We meet Nada Hammoudi, the woman behind UAE-based online boutique Zahr Art, a new local shopping hub priding itself on fashion-forward, fairly produced clothing and accessories. Words Caitlyn Davey.
In a city full of malls, it can be difficult to find something that stands out, especially for the right reasons. Enter Zahr Art, a new online boutique, founded by Dubai-based resident Nada Hammoudi, which sells fair trade clothing and accessories sourced from across the globe.
Nada came up with the concept as an alternative to mass-produced wares. ‘After years in the corporate world, I wanted to do something that I truly loved and enjoyed. I have always had an interest in fashion, interior design and art. So, after a lot of research, I decided to open my own online business within the fashion and interior industry.
‘At the time, I had seen a few fair trade boutiques abroad and loved the concept – how it could uplift people’s lives and raise awareness for some very worthwhile causes. I realised that while fair trade was important to me, I did need another selling point. That is when I came up with Zahr Art’s key concept, which is “where fashion meets art”. I really haven’t looked back.’
Nada often scours the internet and travels overseas to pick up lines and products that have a meaning behind them. She explains: ‘I want Zahr Art to be more than just a place to shop online. I want it to motivate people to know and appreciate the story behind the pieces they buy and understand the positive difference that they are making to people’s lives.’
Nada continues: ‘I try to select designers who have made a positive contribution to the world, by either supporting a culture or heritage, donating a percentage of sales to a non-government organisation, creating their items in an eco-conscious way, making their products with fair trade principles in place, or by supporting disadvantaged artisans. Each item is carefully selected to fit at least one of the following criteria.
Eco-conscious (minimising the impact on the environment); fairly produced (workers are paid decent wages and their working conditions are closely monitored); hand-made; recycled; charitable (brands that share their profits to support foundations); organic; and locally sourced.’
Nada named the site after her mother, Zahra, who inspired the project. ‘My mum was so forward-thinking in her beliefs, views and actions. She taught me and my siblings the importance of education and hard work. She had an incredible passion for art and fashion, truly appreciating its beauty and influence, and I’m so grateful that she passed that on. In addition to that, the translation of the name Zahra or Zahr in Arabic means “flower”, which is a symbol of beauty and purity. This is the core philosophy of our site. All of these elements perfectly epitomise what Zahr Art is about.
Popinjay, one of the handbag labels available at Zahr Art, embodies Nada’s philosophy of combining art and stories. Alina Jiwani of Popinjay says: ‘Our handbags have a signature element: the hand-embroidery created by skilled female artisans in Pakistan. At present, 150 women are learning the art of hand-embroidery with resham [silk] threads. Every morning, our artisan women congregate for three to four hours at our community centre in Hafizabad, Pakistan, to hand-embroider motifs onto each bag. We pay our artisan women up to three times the market rate, and through the sale of our products, we enable livelihoods for the female artisans, revive ancient craft techniques, and add style to the fashion-forward woman’s wardrobe.’
‘The most important thing though, is the uniqueness of the product. I want each piece to be special and distinctive so that my customers can truly enjoy their purchase. Zahr Art supports disadvantaged artisans – including underprivileged women who use their traditional craftsmanship as a means of survival – and leads to the preservation of their craft. There are tonnes of amazing designers all over the world, and I feel honoured that my job allows me to discover them.’
www.zahrart.com (04 432 9055).
Three more boutiques for feel-good buys
The Little Fair Trade Shop
With stores in both the UK and Dubai, this fair trade online boutique stocks everything from jewellery and accessories to chocolate bars and stationery.
The Change Initiative
Stocks sustainable fashion, including khaki espadrilles, glassware and tableware, as well as eco-friendly furniture and paints.
Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha 1, www.thechangeinitiative.com (800 824).
Raw Coffee Company
This Al Quoz warehouse is home to coffee with a conscious. Its blends are 100 percent ethically traded and organic and the shop features a brew bar and free Wi-Fi.
Warehouse 10, corner of 7a and 4a streets, Al Manara, Al Quoz (04 339 5474).