Since 2014, Duha Al Ramadhan has been bringing a considerable selection of niche fine jewellery brands to the Middle East through her boutique Aubade in Kuwait.
She travels from Los Angeles, to New York, Paris, and London, meeting with upcoming and established designers, all of whom were equally as excited to be a part of Duha’s jewellery venture. Find out below how it all began.
What was your favourite subject at school?
English – I absolutely love reading and writing (I write poetry in my spare time), so to me English was my most enjoyable subject in school.
What was your first job?
I worked in the family hospitality business. With a degree in industrial engineering, my focus was how to improve operations and reduce overall wastage and costs at the hotel.
What inspired you to launch Aubade?
I was frustrated by the lack of variety of jewellery in the Kuwaiti market. I grew up with a huge jewellery obsession, but I had to wait till my next trip abroad or resort to shopping online to find my favourite jewellery brands and styles. I noticed this gap in the jewellery market and decided it would be worth introducing a new niche of fine jewellery for jewellery lovers like myself.
What are the key elements of your role?
When you run your own business, you’re basically responsible for all aspects of the business. You undertake multiple roles to ensure that everything is running as smoothly as possible. Some key elements of my role as owner of Aubade are leadership, delegation, creative directorship, and social media management.
Talk us through your daily routine.
I start off my day by working out with my PT first thing in the morning. Next, I start getting ready for work while ensuring that all house tasks are taken care of. Breakfast is usually on the go or at the office. Once I reach the office, my day revolves around meetings with Aubade’s brand director to discuss our upcoming buys, trends and predictions for the next season, and plans for events and trunk shows. Once that meeting is done, I do a walk on the shop floor to check on products and display, and to review what could do with some improvement. Lastly, we work on taking product photos for our social media accounts, which have proven to be one of the most effective means for selling. After work, I head home to be with my boys and review any schoolwork they might have. After that, it’s bedtime for them and unwinding time for me.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?
Be patient. Don’t try to rush into launching your concept or business – good things take time and it’s best to slowly and gradually build your brand so that when you do launch, you launch with a bang.
Which fashion brands can we find in your work wardrobe?
I shop from a varied selection of brands and styles, but some of my favourites are Alexander Wang, Prada, Helmut Lang, Old Celine, Bottega Veneta, and Balenciaga.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
“You’ll never know until you try.” I was hesitant to go ahead with my vision for Aubade, worried it would be a failure, but my husband told me I’d never know until I tried.
And what is the worst?
I can’t pinpoint a single worst advice, but in general it’s when people who aren’t from the region try to tell me how to run my business or what to buy for the store – without having any knowledge of our clients’ taste or what our culture and lifestyle is like. People assume that just because we’re based in the Middle East, they can push the heaviest, most expensive pieces on us, but in fact, us Arabs are very cautious and wary of how and what we spend our money on.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
Educating the market on some of the brands that we carry and justifying the prices. The mentality at the time of my opening was very “oh, but it’s not Cartier, why is it so expensive?”. Having to explain to clients that the jewellery we carry is all handmade by local artisans in Los Angeles or Italy, and that some of these brands use the same quality of diamonds as the bigger brand names, was initially a challenge. But thankfully, our clients are much more aware now, and their interest and appreciation in these smaller brand names has definitely peaked since then.
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