With an impressive heritage stretching back more than 110 years, leading luxury brand Damas has put a whole new spring in its step as it raises the stakes for the Middle East’s other gold and jewelry brands through the launch of 25 new store openings and renovations. This comes just six months after the company placed Asil Attar at its helm – making her the first female CEO in the history of Damas. Our Hind Nassar met Asil in Dubai on the eve of the launch of the brand’s ‘City of Gold’ campaign.
Shortly before the opening of a spectacular event at The Gaillard, hosted by Damas Chairman, Hamdi Chatti and CEO Asil Attar, during which the new stores were revealed across the GCC through a pan-Arab live feed, Asil announced “Damas will continue to invest in the region, we sit on an impressive portfolio that we want to enhance whilst simultaneously identifying new opportunities in key markets. International expansion is also on the agenda, as we continue to maintain and gain market share.”
For the past decade, Asil has held a number of firsts, placing her as the first female CEO for three of the Middle East’s leading groups, most recently as the CEO for Damas Jewellery, their first female CEO in over 100 years. Attar is an ambassador for women empowerment, inspiring women of all ages to reach their potential and achieve their goals.
Hind Nassar: What’s your leadership style?
Asil Attar: I’m available 24/7, my door is open to everyone and they all know how to reach me at any time. All the employees know me – at whatever level they are within the company. We’re all in this together, and I’m one of them. My leadership style, if it has a name, is human – one-to-one – all the time.
HN: You’ve said before: “I do not compete, I succeed and lead with a focused strategy”. What’s your strategy for Damas moving forward in this belief?
AA: That’s an interesting quote – the DNA of how I lead any business is exactly with complete focus. I’m very clear on the direction and strategic vision that I have, and what leads me in this is that I want to be number one in whatever capacity that we can be. We need to be an example to others. Damas is already a leader – it has 100 years of heritage, it owns a great market share… combined, that’s a very powerful base to begin with. I’m proud to be the very first female CEO for the group. When you have a combination of history and heritage and a visionary mind that wants to take it to another level and maximize it and potentialize it, this means you’re focused, you have an objective, and you’re really going for it!
HN: What, from its heritage, are you using to push Damas forward?
AA: There are a number of key events in our history. 1907 is when we started as goldsmiths – that category of business is still very important to us and will continue to be. As jewelers, 1959 saw Damas open its first store in Dubai’s gold souq. However, the most powerful thing I’m taking with me is the loyalty of our customers that have grown with us from the very beginning. It’s amazing for me as I sit with women or men of different ages, and they’ll relate stories to me about their grandparents buying things – and about how everything that was bought has become an important part of their family’s history. It’s constant memory and nostalgia. I’m continuing this journey of emotion and nostalgia and carrying it to a new era. I’m respecting those who have been with us for years, whilst also engaging a new generation.
HN: You have been with Damas for around 6 months now; how has your experience been so far?
AA: Well, to be honest, it’s felt more like six years! It’s been an overwhelming and emotional rollercoaster. The months have passed quickly, and with a huge sense of responsibility linked to my desire to want to make a change as quickly as possible, and to make a change with major impact. This rollercoaster will always continue for me… this is just the start of my journey.
HN: What are the key directions that you believe will give you a competitive advantage over the next year?
AA: Our prime advantage is that there’s no other company in our sector with a woman leading it. When you have someone running a company who has such an affinity with a product, and the same sensibility as our customers, that presents a lot of advantages when we’re thinking of our growth and new directions. We make decisions from a different angle now… we want to empower and inspire women at Damas.
HN: Being the first female CEO for Damas in over 100 years is definitely a milestone. As a fellow woman, I sure am extremely proud and inspired. In your opinion and to offer advice to tomorrow’s generation of women leaders, what are the characteristics of those most likely to break through?
AA: The first thing is to possess a huge amount of self-belief and drive, coupled with the confidence to do whatever you want to do. Arm yourself with knowledge too. You can achieve anything you set your mind to – as long as you believe you can achieve it.
What sets you back is when you start to overthink. Know you’ll get rejected a million times… I could tell you stories of a thousand interviews I went to which, when I left I was certain I’d got the job… only to never hear from the company again. Some of these are brutal memories – you’re so sure you’re going to get it, and then you don’t. But I’ve learned to accept that sometimes things just aren’t meant to be. Arm yourself with a bullet-proof heart.
And gather a support system of like-minded people who believe in the same things you do. You won’t succeed as a woman alone, you need to right people around you.
Finally, know this: you are the only thing that’s holding you back!
Know more: Damas is a house of brands, with over 200 stores in the GCC. It is one of the largest standalone multi-brand jewelers in the world, offering exclusive collections from some of the world’s most unique brands, Pasquale Bruni, Fope, Magerit, Leo Pizzo to name a few. Damas is also a strategic partner to coveted global brands such as Graff, Roberto Coin, Faberge and Mikimoto, that sit perfectly alongside the equally luxurious in-house brands created by Damas such as Farfasha, One-Six-Eight, Legacy and Rangoli. Watch Dames – City of Gold here