COVID-19 has impacted everyone, leaving no individual or company unaffected. In an effort to create meaningful action around the concept of supporting the local fashion community, Savoir Flair launched its #SupportLocalFashion series, which tackles a broad range of talent from brands and designers to photographers, stylists, and hair and makeup artists.
This week, our #SupportLocalFashion initiative spotlights the efforts of local boutique Maison Clad, and its delightful owner Coralie François. As a true melting pot of cultures, Dubai plays host to entrepreneurial dreams from all corners of the world. Francois, who hails from Belgium, is a passionate business owner who recognized the need to fill a fashion niche in the city. Her smartly curated mix of sophisticated separates and bohemian dresses created a wardrobe for women that is both functional and playful, while simultaneously supplying them with hard-to-find brands. Maison Clad, which now has three boutiques in the city, also has an e-commerce platform which offers same-day delivery (within a four-hour window) in Dubai.
For Savoir Flair’s #SupportLocalFashion series, Maison Clad created a bespoke video, featuring seven styled outfits, one for every day of the week. Each look is shoppable below. Additionally, we had the wonderful opportunity to speak to François about her boutique, her love of the Middle East, and her dreams for Maison Clad’s future.
Where are you from, and what is your background in fashion?
Most of the time people think I am French, but I am actually Belgian. I left Belgium to live in France when I was 22. I graduated with a Master’s degree in Fashion Management in Paris. Then, I worked for four years as a product manager and buyer for the French brand Agnes B. Once I settled into Dubai, I started working as a buyer for Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, and Stella McCartney for two years, before launching Maison Clad. The Maison Clad adventure began four years ago.
When did you move to Dubai?
I met my husband when I came to Dubai for vacation. Yes, ladies, love-at-first sight still exists. Afterwards, I decided to leave Paris and come to Dubai. This was in 2015.
Why did you decide to open a business in Dubai?
Working as a fashion buyer in luxury, I spent a lot of time cruising the malls and studying the market. I came to understand that the Dubai fashion market was led by two polarities: luxury on one side, and fast fashion on the other side. I felt there was a void to fill between these two offers. I want every woman coming to Maison Clad to feel like she is inside a European boutique. Our concept offers exclusive collections by small brands and decent prices. My wish is that every client feels unique and gets compliments each time she wears a dress from Maison Clad. This mission has been successful so far.
In addition to our curated products, we offer personalized styling advice, fast after-sale support, and alterations done within 24 hours with the dress delivered to your doorstep. We want Maison Clad to bring much more than exclusive clothes to the Middle East.
You are gifted with bringing designers and brands to Dubai that can’t be found elsewhere. How do you source your amazing finds?
I have selected every single piece for Maison Clad myself for the past four years. I will always be involved in selecting the brand and the pieces since it is Maison Clad’s DNA. To make the right selection to display in our shops, I spend a lot of time myself in the boutiques. This allows me to perfectly understand our customers wishes and requests. With this in mind, I tailor my purchases accordingly. Selecting the assortment and selling it cannot be split apart.
Each vacation in Europe turns into a fashion buying trip. My husband became my purchasing buddy. We take almost all supplier meetings together. He sometimes puts me back on track if I suddenly get too enthusiastic about pieces with feathers or Lurex [laughs]. We explore European capitals, looking for new talents and great brands with great quality. We designate these finds with the “Fashion Trotter” logo. This logo represents our desire to bring the Middle East woman great brands that would have never entered the region without Maison Clad.
What are some things you love about the Middle East?
I absolutely love the Middle East. I was born in Belgium, thus it will always be my roots. However, living in the Middle East is a genuine personal choice, made from the heart. I feel like a fish in water here. The Middle East is a very inspiring region where dreams can come true. Thanks to Dubai, I can live out my passion. I will always be grateful for this.
You are opening a third location this month. What kind of challenges did you face with COVID?
The current worldwide situation challenges all business and industries. It pushes each entrepreneur to be creative and bounce back in a new way. The stay-at-home period strongly impacted our two boutiques. So, we doubled our efforts to still serve our clients and try to keep them dreaming about great looks!
I created our e-commerce website from scratch myself. I can now add ‘webmaster’ to my resume [laughs]. In Dubai, we deliver orders within four hours. Even remotely, we try to maintain the same styling service and fashion experience. We also launched our sportswear range, in answer to the new lifestyle needs of our clients. They are working from home more and going out much less during the day. Being an entrepreneur is to constantly reinvent yourself.
On August 1, we opened a new boutique in Westin Mina Seyahi Hotel, close to the Marina. It is a jewel. The hotel is open to Dubai residents for restaurants, beach, pool and brunches, but it is still closed to tourism. This makes the challenge even more challenging. The decision to open there was made before COVID. Even if hospitality is impacted by the crisis, we are still positive of the mid-term potential. The Westin is well-known by Dubai residents; their restaurants and brunches are still packed. We hope that we were right to follow our gut on this, and that this bet will pay off once the worldwide situation is back on its feet. The sun will shine again!
What are some trends that your visitors are gravitating toward this summer?
If Maison Clad was following the current trends blindly, I would say it’s the bucket hat [laughs].
The emblematic Maison Clad piece is, year after year, is a long printed dress. They are perfect during the day with sneakers or sandals. At night, they look stunning with high heels. Our bestsellers are timeless and match all situations. At the same time, they are unique and very creative. I believe this is one of Maison Clad’s strengths. We hope you will enjoy the video and discover some of these great pieces we propose. See you soon in our boutiques, on Instagram, and on our e-commerce website.
Breakfast to start your week
Maison Clad ‘Lia’ Dress
Shopping with my friends
Ladies Night Look
Maison Clad ‘Lupe’ Dress
Casual Dinner Look
A Day at the Beach Look