Fashion isn’t always about the newest creation, as Jelena Jakovljevic Bin Drai proves with her debut collection of classic dresses, designed to be worn time after time

Sitting on her plush satin sofa in her luxurious home on The Palm, Jumeirah, Jelena is clearly excited as she enthusiastically explains the collection that took nearly two years to create. She says: “At first it was about establishing all of this alone. So it took me a little bit longer as it’s not my area of expertise.”

“The only experience I had was seeing the quality of pieces backstage at catwalk shows,” continues the former Miss Yugoslavia. “Although I don’t have design skills, I’m heavily involved in everything from the research and sketching, right through to developing the pieces.”

With a similar background to former model Georgina Chapman, now co-founder of Marchesa, Jelena admits: “I see myself in Georgina, when I first saw her establishing Marchesa, I thought to myself, ‘That’s something I would like to do.’”


The entrepreneur and mother-of-three was juggling her numerous businesses (she also owns Al Das Medical Clinic, Asya’s nursery and Vanilla by Jelena and Chocolate by Jelena cosmetic salons and spas) when she noticed a gap in the market for “classic pieces you can wear for the rest or your life.”

She explains: “In Dubai, you can never be too dressed up and my collection, which I can only describe as a mixed salad, appeals to a range of women who want one-off pieces for every occasion.

“You have the girly girl, like myself, the local girl who is after Arabic styles, and the women who travel and want a wardrobe that will transfer from East to West.”

At the time of our conversation, the collection was already half sold, and new customers were requesting styles with their own twist, something that Jelena is more than happy to provide. “I like to think we’re neither haute couture, nor ready-to-wear, but what I like to call a passage in between.

“I’m more than happy to modify the styles,” she says. “Whether it be the addition of a sleeve or longer skirt, I’m happy to. Women in Dubai like to wear one-off pieces, I understand that.”


With a second collection on the horizon, Jelena is content with the way things are going, but she is not one to rest on her laurels. “Next year I’m going in a slightly new direction,” she reveals. “It’ll be less conservative and more feminine and vintage-inspired. After all, I am a lover of all things girly.”

Duchess by Jelena can be found at 412, 4th Floor, Shoreline 10 (Al Das Building), Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. To book an appointment, call (056) 1130397