Dana Al Khobaizi is an International Relations alumna-turned-entrepreneur. Upon attaining her Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Denver, Dana went on to work with non-profit organizations like the United Nations and Arab Fund for Economic Development and was a serious and passionate political advocate revolving around humanitarian and social issues, until, lucky for us, the calling of a fashion-industry game-changer!

Creating a versatile concept where fashion, style, and comfort transcend current dominating trends to give way to a fashionable yet timeless “individualized-style” element to dressing-up; this was the key focus that Dana pursued, yet again with the same passionate sense that forever drives her and came up with the unique vision of Closet Candy. Soon to be followed came the Denim Room, a spin-off of the Closet Candy Concept, merging the versatile denim’s style and comfort with modernity and accessibility. But wait, Dana’s vision further expanded to a third venture in the form of KOR Concept offering men as much choice and access as women, tapping into a market of the fashion-conscious man looking to re-invent himself. Another project Dana is involved in is the 965 Outlet Expo that she co-organizes with two partners. 

When opening up your first store, what was your vision and who was your target market?

I had just returned from the States, where at that time I had noticed the rise of contemporary designers, which were huge in the year 2007; department stores such as Saks and Bloomingdales dedicated floors to introduce new and upcoming designers, whereas, in Kuwait, the fashion industry was monopolized and there were no individual boutiques. The fashion industry was primarily targeting the older generation. There was a definite gap that needed to be filled, and I had that edge. Even Dubai was just starting to boom, so the brands were not yet available in the Middle East. 

I have always been inspired by contemporary brands and been drawn to such from New York and LA. It was hard to reach out to them, but I did manage to entice them to expand to the Middle East. I started off with a tiny store in the middle of nowhere near Salhia Complex. It was a success from the very get-go. My Closet Candy girl is a well-traveled, fashion-savvy girl who knows these brands and knows every cool website to shop from!

How did the ideas for each of the stores originate, and what was the inspiration behind each one?

Closet Candy was my first store and as I mentioned, contemporary designers at that time had not yet expanded to the Middle East. I wanted the girls of my generation to have access to these brands, therefore, I introduced over 30 New York and LA-based brands to the region. The denim brands, such as J Brand and Current Elliot, where very successful and that was my inspiration to open Denim Room. When the opportunity to open a store at that location arose, I didn’t want to open another Closet Candy, so I decided to open up the first unisex denim concept store in the Middle East and it was a success! Dabbling into menswear got me to open KOR Concept. The KOR guy is the masculine equivalent to the Closet Candy girl. He’s the well-traveled, educated man, who knows how to dress. In 2013 menswear brands were growing and I had to hit that gap in the market. I believe fashion shouldn’t be intimidating for men!

Blazer: Yousif Alhajji

“I live by virtue of principles;

independence is the most important principle.”

At buying trips, what points do you mainly focus on?

I focus a lot on my customers. If there is a ‘Closet Candy girl’, then that is the girl I shop for. The three things I think of when picking out items would definitely be: affordable, sustainable, and fashionable. I buy for the girl on the go, the professional boss babe, I don’t look for trends. Timeless and fashionable is what my girls look for.

What changed over the years?

With Closet Candy, I started focusing more on athleisure and the wellness industry. I started incorporating my lifestyle into my business which is a must for business owners I believe. Your business should be a reflection of yourself and your personal style.

As a key figure in Kuwait’s fashion industry, what would you like to see more of in this region?

Authenticity: I’m inspired by it! There is no such thing as too much competition, I regard the other stores as my peers. However, if you don’t have something different to present, then you shouldn’t be a player in the game. I don’t want people to be afraid to be themselves even when it comes to personal style. In business, I prefer to stay true to my style which is why I have made changes in what I’m offering at Closet Candy.

Describe your personal style.

Athleisure all the way! I’m massively into that, I’m always in leggings, sneakers, and bomber jackets. I’m the 90’s Calvin Klein jeans kind of girl, with next day hair, and minimum to almost no makeup. The past few years I’ve been leaning towards a healthier and holistic approach to living and that has inspired my personal style as well. Don’t be afraid of being yourself!

Which trend are you currently obsessing over?

I’m really not into trends, and what I have noticed is that lately, the global trend is ‘personal style’. That, I’m a big fan of! I love that personal style does not have to be trend-driven, it’s more about being yourself. That goes back to the ‘comfort is key’ kind of look and it’s acceptable now. Whoever thought that one day we’ll be allowed to wear sneakers to dinner!

Photographer & Art Director: Yousif Abdulsaid // Styling: Dana’s own wardrobe // Assistant: Yousif AlHajji

 

Dana Al Khobaizi – on the cover of the February 2019 issue of the talk