Beirut and Paris), is worn by Tilda Swinton and Catherine Deneuve, and Dia Boutique is the sole online stockist for its bejewelled made-to-order sandals ($90). Particularly eye-catching is the range of clutches (from $90 for a print of vintage Pepsi bottles in Arabic script to $260 for one made with 1,001 gold safety-pins, first picture) by Lebanese company Sarah’s Bag, which supports underprivileged women by teaching them artisanal traditions. Sarah’s Bag is one of the most celebrated boutiques in Beirut, but these elaborate purses are nigh-on impossible to find outside the Middle East.
Some of the most appealing stock mixes a strong Middle Eastern identity with Western modernity. Bounkit’s jewellery (including a white topaz and polished blue lace agate necklace, second picture, $1,495) has a vivid but sophisticated aesthetic, while Edition by Georges Chakra’s beaded chiffon gowns ($6,750) are perfect for the red carpet. And at the other end of the dress and price scale, Spicy June’s fluoro-toned bikinis ($95) are fun and chic.