Home to extravagant skyscrapers and the wealthy folks who live in them, Dubai has more than its share of upscale shopping malls. Still, Maha Abdul Rasheed, owner of the city’s vintage boutique Bambah, says there’s a place for thrift style. Here, she offers an insider’s perspective on shopping in this Middle Eastern fashion oasis.
Author Claire Carruthers Photography Mike Malate
Given the mix of locals, expats and tourists, can you identify a style that’s unique to Dubai?
I’ve been living in Dubai for 17 years, and I can tell you that the style has changed dramatically. Because it’s a relatively young city, people generally follow trends and love designer brands. You’ll always have that type here, who loves to make a big statement through luxury. But more recently people have begun to take risks by mixing
in street and vintage items, which is great—they’re not just following runway trends blindly, but tweaking them.
So people are coming around to the idea of vintage?
Definitely. I think because there is such an event-driven social scene here, people want to make sure no one else is going to be wearing their outfit. Vintage is good for that.
You travel the world looking for vintage fashion; you must have come across some amazing pieces.
I have this gorgeous Nina Ricci dress from the 1950s. It belonged to the grandmother of one of my suppliers, so it really is special: black velvet with pink and blue pastel detail and a big bow. I rarely wear it, but it’s something I’ll always cherish.
What are some of the must-visit shopping destinations in Dubai?
I’m a big fan of street shopping, which is difficult here because Dubai is not pedestrian-friendly. But if you go to areas like Deira and Bur Dubai, you’ll come across some amazing treasures. My latest purchase was an Afghani kaftan from a local store in Deira.
Talk me through what you’re wearing today.
This is actually one of my favorite dresses. It’s from the ’70s; I bought it in Berlin. I just think this midi length, plus all the lace and frills and the off-the-shoulder aspect, is very feminine. I’ve paired it with cage-heel Yves Saint Laurent shoes that I found in Vintage Bar, one of my favorite boutiques in Paris. The owner told me they’re a limited edition runway piece from 1995. They were one heck of an investment, but worth it.
I’m also wearing a special pair of parrot earrings that my friend Raha bought me on a recent hiking trip to Peru—she’s the first Saudi woman to have climbed Mount Everest. These Aloha bracelets are by an Italian brand called Share the Love. It all complements the boho look I’m going for.