I was privileged to sit down with owner and creative director of Poupette à la plage, Katia Najjar and her husband Dr Rabee Abu-Kishek for a coffee near their newly opened Poupette à la plage store in Box Park in Jumeirah. They are an amazing and inspiring couple who have built a small business that started creating children’s swimwear from Liberty prints in small Dubai weekend markets to owning several branches in hotels like Al Qasr and almost 20 other similar high-end hotels in the UAE in less than a decade, and now they have now launch their first stand alone store in Box Park. Katia’s inspirations come from her memories of childhood of seaside holidays – her designs evoke images of blissful summers and she is now helping us create those precious moments with our children. I have always been a fan of her designs, and not knowingly have purchased quite a few items from her collection for my daughter since we moved to Dubai.
My family love your brand. Can you tell us a little bit about how you founded your business?
I have always liked the idea of starting a business of my own. My children are my priority and I wanted to be able to have the flexibility to be around when they were back from school and when they needed me. Also, as they were growing up I found it difficult to find clothes, which would ‘comfortably’ fit them with the minimum of fuss and looked chic too. The bedtime story of the little princess and her brother, who played by the beach, with their friends, dressed up in mix and match clothing was so loved by my kids I wanted to turn this into a long lasting memory and so Poupette à la plage creations were born. We live by the beach and as frequent goers to the beach, launching elegant swim and beachwear apparel made perfect sense!
What inspires your collections? Who is your target audience when you are at the drawing board thinking about new collections?
My children are my first inspiration in my designs but I also take cognizance of the diversity of people living in Dubai, which means that my lines need to appeal to broader tastes of mums living here and those visiting Dubai. Initially, I run some of the sketches past other mums and friends.
Can you tell us more about your pre-teen collection and why you launched a new line for slightly older children?
For the Pre-teen line, which I have recently introduced, I ran my ideas through my daughter and her friends before deciding what to have. Poupette à la plage offering has grown as my children have grown. My daughter Delia, who turns 12 in December, told me she outgrew Poupette à la plage and wanted to have something different, which was more grown up but trendy and chic at the same time!
It has now become a family business in which your husband has now left his previous role at Unilever to join and to help expand your business. What are some of the benefits of having a family business?
There are benefits as well as challenges of course. One of the main benefits I suppose is that we have a shared goal to make this business successful and it also gives us the opportunity to jointly talk about the business with business acquaintances and friends
It is inspiring to many that your brand has become so successful but as owners of our own businesses we all have our own unique struggles. Can you share some of the difficulties of owning your own business to enlighten other families who are keen to start their own business?
There are many challenges managing one’s own business as you are venturing into the unknown and you are juggling many balls at the same time so you have to be able to wear many hats from sales, marketing, recruitment, businesses development, designing and manufacturing etc. You could arguably say that everyday is different and has its unique challenges. The key thing is to have an appealing produce, which has a unique value proposition and you need to dream big and have some a business plan to get you there!
What are other challenges about having your own business as well as being a mother of two from a family angle?
It doesn’t get any easier and balancing my time between being a mum and a business owner is a real challenge. Sometimes, you end up working the whole week and the children get involved to try on product prototypes and it upsets them sometime so I have to stop and switch back to being a mum
How do you ensure quality time with your son and daughter?
I mainly focus on what is important for them and when they need me most as I will treat this as a priority
What are some of the values that you hope to instill in your children as they grow up?
Respect for others, honesty and determination
What are your thoughts as a parent about the use of technology for children this day? (iPads, mobile phones, laptiops)..
I am not sure I like it but they are born, as it were digital natives and I can’t see them do without this kind of technology in the future. I do my very best to minimize their exposure to gadgets and get them out as often as I can.
Who are three of your personal favourite designers for your own clothes?
MARNI, comptoir des cotonniers and Isabel Marrand…
Your favourite date night to get away from it all?
With my sister……
Your favorite holiday as a family?
Ski vacation or mountain vacation in the French Alps
For more information on the brand go to www.poupettealaplage.com