Zahr Art: That’s a fair trade

Make your wardrobe a better place with the UAE-based boutique that prides itself on fairly produced clothing and accessories

Zahr Art: That’s a fair trade
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Make your wardrobe – and the world – a better place with Zahr Art, the UAE-based online boutique that prides itself on fashion-forward, fairly produced clothing and accessories.

In a city full of malls, it can be difficult to find something that really stands out. Enter Zahr Art. This online boutique, founded by Nada Al Ghazali, sells artisan clothing and accessories sourced from across the globe.

Nada came up with the concept as an alternative to mass-produced wares. ‘After years in the corporate world, I wanted to do something that I truly loved and enjoyed. I have always had an interest in fashion, interior design and art. So, after a lot of research, I decided to open my own online business within the fashion and interior industry.

‘At the time, I had seen a few fair trade boutiques abroad and loved the concept – how it could uplift people’s lives and raise awareness for some very worthwhile causes. I realised that while fair trade was important to me, I did need another selling point. That is when I came up with Zahr Art’s key concept, “Where fashion meets art.” I haven’t looked back.’

Nada often scours the internet and travels to pick up lines and products that have a meaning behind them. She explains, ‘I want Zahr Art to be more than just a place to shop online. I want it to motivate people to know and appreciate the story behind the pieces they buy and understand the positive difference that they are making to other people’s lives.’

Nada continues, ‘I try to select designers who have made a positive contribution to the world, by either supporting a culture or heritage, donating a percentage of sales to a non-government organisation, creating their items in an eco-conscious way, making their products with fair trade principles in place, or by supporting disadvantaged artisans. Each item is carefully selected to fit at least one of the following criteria: eco-conscious (minimising the impact on the environment); fairly produced (workers are paid decent wages and their working conditions are closely monitored); handmade; recycled; charitable (brands that share their profits to support foundations); organic; and locally sourced.’

Nada named the site after her mother, Zahra, who inspired the project. ‘She was so forward-thinking in her beliefs, views and actions. She taught me and my siblings the importance of education and hard work. She had an incredible passion for art and fashion, truly appreciating its beauty and influence, and I’m so grateful that she passed that on. In addition to that, the translation of the name “Zahra” or “Zahr” in Arabic means “flower”, which is a symbol of beauty and purity. This is the core philosophy of our site. All of these elements perfectly epitomise what Zahr Art is about, so what better name could I have chosen?’

Popinjay is a label that is available on Zahr Art, and it embodies Nada’s philosophy of combining art and backstories. Alina Jiwani of Popinjay says, ‘Our handbags have a signature element: the hand-embroidery created by skilled female artisans in Pakistan. At present, 150 women are learning the art of hand-embroidery with resham [silk] threads. Every morning, our artisan women congregate for three to four hours at our beautiful community centre in Hafizabad, Pakistan, to hand-embroider motifs on to each bag. We pay our artisan women up to three times the market rate, and through the sale of our products, we enable livelihoods for the female artisans, revive ancient craft techniques, and add style to the fashion-forward woman’s wardrobe.’

‘The most important thing I take into account, though, is the uniqueness of the product. I want each piece to be special and distinctive so that my customers can truly enjoy their purchase.’

Nada adds, ‘Zahr Art supports disadvantaged artisans – including underprivileged women who use their traditional craftsmanship as a means of survival and a stable income – and leads to the preservation of their craft. There are tons of amazing designers all over the world, and I feel honoured that my job allows me to discover them and unveil their products on Zahr Art.’ (04 432 9055).

Brand focus: Popinjay

We talk to Alina Jiwani of Popinjay – one of Zahr Art’s lines

How would you describe Popinjay’s style?
Our first collection is an artistic representation of the rich heritage and craft techniques manifested in Islamic architecture, and is suitably named ‘La Mezquita’, which means mosque in Spanish.

How did the brand begin?
Our founder Saba Gul was inspired by the story of an Afghan girl, Azaada Khan, who masked herself as a boy for 12 years to be able to attend school at a time when girls were prohibited by law to do so. Moved by Azaada’s story, she quit her six-figure salary in the US to pilot a programme that provided education to young Pakistani women. This became Popinjay.

Why did you team up with Zahr Art?
We view each Popinjay bag as an artpiece with some bags taking over 100 hours to hand-embroider. Zahr Art is a one-of-a-kind boutique that celebrates fashion and art, so it’s the perfect fit for us.

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