Art collector Zina Khair focuses predominantly on contemporary Syrian art movements and has turned her Downtown Dubai home into an impressive gallery of sorts
Born in Damascus into a family of art aficionados, avid artwork collector and founder of fashion brand Le Marais 101, Zina Khair remembers moving to Dubai and being fascinated by its cosmopolitan spirit. “I didn’t choose to set up a business in the UAE. It was actually Dubai that motivated me to launch my new business and opened so many doors and opportunities for me.” Khair made the move from Syria to the UAE in 2012 after the outbreak of war in her home country, and stayed with her family in a hotel apartment for two and a half years. It took her a couple of years to feel settled, “mainly because initially I was refusing the idea of leaving home and settling anywhere else.” After making peace with her new postcode, Khair settled in a Downtown Dubai apartment with a view of the burgeoning city. “It serves as a daily reminder that when you have the vision, the determination and the story, then the future can be yours,” she says. Displaying the very first painting on the wall marked the transition from house to home, and her home now resembles a Syrian art gallery with works dating back to the 1980s. “It’s simple, light and modern, with one main highlight and centre of attention: the artworks.” It is this positive energy combined with her artworks and furniture that really carries her own story and soul.
Khair shares that it was the UAE that inspired the creation of her label Le Marais 101. “This country teaches you how to learn from others while remaining true and authentic to yourself,” she says. Her brand, which was founded in 2019 and specialises in reimagining pre-owned accessories, is named after the Parisian Le Marais neighbourhood, acclaimed for its unique mix of cultures and immersive history. “We live in a digital era where it’s easy for one to lose one’s true sense of self and where an unspoken pressure has raised a ruthless set of rules, resulting in overconsumption and the loss of uniqueness. I thought that it would be nice to create a concept that would try to help change that.”
“Having to outmanoeuvre uncertainty, to reevaluate scenarios over and over as circumstances changed, has been challenging, to say the least,” Khair muses over the effects the pandemic has had on her young business. But it has also been a blessing as purchasing habits have begun shifting towards sustainability and pre-loved. Whether through collecting art or designing for La Marais 101, one factor that Khair always considers is giving back. “It’s always been part of my life, so naturally this was going to be part of Le Marais too,” she says. “Our first initiative was in November 2020, in which we allotted 30 percent of our proceeds from the sales of the ‘My Heart Goes To Daddy’ badges to support those affected by the pandemic in Syria.” This was via an NGO based in Canada called Provided By People.
As we all grapple with our new reality, Khair leaves us with some invaluable advice which resonates across both integrating a non-existing concept to the market together with building and mastering an art collection. “Instead of always buying the latest from a brand, you can learn to wear what you already own differently, making each piece in your wardrobe effortlessly distinctive.” Shop Le Marais 101 at lemarais.com
I love simple monochrome outfits.
I do it the other way around from weekdays, choosing ruffles, colours and layers.
What I love is combining items from both emerging regional brands and internationally renowned ones.
Most treasured piece…
Probably an old Falamank pendant given to me by my mother-in-law. I love the fact that she truly considers me as her own daughter. She gave it to me on some idle afternoon without any occasion; it was just a gesture of pure love.
Favourite place to shop…
Le Marais in Paris. The inspiration for my brand is drawn from this renowned neighbourhood.
Don’t pay attention to trends, always follow your heart.
Photographed by: Ausra Osipaviciute | Styled by: Jade Chilton
- Words by Eliza Scarborough