Reem Mohammad is a self-confessed dress-up queen with an eye for a bargain. Having lived mostly in London, her first visit to the UAE was on a holiday 15 years ago. She loved the opportunities presented by the country to innovate and implement her ideas. So she decided to move here. "The idea of a designer shop for second-hand clothes and accessories came from my friends and contacts.
They were always saying they never knew what to do with clothes they no longer wanted but were too good to give away," says Mohammad. As a result, Reem's Closet for used designer fashionwear opened at Mazaya Centre in Dubai last May.
"It was initially intended as a shop exclusively for handbags. But then people started bringing in more items – clothes, shoes, sunglasses and belts," she says. "The concept behind the store is that everybody loves a bargain. We get stuff from people who have travelled and bought items in the wrong size.
When they get back to Dubai they realise that they either don't really need it or that it doesn't fit and they don't know what to do with it. So we have items in stock that you don't get anywhere else in Dubai. You can find designer bestseller pieces and limited editions, which don't lose their value quickly. And the items are still a lot cheaper than in retail shops.
As much as I get a deal, I give a deal." Mohammad's loves for her shop only rivals her love for fashion. "The shop is my baby," she says. "I love new clothes and shoes and I love to shop. Reem's Closet has allowed me to develop my hobby and transform it into a business. My father and grandfather had their own businesses so I always knew I would start my own.
I am a lot like my father in that we are both strong-minded and believe that anything is possible. In my family, we were all expected to make it on our own.
"I prefer to call some of my stock 'vintage' because some items are almost 30 years old. But they are just as appealing."
With a penchant for detail and a sixth sense for fashion, Mohammad oversees every aspect of running her store. She is the owner and curator and also doubles as the accountant. "I don't rely on computers as I find them too complicated. Every transaction is by hand. This means that I can personally keep track of every item that comes in or goes out of the shop."
The response to her store has been tremendous. Most of the shop's clientele have come in by word of mouth. "I don't advertise as I don't want to push up operating costs. Most people were sceptical about the success of the shop but I always knew it would work. I had the courage of my convictions and that is in part what has led to the shop's success."
Mohammad is thinking of expanding by introducing a line for men and children. She is also arranging an auction for charity with leftover stock. "Some people just want to give away their stuff. Through an auction, we can contribute to a cause."
How much has success affected her? " I am elated," she says. "Explorer Dubai 2009 edition put us in the list of top 10 shops in Dubai at number nine, even though we were in competition with huge brand name stores. The 'recycling' idea is very common in countries such as the UK and the US and I am glad that Dubai is catching up with the benefits of recycling clothing and accessories."
When things get too hectic for Mohammad, she likes to relax at home and catch up on her DVD collection. Even a perfectionist needs a break!
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– Zenifer Khaleel is an Abu Dhabi-based freelancer.