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Tue 10 Nov 2009 05:35 PM

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Top designer Tom Ford eyes Mideast for growth

Fashion entrepreneur says region is important, partners bullish over first store.

Top designer Tom Ford eyes Mideast for growth
MIDEAST AMBITION: Tom Ford said he was looking to grow his own brand in the region. (Getty Images)

Tom Ford, the fashion designer who brought the Gucci brand back to life in the 1990s, said on Tuesday that the Middle East remains an important area for his own luxury brand’s growth.

Ford, who was in Dubai to officially launch his first Middle East store, a 3,000 sq ft space in Dubai Mall, said that his franchise partners in the region remain “bullish”, despite concerns from many retailers that some city’s luxury markets are becoming saturated.

“I think that people really appreciate the quality, understand the quality and want the very best things - those that can afford it, and there are quite a few people who can afford things so it’s a very important market for us,” he told Arabian Business.

“We’ve done very well with the store in just the few days we’ve been opened [and] our partner here feels very bullish. Dubai seems to really be a centre of shopping, not just for this region but for a lot of the world,” he added.

Ford, who opened his first ‘Tom Ford’ flagship store in New York in 2007, said he also plans to open stores in Kuwait and Qatar while Riyadh could also be on the cards. “At some point in the future we will be opening more but at this moment in time, it’s Kuwait, Qatar and Dubai. Riyadh has been mentioned but it’s less concrete.”

Last week, the chief executive of luxury retailer Harvey Nichols, Joseph Wan, told Arabian Business that he had reservations about the number of upmarket stores coming to Dubai. “I have my reservations regarding the future sustainability of so many competitors in the same place, where the population is…maybe less than two million,” he said.

Ford, who stocks a range of dishdashas – a traditional form of male Arab dress – in Kuwait and Qatar, said his brand has managed to withstand the economic downturn better than other luxury retailers as his customers are more “insulated.”

“We are doing very well. Of course we have suffered, and I don’t mean overall as a company because we’ve continued to open stores and increase our business overall, but in terms of stores, our stores in key locations are off not nearly as much as other brands,” he said.

“I think that’s for several reasons….I think the brands that are hurting the most are the brands that people perceived as disposable…. Two, our customers are somewhat insulated. They might not be buying a new Warhol [or] a new apartment…but they are still buying clothes.”

Ford joined Gucci in 1990 and was credited with rejuvenating the brand before he launched his own fashion line, Tom Ford in 2006.

Last month the fashion mogul told Women’s Wear Daily that he would launch a womenswear line “very soon” and that he and his long-term business partner, the former CEO of Gucci, Domenico De Sole, were looking for financing for the expansion.

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