Interview

Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz

05.30.13

Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz is the owner of D’NA, an upscale boutique located in the heart of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Abdulaziz established the groundbreaking shop in 2006, creating an independent fashion voice in the Middle East and a carefully curated space that fuses fashion, culture, and design. In addition to stocking an international roster of labels from Marni and Haider Ackermann, to Yohji Yamamoto and Miu Miu, D’NA features an ever-changing selection of artwork, coffee table books, objets d’art, and art house film screenings. In January 2013, D’NA unveiled its first outpost location in Doha, Qatar.

Interview

When did you open your store? Was this always a dream of yours?

When I was growing up, I admired people like Polly Mellon, Grace Coddington, and Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele. I originally wanted to be a fashion editor, but that job description didn’t exist in the region at the time. Fashion and retail was something I understood instinctively after years of exposure and travel. While living in Riyadh, I couldn’t find any specialized boutiques that not only carried the kind of clothes I wanted to wear, but also created an inspiring environment to shop in. So I decided to launch D’NA in 2006 with my childhood friend, Manal Al Rashid.

How do your clients in Saudi Arabia approach fashion?

Saudi women today are global citizens, and they are as traveled and well read as their counterparts in New York or London. They’re also juggling busy lives with families and careers, so when they come to D’NA they expect a one-stop shopping experience, where they can browse a curated selection of items, knowing they won’t bump into someone else wearing the same look.

A lot of my clients have a very strong sense of style, so when I purchase pieces for the store each season, it’s with a particular customer in mind. I also spend a lot of time with the designers I work with, customizing pieces from their collections for my particular market. As a result, we have pieces by well-known designers that aren’t available anywhere else in the world.

How do the women of Riyadh bridge dressing fashionably and adhering to cultural norms simultaneously?

What’s interesting about Riyadh is that we tend to wear floor length skirts and dresses during the day and evening, and that has created a unique fashion scene here. I love to see how my clients will adapt runway looks to their specific needs and personalities. They usually don’t wear a designer from head to toe, but will mix pieces together.

Were you surprised your store has become such an independent voice of fashion and art in the Middle East?

I’ve been in business for close to eight years now, and I think what keeps me grounded and focused is that I get to work in a field that I am passionate about. We’re constantly looking at new ways to improve our business and customer experience. Whether it’s sourcing new talent to feature at the store or creating an online lifestyle magazine for clients, we try to think outside the box in terms of what a unique luxury shopping experience can be.

Is it hard to juggle being a mother, running a full-time business and traveling for shows and buying appointments?

I’m incredibly lucky to have a very supporting family and I try to stay organized and use my time wisely.

What is your favorite part of visiting New York?

When I’m in New York, I love to spend time with friends and visit exhibitions at the Met, FIT or other museums and galleries across town. As I’ve been coming to New York more on business I have had less time to do those things.

Who are your favorite designers to wear?

I’ve recently begun revisiting pieces I’ve had in my wardrobe for years, and mixing them with more recent acquisitions. Fashion is an emotional purchase and I love the idea of a certain piece by a designer recalling a memory or a moment in ones life. Azzedine Alaia and Haider Ackermann are two designers whose work I greatly admire, but I also have pieces by Martin Margiela when he designed for his own label that I hold onto.