A lot has changed since we chatted with Boutique 1′s Ziad Matta last year. With the global economic collapse and tighter spending budgets around the world, it has not been a particularly good time for luxury or the retail market in general. Even so, Matta’s Dubai boutique has continued to expand with the opening of a Beirut outpost and an ever-broader clientele. Impressed by his upturn during the downturn, we checked back in with Matta to chat about his new Beirut store, how the region is responding to the financial situation and the meeting of Eastern and Western design aesthetics.
JC Report: Tell us about the design and architecture of the store? How is the aesthetic approach the same or different from other Boutique 1 locations?
Ziad Matta: The store itself was designed as a platform for the fashion culture to express itself, with simple, clean and modern attributes that exhibit our bespoke and exclusive offerings in a truly unique way. The stage presents a perfect display for expressing the luxury and glamour of each handpicked piece that the store carries. Aged and rough materials such as white waxed concrete flooring, natural wood, reinforced glass and black metal contrast with sleek white lacquered displays, stainless steel accessories, modernist furniture and a 40-meters-long LED screen. The concept captures the essence of the Boutique 1 customer in its aesthetic, showcasing modern and sleek lines. Architect Pascal Tarabay says: “The goal was to achieve an intelligent, contemporary and luxurious background for those many different and rich characters of this fashion play: the brands, the staff and the clients.” The aesthetic approach is the same but it is expressed differently as Boutique 1 loathes the cookie cutter approach.
JCR: Is the design customized to the Lebanese customer?
ZM: Customers in Beirut are not necessarily Lebanese. In addition to Beirut residents and the Lebanese diaspora, there are also many Gulf Arab customers. These customers are well travelled and shop around the world. The store design itself is not necessarily customized to the Lebanese customers although a large VIP area is sure to be a big hit with them!
JCR: How will the merchandising strategy be different from other stores? How will it be the same? How will these cater to what the Lebanese customer is looking for?
ZM: Boutique 1 will carry great merchandise for women and men, from denim to evening gowns and everything in between. There is much editing that our buyers do, so we have a clear point of view. We aim to cater to what the customers are looking for, but also to influence what they are looking for through a process of discovery.
JCR: Boutique 1 is known for exclusive items. What will some of these be?
ZM: In addition to our own B1 fragrance and also our CD, some of the brands we carry will be exclusive to us in Lebanon. In womenswear, these include Thomas Wylde and Victoria Beckham in ready-to-wear, PRPS in Denim, Rupert Sanderson and Chrissie Morris in shoes and William Sharp in accessories. For men, Daniele Alessandrini for suiting, Missoni in ready-to-wear and Maharishi and Stone Island in casual are all exclusive as is Officine Creative and Y-3 in shoes. In beauty we also have an abundance of brands that are only available at Boutique 1, including Chantecaille, Ormonde Jayne, Ren and Juliette Had A Gun, not to mention our very own B1 fragrance. Plus, we also have some exclusive limited edition pieces from some designers specially made for us that you cannot get anywhere else in the world.
JCR: What does the store offer that other luxury retailers in Lebanon don’t capture?
ZM: Great products in fashion, beauty, home accessories and books, plus passionate and knowledgeable staff in an inspiring environment.
JCR: Despite the downturn, stores are still opening in the region—why do you think this is the case? Is the purchasing power of the regional customer still that strong?
ZM: There is a hunger for fashion and yes the purchasing power is relatively strong.
JCR: What are some of the socio-cultural indicators in Lebanon that makes this opening timely? Is there a fashion movement? Is there an art movement?
ZM: The Lebanese love fashion to a degree rarely seen elsewhere. There is also a thriving art scene. Economy-wise, Lebanon has actually been less affected than other parts of the world by the global crisis. All in all, a great time to open Boutique 1 in Beirut!
JCR: How do you position yourself from other luxury retailers in the region such as Villa Moda?
ZM: We do our own thing and are not overly concerned with what others are doing. We stay ahead through our selection, our service and our innovation.