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Dima Ayad x Hautletic: The hottest athleisure collaboration of the year

Here's what you need to know ahead of Monday's launch
Two of Dubai's powerhouse female entrepreneurs have teamed up on an exciting new collection. Here, Buro 24/7 Middle East's Managing Editor Maddison Glendinning sits down with Dima Ayad and Hautletic founder Priya Bhatia to talk about their new collaboration...

Women supporting women. It’s a theme we love here at Buro HQ and when it happens in our own region, it’s even better. This month (next Monday to be precise), designer Dima Ayad will release an exclusive capsule colleciton of clothing she has designed in partnership with her long-time friend Priya Bhatia, the owner of the city’s coolest sportswear boutique, Hautletic. Together, the pair has curated a collection of everyday essentials made for all women of all sizes, regardless of their own personal style. Mix and match separates allow consumers to style pieces as they please, putting their own spin on the pair’s take on athleisurewear. Today, we sat down with Dima and Priya to chat about the collection and why an inclusive fit was just as important as the fabric…

Buro 24/7 Middle East: How long have the two of you known each other for?

Dima Ayad: When I found out Hautletic was created, which was at the time [Priya] had the warehouse. I was very much into the athleisure sportswear direction and so I called her and said I want to come and see you so I went and we started talking and we became really good friends.

BME: How long ago was that?

Priya Bhatia: It was four years ago, in 2015.

BME: How long was the process from the idea of doing a collaboration to this point, where the collection is being released?

PB: The idea happened instantly. 

DA: Then I went to see the store, and I fell in love with it. I was wondering what would work in terms of my aesthetics and I realised they didn’t do any metallics and I am metallics freak. I really wanted something that was day-to-night and I wanted to create something that would complement the store but wasn’t something anyone else had done, because what’s the point?

BME: How then does the collection reflect your brand’s DNA, Dima?

DA:  For me, I have always wanted comfortable clothes, nothing difficult. And comfort comes with sportswear and with soft jerseys. But I needed to add that spark of metallics and mix it all together.

Dima Ayad x Hautletic

BME: How did the making of the collection work? Was it a collaborative process?

DA: I kept showing her pieces and she would tell me, “Yeah that works,” “No that doesn’t sell,” “Fix this here.” It was very much a collaborative process. I didn’t buy a single fabric without showing her! Sometimes it’s hard to show a fabric so sometimes I would skip that step and make the piece and then show her [laughs].

PB: It all felt very natural. I’ve always said a kimono is an amazing cover-up for leggings because it covers your butt and it immediately elevates your outfit even if you’re in plain black leggings. And one of the first pieces Dima had on The Modist was that blue metallic kimono set and this collection naturally evolved from there.

This collection has the pieces that are missing from women’s wardrobes that they want. People want pieces that go from day-to-night that don’t have a specific section of your wardrobe, so you could have a tank top that you work out in but you could also wear it with jeans. That’s a lot of what we do, that with every piece you get more value.

BME: Was that the inspiration behind the collection — to fill the gaps in women’s wardrobes?

DA: Yes, and that was coupled with what I was already doing for spring/summer as I didn’t want it to be totally out of whack. Customers can look at it and see it’s a Dima Ayad piece but it has that Hautletic feel to it.

BME: And Dima, sportswear is new territory for you — was it a challenge in terms of design or something you had wanted to explore for a while now?

DA: Totally new. I loved doing it because it made me realise that I could something different. Then it was about figuring out the woman. I thought of a Jumeirah Jane and her day, and I thought of a girl like me and my day and all pieces worked across any lifestyle. I thought of all different types of women as I went along and all the pieces that would work for them.

Dima Ayad has always celebrated the female form so I think we will have women coming in to buy the XL and we wanted to make sure we had the range so she was covered and thought of.
– dima ayad

BME: What fabrics did you use for the collection?

DA: There’s the gold fabric which is a pleated poly that is dyed gold on top and it’s like air, it’s so light. Working with jersey wasn’t new to me but working with this kind of [Italian] jersey was. It’s so soft and it’s not see-through.

PB: And it just falls, it’s not clingy.

DA: Plus I wanted the pieces to be as wrinkle-free as possible so you could travel with them, use them on vacation and wear them on the plane. The grey outfit? I’m wearing it on the plane to Paris next week! [laughs]

PB: And that’s always such a big discussion amongst women. You want to be comfortable on the plane and look good. A long time ago those two things were polar opposites but now they’ve come together.

DA: Plus, everyone is now doing tracksuits on the runway! Valentino went down that path, Alberta Ferretti with its blinged out jackets… that movement is happening. So for me, I wanted to create a toned down version that was wearable for every day.

BME: What can you tell us about the collection?

DA: I chose nine things that were a variety so women could style it in their own way. There’s enough for anyone. Long top? You have it. You want to cover up? We have something for that. Fitted pants? We’ve got them.

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BME: So the collection is inclusive in terms of its options for styling, is it also inclusive in its size range? I know that’s a passion of yours Dima…

DA: We have from an XS-XL which is based on my customer and Priya’s customer to make sure that that woman is accounted for. All styles are meant to be baggy, they’re not supposed to be fitted, but they’re still super glamorous. Each piece is flattering. For example the grey pants have a middle seam at the front and the back — a lot of designers forget about the back but I have put seams in that make you look much slimmer.

BME: And Priya, have you noticed more of a demand from your customers for a more inclusive size range in the products?

PB: Yeah. There’s more and more discussions with brands to add an XL. Some of our brands do it but all of them need to because I think the idea of every woman feeling confident and included in this category is extremely important. I fit into everything in store and it’s still frustrating to me that the one size left on the shelf is a large, and it shouldn’t be. The way women exist, demographic wise, it shouldn’t be the case. I think it’s our responsibility to show women that everyone does belong in our store.

DA: A bigger woman is very intimated going into a store like that thinking that she isn’t going to find anything. Like with Nike for example, they do Nike and they do Nike Plus, which I think is outrageous. You’re telling a girl to go to a sub-section of a corner of a store to find her size rather than embracing her and helping her to ‘just do it’. That puts people off from buying so they’re not going to think that they’re going to be able to go into a store like Hautletic and find something. This is why, with the birth of Dima Ayad, which has always celebrated the female form, I think we will have women coming in to buy the XL and we wanted to make sure we had the range so she was covered and thought of.

You have two types of people who work out: the ones who are already fit and want to maintain, and the ones trying so hard to lose weight; so then why have you neglected that range? The average size is a UK16 and you’ve neglected her? What’s the point of doing athleisure then? So that’s where the collection stems from.

BME: Priya was that another reason why you wanted to partner with Dima because you knew that the range would include sizes that catered to a different audience that not all brands in the store currently do?

PB: Absolutely. It goes back to what Dima was saying before. She knows the female form so well so you know that all shapes and all sizes are going to absolutely love it and feel good in it. One of the highlights in the store is when a woman finds something they love and feel confident in, this look comes on their face and they’re so happy. I think that is so important.

For us, the active woman is anyone who is super busy or works out. Which is Dima. [laughs] So it was a no-brainer.

One of the highlights in the store is when a woman finds something they love and feel confident in, this look comes on their face and they’re so happy. I think that is so important.
– priya bhatia
BME: Is this is the store’s first collaboration?

PB: We had a small collection when we first launched with Ayesha Depala but that was a trial initially with her jackets and cover-ups. This [collection] is the direction we want to go in, to constantly have that representation. I think there’s so many great designers here and I want to be able to collaborate with them and show off their aesthetic in a different way.

DA: This is passion project for me. I’m working with my best friend and the coolest thing about it is that we managed to make it work very seamlessly. I know her strengths, she knows mine and I kept telling her that I really appreciated her understanding the creative processes and the highs and lows that come with it!

BME: Can we expect any more collaborations in the future?

DA: I would do it again in a heartbeat. Let’s see how this one goes [laughs].

PB: The idea of having a platform where you can express something differently and the idea of being able to expand that depending on how this goes to bring more ideas and more options is great. Women do want pieces that are different and I think it’s really important for us to work with local designers as a homegrown brand. There’s a responsibility in a way. It’s not all about shipping in international brands but finding ways to work with what’s available in the region.

DA: And supporting talent is not only stocking them, it’s also nurturing their creativity to do something different and I really salute you for that because it opened something new for me, and I loved it.

PB: I think also there’s a higher rank of importance we need to give the local community over placing an order from another brand online.

DA: Plus these collaborations open up chapters and platforms for factories and fabric companies to look at this part of the world. It’s a chain. I love that.

The Dima Ayad x Hautletic collection is available at Hautletic from Monday, February 26. 

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