Long before Covid-19 led to loungewear becoming a major fashion trend, Aman & Rajan Gill were quick to identify a gap in the market and a need for quality nightwear and loungewear at affordable prices. Rajan, a Business graduate from the University of Buckingham & Aman, a Master’s graduate in Economics launched Annabelle in 2011, with a clear mission to provide stylish nightwear for ladies and children at affordable prices.
Over the last ten years, Annabelle has successfully established itself regionally, with over 32 stores spread across the GCC, including UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. More new openings are scheduled over the months in these markets, as well as across KSA in 2022. In addition, the brand is also increasing its presence globally through its e-commerce platform, Annabelleme.com from which it serves an international audience.
Annabelle’s in-house design team is led by Gill’s wife Aman, who is creative director of the company. With a focus on fabric, design and innovation, Annabelle’s collections are constantly updated as per the seasonal trends. Annabelle offers a wide range of sleepwear styles from pyjama sets to fashion dresses, mother/daughter matching PJ’s, nightshirts, and loungewear.
Ananke exclusively talked with Aman Gill about her work and Annabelle.
Tell us a bit about yourself And the journey that led you to where you are now?
I have spent a majority of my life loving and breathing fashion. Right from when I was little to growing up, I’ve always been very intrigued into designing and creating a masterpiece from just a piece of cloth. But life had a unique path for me. After finishing my Master’s degree in Economics in 2002, I got married and moved to London. My husband and I picked up on my love for fashion and started a business designing and selling private label nightwear for ladies and children to leading high street retailers. We worked closely with the Walt Disney company, selling licensed nightwear to many of the retailers during that time. In 2012, after ten years’ experience of ten in London, I started the Annabelle Brand with a flagship store in Mirdif City Centre. Fast forward to today, and Annabelle has 30 stores across the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait with an online presence worldwide. It still feels surreal everytime I pass by a store or even see it online – it’s a great feeling of having a dream and see it coming alive years later!
Tell us about your company organisation and the vision behind the launch?
The vision from day one has always been to be the leading nightwear specialty retailer in the region, providing comfortable and fun nightwear at affordable prices for women and children. I have always wanted to provide women and kids with the luxury of comfort yet keeping them stylish and cozy all day long!
What have been some of the challenges you have encountered while setting up the business?
I think one of the biggest challenges I did see happen quite earlier on was to have the brand being situated in locations that I believe would connect with consumers and ladies that need it the most. My target was to be at key malls and that was a difficult process. At the time with Annabelle was launched, leading malls across the UAE mostly had the exposure of international brands and very less local and homegrown ones. Being a startup, we changed that notion and cracked to being one of the few brands present across the leading malls in Dubai and UAE. Overtime, with our consistent perseverance and our sales success, we are proud to be alongside some great brands and celebrate our brand at a large scale.
Do you believe gender factors in when you are setting up as well as leading an organisation, if yes is that a positive factor when it comes to the vision?
In today’s age, I do not believe gender plays any discriminatory factor in our organisation. Most of our creative team at the head office are women and we are so proud of it. In regards to the vision, I believe it plays a positive role, as female empowerment is very much at the heart of the organisation.
How inclusive is your business and how does it empower your target audience?
Inclusivity and diversity are very much part of the values at Annabelle. Our product range is designed for women of all ages and our size ranges cover everyone from two-year-old children to women with sizes from 6-24, so there is something for everyone.
What are some of the most memorable milestones professional as well as related to your company?
Winning the Disney Retail Awards – being recognized as one of their main retail partners – was a very special moment. Opening our first store outside of the UAE, in Qatar, was memorable as it was a huge success from the day it opened.
How empowering is it to be a UAE based company?
It is very special to be a brand born in the UAE. The country and its leadership have been so supportive in allowing local start-ups to flourish and grow to be very strong brands across the region. It also helps us to connect to our consumers here in the UAE, and the collections are designed keeping in mind local trends and fashion.
Celebrating 50 years of UAE, what would you like to say?
It’s a milestone for the UAE, and Annabelle is a UAE brand, so it is a very special time for all of us. We cannot wait to celebrate this moment on December 2nd.
Any last words?
Annabelle will be ten years old next year, in 2022, which is a very important year for us, as we will open stores in Saudi Arabia as well as entering new categories including lingerie. We very much look forward to the next ten years.