As Al Huzaifa, UAE homegrown interior decor and furniture brand established in 1976, launches its new concept Al Huzaifa Design Studio, dedicated to responding to the community’s need for bespoke design, we investigate what drives consumers’ increasingly discerning tastes, and why uniqueness in a private space may seem like a novelty market, but is actually one that is deeply ingrained in the architectural heart of the UAE.
As a company established a mere handful of years after the founding of the UAE, Al Huzaifa has been a pioneer in the local market. With the launch of its new 8,656-square-foot custom services branch in Al Wasl, it begs the question of why after so many years is the brand – which prides itself on providing high-quality and high-end ranges to build “luxurious home sanctuaries” – branching out? It appears simply that in a place historically rooted in customizable homes there is an enduring desire to create unique environments. While the UAE is associated with high-rises, mod-cons and luxury, its historical, traditional courtyard-style Sha’abi housing models from the 1970s – less commonly found now and largely relegated to Al Ain – were purposefully built so that each family could personalize them to suit their needs. “It’s as ingrained as it is universal,” says Al Huzaifa. “Every society has its style conformists, experimenters, innovators and outright mavericks. What makes the Emirati homemaker special is a certain sense of taste and dignity. It’s the ability to balance the sense of cultural continuity with a remarkable ability to embrace radical transformation.”
Add the hyper-modernity of a cosmopolitan city rife with diversity, and it is inevitable that demand for cutting-edge and competitive services necessitates responsiveness. As a historic brand, Al Huzaifa is well-positioned to understand a customer base it knows intimately. “As the love for bespoke services grew and the brand’s clientele base expanded, the brand saw an imperative need to scale up its offering through a unique and ultra-specialized service that answers the community’s need for specific sizes, larger pieces, and distinctive tastes,” says Al Huzaifa.
With a transient population – nearly 89% of its just over 10 million population being expats – aesthetic needs and visions are varied. It is a distinct quality which is mirrored in the landscape of Dubai itself, which is in many ways a pastiche of largely 20th-century architectural styles. This unique phenomenon was tackled by its participation at the 15th Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition and is addressed on smaller, more accessible scales by brands such as Al Huzaifa. However, while witness to a consistent need for individuality, it also recognized it should level up. “We saw a need to earn our space in the realm of bespoke furniture,” says Al Huzaifa. “As they say, ‘everything changes and nothing changes’.”
Defining their clientele as “style seekers” who embody a dichotomous state of belonging and individuality marked by global exposure, purchasing power and enlightened outlooks, Al Huzaifa’s efforts to bring flair and appropriate options does not exist within stagnant remits. Design never stands still, and its latest initiative employs 16 designers dedicated to prestigious residential projects across the UAE, and backstage manufacturing and fabrication support handling woodwork, metalwork and glass with advanced machinery and installation prowess. “Style and sensibilities evolve, as do our customers,” it notes. Generational changes mean reframed expectations. “Today’s clued-in clientele expects an instant response to global trends and is empowered by digitally transformed supply chains to get what they want from any part of the world, which Al Huzaifa ensures adapting to,” says the brand.
In the face of products from across the globe available in just a few clicks – 73% of UAE consumers are shopping online more since the pandemic – evolution is essential to survival, which includes competing with the ease of digital platforms in favour of physical store visits. The UAE retail e-commerce market reached $3.9bn in 2020, a 53% year-on-year increase, and an analysis from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry projected that with factors including high income potential, modern digital payment systems, and a tech-savvy population will see the market reach $8bn by 2025. Convenience, it seems, must go hand-in-hand with originality. “There is definitely a growing demand for bespoke or customized products and experiences,” says Al Huzaifa. “As options increase, customers find it tough to identify and shop for the products that will meet their needs, whereas ordering from a custom process makes it easy.”
But why is having a custom anything important? It’s all about expressing individuality. “Beyond the practicalities of optimizing spaces and making the most of form and function, is the sheer joy of exclusivity,” reveals the brand. “For some, it’s the cocoon-like comfort of having everything wrapped around your preference. For others, it’s the wow factor of amplifying your signature style.” Whatever the driver, Al Huzaifa aims to have something for everyone – originally with furniture, adding custom curtains, cushions, upholstery and wallpapers, and now, an entire 360º approach to creating, curating and crafting. Al Huzaifa Design Studio is complete with concept settings, walk-through mock-ups, and discussion rooms packed with libraries of finishes, fabrics, materials, and more. “Al Huzaifa Design Studio has mastered the art of co-creation,” says the brand, whether projects are spatial revamps or complete renovations. The design philosophy may revolve around an aesthetic of “timeless, dramatic, diverse”, but the ethos is all about clean, effortless transformation. “Insight, creativity and executional excellence,” says Al Huzaifa, referencing its four decades of defining furniture fashion and responding to specific needs that have built a foundation and network of savvy design awareness and curatorial drive. “Our global sourcing engine ensures that the best of everything comes your way,” notes the brand, adding, “if we don’t find it, we make it.”
For more information, visit Al Huzaifa.
About The Editor
Katrina – arts, culture and lifestyle writer and editor (BFA Fine Arts, Parsons the New School for Design; MA Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art) – has lived in 16 countries and written for a multitude of prestigious publications in the MENA region. Based in Dubai, Kufer is interested in observing new environments and exploring cross and inter-cultural connections.