Marc Psarolis wants to add some more colour to Dubai. Two years after he took over the reigns of British accessories brand Duchamp London and after years of researching every imaginable hue and shade, the Chief Executive says it is time men in the UAE experimented with colours.
"The shirt market here needs it," he says, and then adds as an afterthought: "…especially in these times. 'Don't be afraid to wear colour' is the message we want to spread.
"There is a feel-good factor associated with our shirts," he continues. "And I think a person's individuality comes across more strongly when he wears them."
Known for its vibrant shades and patterns, Duchamp London recently opened its first stand-alone store in the Middle East at The Dubai Mall. Although the brand itself has been in stock with retailers across the region for many years, the aim now, says Psarolis, is market domination.
"We want to be the destination for luxury accessories in the Middle East," he says. "Over the years, we have established ourselves as one of the most successful stores for shirts and ties. Now, we want to bring London style to the UAE."
At the heart of the company's design philosophy lies an inherently British tradition of tailoring, says Psarolis, who joined the company in 2001.
"Our style remains essentially British – from the cuts to the finish. That is our origin and that is what defines us," he says.
Founded in London in 1989 by Mitchell Jacobs, Duchamp London's story started when its originator began designing luxury cufflinks. Soon, the company expanded and the product range came to encompass ties, scarves and shirts.
When Psarolis bought the company in 2006, he went on a further expansion drive, opening stand-alone stores in London's Regent Street, Canary Wharf and at the heart of Jermyn Street, historically famous for its shirt makers. Now, with a permanent base set up in Dubai – its first international store – with partners Star Fashions, a subsidiary of developer ETA Star, the CEO is looking at regional expansion while also eyeing the emerging markets of Asia.
The product range has also grown with Psarolis at the helm, and now includes underwear, evening wear, socks and leather goods, all in the trademark bright colours. "Our colour palette is very extensive and we want to add something to the market here," he says.
"Each season we take our inspiration from architecture, vintage archives and art culture."
But Psarolis must know that even the fleeting world of fashion is not immune to the ups and downs of world markets, what with sober economies sobering up top designers, as was evident in the recently concluded fashion weeks of London, Paris and Milan.
Some commentators even went as far as to recommend designers come up with recession-friendly prices while classic colours and designs were all the rage to outlive fashion's changing seasons. Psarolis is not too concerned. "We are not really involved in the fashion thing," he says. "I don't think the shirt market is affected by all of this. What we are doing really is caring for our core customers and continuing to cater to their needs, no matter what the state of the economy."
Duchamp is worn by barristers, top surgeons and media bosses, he says, with even former US president Bill Clinton as a patron.
"We are still a niche brand – with our focus very much on the quality and design, with everything meticulously created. Our ties, for instance are hand woven in England. For us, it's all about the products and not so much the trends."
In the almost 20 years it has existed, Duchamp London has created more than two million cufflinks, and they are still the core of its business and will remain so, adds Psarolis.
"Our philosophy is all about accessories and we want to stay focussed on that," he says. "It's all co-ordination, matching colours and defining your individuality. We want guys to accessorise and to start bringing in some colours."
Hand-woven ties at Duchamp London start at Dh600, while shirts range from Dh750 to Dh1,050. Prices for cufflinks start at Dh350.
"We kept our prices the same for a long time. Although we have doubled the business in the past two years, we know competition is tough and we are working very hard," says Psarolis.
So what does the purveyor of colourful luxury accessories and piquant shirts have to offer its target clientele in the UAE?
"We want to offer a fresh look at the accessories and add something to the mix," says Psarolis.
His fashion advice for the corporate world: "Keep it sharp. Keep it lively."
The fashion guideline
Marc Psarolis shares his power-dressing dos and don'ts:
- Always wear a tie. It sets the standard and shows a certain elegance
- Wear a three-piece suit with a pocket square
- Add some colour to your sock wardrobe
- Make sure your belt colour matches your shoes
- Dress down on a Friday. We say dress to impress
- Wear a tonal tie with matching tonal shirt
- Keep it sharp keep it lively
- Wear a pocket on your shirt as it ruins the whole look
- Take it too seriously. Have some fun with your style as long as it is beautifully made with great fabrics