Fadwa Baruni’s fashion brand will be celebrating its 10-year milestone anniversary next year with the launch of its Autumn/Winter 2018 collection.
In an exclusive interview with Saudi Gazette, Baruni discussed how her brand has found its way and evolved with a clear vision for the company and explained how even though it is hard to define a demographic for the Baruni woman, she imagines them to be fun and looking for comfort without compromising on style.
Baruni’s influences are reportedly drawn from her North African heritage, engineering and work experience in Europe. Baruni plans to build an internationally recognised brand with expansion in America and Europe. Find out more about the latest fashion trends, her current collection and what is headed your way in 2018.
When I look back on the early days and the first collections I can’t help thinking how naïve I was. As I look through the collections going back to the early days I can see the style of the brand evolving – initially quite quickly but over the last few collections I think there is a much clearer design aesthetic emerging. You can see a clear definition of the Baruni style in our latest summer and winter collections.
The business has also changed enormously from when I started. Initially I remember running around trying to get small boutiques interested in taking my clothes. Now I am proud of the recognition shown by the prestigious department stores stocking my clothes.
The Baruni Woman
She is energetic, driven and at the same time always wants to feel stylish yet comfortable. We are not a teenage brand, but beyond that it is hard to define a demographic for the brand. As we are relatively conservative in our designs, we do have a lot of more mature customers but at the same time I use a lot of fun colours and prints as many Baruni customers are in their twenties and thirties.
Baruni’s unique selling point is in the differentiation – we are a designer brand but have a relatively low price entry point making us an ideal brand for customers used to shopping for designer clothes, looking to stretch their budget further but not willing to compromise on quality.
Retrospect And Prospect
The original concept was a focus on the customer we were targeting. I spend quite a lot of time thinking about her and the way she lives her life. In many ways she is similar in outlook and attitude to me but not completely the same. This is shaped with the experience and commercial realities of understanding what our customers want through the styles we find repeatedly selling well over the other designs, so it is a process of internal visions and external commercial reality.
My vision for the future is to build an internationally recognised brand – after America, we plan to continue our business development in Europe and across other markets. You have to keep believing you can conquer the world.
We have worked hard to consolidate our local market here in the Gulf. We have expanded over the years to Saudi, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon and Kuwait as well a number of major stores in the UAE.
From last year we have started working in a more focused way in developing the US market. We had tried there a few years ago without much success but we are pleased to say that this time round we appear to be making much more progress.
I have just started on the initial theme development for AW18. We are always working about a year in advance of the clothes appearing in the stores. Initially I start with a theme and then develop my design ideas around this. For AW17 the theme is Reflections, from the abstract thoughts to the tangible – reflections of city lights in the sea. This kind of theme is ideal for me as it allows me a broad latitude in the approach I take and allows me to bring in many different ideas while retaining relevance to the basic story of the collection. I use the basic theme to give me ideas for my own prints which I have been introducing over the last few collections.
Following the definition of the theme, I will sketch some ideas and work on the colour palette for some time before starting on the fabric selection. Some of these processes run in parallel but this is the general sequence, usually the theme and my core ideas and initial designs need to be mature before I can start selecting the fabric styles I want to work with.
Following this, the specifics of the designs in the collection are developed with initial drawings and then construction of “mocks”. These prototypes go through lots of modifications before they are finalised and I have the basic samples for the collection to start sales and planning manufacturing.
The last few years have been tough with the local economy suffering through several challenges. The local conflicts, economic problems in the rest of the world keeping tourists away and the low oil price have all contributed to a difficult retail environment. While this is the case in the gulf, other parts of the world are finally seeing economic recovery after the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Middle East Market Trends
We started the brand in 2008 so it has been nearly 10 years we have been working in the fashion business in the region. This has seen many developments and overall a general maturing of the market. We now have quite a varied environment locally in Dubai and in the region overall. There have been massive investments in shopping malls. We now take these for granted but the rapid growth of these have really only been in the last 10-12 years. Mall of Emirates opening in 2005 and Dubai Mall in 2008. This same trend has been reflected in the other Gulf countries and for us this means that we need to find stockists in the successful Malls. This is not easy and it keeps changing. Some of our early successes in large department stores have faded as the mall they are located in has fallen from favour with the shopping public. It is a tough job to keep on top of this while at the same time keeping the design process going.
Top 5 must-have pieces
From AW17, the metallic jacket could be the piece that glues any wardrobe together. It could be worn casually with jeans or over a more dressy piece. The mustard yellow jumpsuit is another must-have piece. It is very hard to know which designs will be the hit of the collection and I still love them all. I just want our customers to have something new and fresh to look forward to in each new collection.