Where do you live and why?
London is my home, but I find myself on a plane quite regularly, scouting new talent for Dia.
What inspired you to start Dia and how long has it been going?
My background was banking in the city – primarily following the luxury goods sector. I noticed that there was very little attention paid to non-Western fashion. Yet I knew through my work, travels and general interest in the sector that there was a lot of talent out there. Many of the top designers who dress celebrities come from a non-Western background: Elie Saab is Lebanese, Hussein Chalayan is Turkish and Body Amr is originally from Oman. On the other hand, most Western e-commerce sites – from Net-A-Porter to Matches – don’t cater primarily to a customer base outside of Europe and North America. So I decided to dive in. We started by building a website that talked about fashion.
What does dia mean?
In Arabic, it describes a shimmer. In Hindi, dia signifies a dazzling personality. In Spanish, it represents the day. It is rooted in the Greek word for wholeness and is embedded in a multitude of words such as dialect, and diamond. Dia celebrates the diverse and the elegant.
Who are your customers?
Whether they are style-savvy shoppers or global nomads who stumbled upon our beautiful collections as they scoured the boutiques of Istanbul, Beirut or Sydney, they are constantly searching for an alternative to mainstream fashion.
Who are your fave Middle Eastern designers?
If I were to say one particular designer at the moment I would say Asudari, who is based in London.
Any fave London designers?
We stock some great designers based in London: Rana Salam, Domakaya, Hassan Hajjaj (designer of Momo’s t-shirts) and Mimi Bijoux.
What should we be wearing this season?
I am still hung up on the casual ‘80s look: the boulder shoulders, the metal studded accessories, the patterned leggings. All of it, but not all at once of course!
Where were your last three travel destinations?
Beirut, Kuwait and Istanbul. Istanbul was particularly special this year as I was invited to Istanbul Fashion Days, their first Fashion Week promoting local designers. I made some great discoveries there: Asli Filinta who makes fantastic scarves; OYE, whose bathing suits we’ll be introducing this summer and Kismet, who makes the most beautiful pendants reworking the evil eye motif with encrusted diamonds and precious stones.
What do you miss when you’re away?
My closet – I’m not a big fan of living out of a suitcase, so coming home and having everything folded back neatly in my closet makes me happy.
What’s in your west London black book?
My local gastropub, The Abingdon [54 Abingdon Road, W8]; my local Middle Eastern grocer on Napier Road [W14], breakfast at Kensington Square Kitchen [9 Kensington Square, W8], a cup of tea in the cafe in Holland Park, and my absolute favourite boutique: Butler and Wilson [189 Fulham Road, SW3].
What’s on your west London cultural hit list?
What’s your fave local Middle Eastern restaurant?
Chez Marcelle [34 Blythe Road, W14] is a one-woman show. Marcelle’s offers the yummiest home-made Lebanese cooking. It takes a while to get your food, but well worth the wait.