Modern bohemia

We are never short of new fashion talent on the Dubai, and the most recent brand to cross our radar is NIILI.

 

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Focusing on delicate prints, wrap around silhouettes, intricate detail consisting of pearls, the collection feels free-spirited yet will not look out of place in an urban environment – note the chunky logo belt. Using only natural fabrics such as silk and viscose, each item is made with comfort and breathability in mind.

Headed up by Emirati businessman, Khaled Al Zaabi, and Spanish Creative Director Paula Quetglas-Llop – who has previously worked at Elie Saab – Niili is a brand that celebrates the culture of the Emirates and wants to share it with the rest of the world. Below, Paula talks us through the inspiration and her role.

What was your favourite subject at school?

It was technical drawing.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a fashion designer with Josep Font in Barcelona. I was hired to be part of the ready to wear design team but I touched a large variety of tasks, like doing embroidery samples for the Haute Couture pieces, designing for the ready to wear collections and doing the postproduction retouches for the internal photo shoots. The team was small and welded. It was a great first experience.

 

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What inspired you to launch Niili?

I never really had the ambition of launching a fashion brand. But when I met Khaled Al Zaabi while doing my MBA at INSEAD, he really inspired me with his energy and conviction to launch this project. The culture and the way people perceived fashion in the region came up to be the two precious elements to work with and we found there was a big potential in launching a brand based in Dubai. I found it appealing to create a brand that has its roots in the culture of the Emirates but that is designed in a way that invites women from different cultures to adapt it to their own stylistic territory.

What are the key elements of your role?

I am the Creative director of Niili and I manage the daily operations of the brand. I am on top of everything that is related to the product and the visual universe, as I want to make sure that everything that comes out of our collaborators is perfectly aligned with what we want to transmit with Niili.

 

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Talk us through your daily routine.

My routine varies depending where I am, but the common point is that I start my day with a coffee. I then read my emails and touch base with the collaborators we work with. I write a daily list that I follow to keep a structure throughout the day. Depending on the moment of the collection we are in, I will do more creative or technical things. My day finishes with a healthy dinner and normally with a book or a film.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

You have to believe in your idea till you fall in love with it. Expose the idea around you, to get information and feedback from valuable people, but do not forget what your intuition says, because this is what will make the idea unique. Try to team up with someone that complements you. The idea must turn out to be a business, so work on this from the beginning.

 

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Which fashion brands can we find in your work wardrobe?

Masscob, Elie Saab, Zara, pieces from markets from the places where I travel. I like mixing everything.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Be conscious of what you are good at and learn how to delegate because you can’t do everything yourself.

And what is the worst?

Do not try to do something because the risk of failing is too high.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

As a brand that is starting, it is difficult to find suppliers that believe in you and that are ready to work with small quantities and without references. It has been challenging to reassure our collaborators and make them part of our journey. Even if it takes a little longer, it is so important to take the time to find the right collaborators.

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