Amal Ameen: Building a fashion and design empire in Qatar
From hand-picked garments by under-the-radar designers in Brazil and India to one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces of Haute Couture, spaces like La Boutique Blanche and Amici di Moda aim to meet fashion lovers at their specific desires.
These luxury stores are just one part of the empire that Qatari entrepreneur Amal Ameen has built over almost two decades in the fashion and design industries.
Described as a “fashion icon”, Amal is now considered one of Qatar’s leading entrepreneurs and high profile tastemakers. She has won multiple awards – including a Grazia lifetime achievement award – and recently became the first brand ambassador for Lexus Qatar.
"Amal’s portfolio of businesses includes Voute Business Solutions – creating concepts for restaurants and other hospitality businesses – and Hair Couture, a beauty salon located in a five-star hotel"
After graduating in 2004 in fine arts and interior design from the Virginia Commonwealth University, Amal worked in the semi-governmental sector for five years as an interior designer, gaining valuable experience in large scale projects including an exhibition at the 2006 Asian Games. Steadily, with the confidence and network she built, Amal eventually started her own business in 2007, Triple Trend Design House, specialising in interior, graphic and fashion design projects.
“After being successful in my projects, in such a small community the word of mouth did the rest,” Amal told The New Arab about her career journey. “I started to be known for my achievements and clients started to reach for us. I was passionate about my work and I was putting in all the effort without thinking so much about what I am getting in return. I think I am blessed to do what I love the most and that my group will be expanding soon, thanks to the reputation we earned in the market.”
Her passion for design and discovering talent led to the launch of La Boutique Blanche in 2015. “My research was based on niche brands that were not sold in Qatar yet, especially young designers that have a lot of talent and they needed encouragement,” Amal said.
“I was travelling for long periods of time from Paris, Milan, Madrid and London to Japan, Brazil, India or New York. I found so many brands in tiny roads, with very talented designers that I decided to support by bringing them to Qatar.”
The result is a “universe of fashion that brings countries together under one roof”, where niche brands share rails with more established designers.
The success of the boutique-inspired Amal to aim for more exclusive pieces, and she opened a showroom of Haute Couture fashion, Amici di Moda, at Doha’s luxury Al Hazm mall in 2017. “We identified clients who had a different understanding of fashion and appreciated the high-end brands and their hand-made work, and they were very much interested in owning unique pieces or limited collections,” Amal said.
Central to the boutiques’ success are two things: working with designers to adapt clothes to the Qatari taste and style – that is “influenced by the culture and is very rich in details, materials and quality” – and to provide a customer service in which “nothing is impossible”.
“This is a priority to us,” Amal said. “We adapt any dress, we place specific orders, we deliver door to door and we are used to working under pressure in the high seasons to keep our clients satisfied at all times. Plus, our team is well-trained in customer service, materials and the brands.”
Amal’s portfolio of businesses includes Voute Business Solutions – creating concepts for restaurants and other hospitality businesses – and Hair Couture, a beauty salon located in a five-star hotel. “Getting organised, working on time management, and prioritising the work is as important as having the right professionals around you,” she said. “You need to trust your team if you want to have a balance and enjoy both your professional and private lives.”
Yet even the most smooth-running business empires have suffered setbacks during COVID-19 restrictions. For Amal, she’s seen fewer clients, especially as events for which they want to find the perfect outfit have been put on hold. But Amal believes she can still rely on a faithful following of fashion-forward customers. “Thanks to our well-established database and loyal clients we are surviving this situation successfully, even though clients are spending less than before.”
She said her plans for the next few years are to “expand in a smart way,” and “expect the unexpected”, advice that she passes to other women dreaming of entrepreneurship: “I think it’s very important to know what you want in order to target your goals and to set up the right plan and the correct actions. My advice is: Believe in yourself, don’t be confused, just focus and dare to go ahead with what you have in mind, and remember that failures along the way are an important part of any success as they provide you with experience.”
Shams Al-Shakarchi is a British-Iraqi journalist with an interest in Iraq and women's rights.
Follow her on Twitter: @shams_shakarchi