As the desire to purchase retail products online increases dramatically each year, so do the varieties of e-commerce platforms available worldwide. In 2018, global e-retail sales totaled a staggering AED 10.3 trillion and that amount will almost double to AED 17.3 trillion by 2021, projects Statista. Yet, as globalization and technology work hand-in-hand to promote diversity and inclusivity in the design and advertising spheres of the industry, there are still two regions that are often overlooked as a source of merchandise on the retail side: the Middle and the Far East. Often excluded from Western markets due to economic, social, and cultural barriers, brands from the East sometimes struggle to enter the consciousness of the global consumer.  

Enter Maison Orient. This e-commerce platform based in Dubai creates a space exclusively for talent from this side of the world to connect with those in the West and bring their rare and unique “authentic designs” as a welcome alternative to the mass-produced collections commonly found in both online and offline channels. 

Ayse ArelMaison Orient founder Ayse Arel. Photo: Maison Orient

“There is a fast-growing talent pool rising from countries of the Middle East as well as the Far East and Africa,” explained a statement from the brand. “The current fashion industry is saturated by well-established Western luxury brands and it is a challenge for local designers to showcase their products and reach consumers on the global online market.”

Founded by fashion industry stalwart Ayse Arel after a soul-searching journey took her away from a 10-year stint in the corporate world, Maison Orient is a “start-up aiming to help other start-ups”. 

“Maison Orient aims to fill an underserved niche by bringing together a beautifully curated offer from the Middle East, North Africa, India, and Far East regions,” continues the statement. “Our aim is to help emerging designers originating from these areas to be seen and heard on a global platform and to tell their beautiful stories.”

Ammanii Egyptian jewelry brand Ammanii is part of Maison Orient’s curated selection of up-and-coming brands. Photo courtesy of Maison Orient

The digital retail platform is going brick-and-mortar for a month at The Design House Gate Avenue in DIFC to display designs of up-and-coming creatives hailing from the MENA and Far East regions. Shoppers can browse showcases of handcrafted jewelry, locally-sourced accessories, and region-inspired ready-to-wear collections at the pop-up boutique until the end of January for a firsthand look at more widely known brands including Bouguessa, Gaios, and Kismet by Milka as well as yet-to-be-discovered ones such as Nisse, Ammanii, and Talar Nina, among others.

Envisioning a customer who “appreciates cultures and heritages and enjoys bold mixes” of diverse and original styles, Maison Orient reflects a growing interest in those hoping to embody fashion seen throughout the world even after they return to their own home countries as well as those who are proud to invest in brands representing their personal origins.  

Dubai-based label Talar Nina is among Maison Orient’s ready-to-wear collections. Photo courtesy of Maison Orient

“I believe people are looking to shop with a meaning behind it. They are becoming more interested in the story behind the product and designer they are wearing,” said Arel, adding she wants “Maison Orient to be a platform where designers can share their stories with a global customer base.” 

“Most of the regional designers have beautiful stories behind their brand and designs—some of them have social awareness causes and help NGOs through some of their sales. These stories make buying their products much more meaningful to the customer. [Maison Orient] is becoming a platform that will bring people together, share their visions and stories, and create a genuine and fresh offer.”

If NASDAQ is correct in estimating 95% of commerce transactions will occur online by 2040, the time has come for non-Western regions to more actively join this profitable avenue or risk being left behind on this sweeping path to growth—a sentiment Arel fights to prevent. 

“I hate to see these designers remain local because of the industry standards and buying rules and standards of big market players.”