Beauty, Style, Fashion and Fun: The VIP Gift Lounge at this Year's Dubai Film Festival Is the Place to Be

Few are the moments when a mere mortal like me gets to feel like a celebrity. Inside the Le Clos Gift Lounge at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival an overworked, weary and tired journalist-slash-blogger found her haven of fabulousness. There was precious jewelry by Intisars (worn on the opening night red carpet by Cate Blanchett, see below), abayas by Ayaso, red carpet fashions by United Designers and even trips to resorts in the Maldives, at Amilla Fushi, Huvafen Fushi and Finolu.

Cate Blanchett wears Intisars jewelry at DIFF

Here is my journey inside the wondrous world of the VIP Lounge at DIFF — follow me.


Monkey Cookies

No trip to the VIP Lounge at DIFF can be complete without sampling some Monkey Cookies. Luscious, creamy, soft and chocolatey, they are everything that they seem to be from the shot featured above, and more. A warning though, don’t try to bite your computer screen, the result could be disastrous. And yes, they are locally baked, sourced in the UEA, which makes them extra fresh and delicious.



UK company Prismologie also started selling in Dubai and their idea to create products to suit every mood, related to gems, for all the hours of the day, is sublime. But what really got me, out of all the great scrubs, creams and cleanser is their Sapphire and Oud Relaxing Massage Candle, made with soybean oil, beeswax, wild mango butter and coconut oil. It doubles as a massage cream, and even once lit, the temperature of the molten wax mixture remains mild enough to pour directly onto the skin, without any risk of burning. Their wonderful giant pink chair and the relaxing hand massage by Natalia, the company’s rep inside the Gift Lounge, simply made it all perfect for me.

The Shower Tower Company

A walk inside any mall around Dubai will expose a display of Chinese-made miniature copies of the iconic Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. But tacky is not how I’d like to remember one of grandest feats of modern architecture and so Astrid Ellis’ idea of turning the building’s instantly recognizable shape into a soap, fresh smelling and perfectly emollient, is my dream come true. Lavender essential oils and a lot of shea butter ensure the soap is kind to all who use it, although I may have to keep mine as a pretty, scented souvenir, at least for a while.


Every stitch, every material and design of Io shoes is sourced in Italy, yet the brand has found an excellent way to bypass the Italian factory minimum conundrum — I’m a former shoe model and I remember that Italian shoe makers always needed hundreds of pairs of a shoe design to be made in each color, or they wouldn’t even entertain the order — by getting them made in Morocco. This is so that the company can be a truly customized concept, where heels, uppers and ornamentation can be made according to a customer’s preference. Movie stars flocked to their stand inside the VIP Lounge to secure their pairs and I felt like a kid inside a candy store, surrounded by glam styles in courageous color combinations.

Carter & White

In Italy we call intimate t-shirts, the kind men wear under their shirts, “health shirts”. They keep our boys warm while also ensuring less perspiration and no hairy chest fallout. But Dubai company Carter & White have made these t-shirts into an art! Manufactured with the finest Egyptian cotton, light and silky feeling, they are the kind of Ts that even a woman can wear, with a pair of jeans and pearls, as a fashion accessory. The company also features a children’s version and cotton sock pads that hide perfectly inside a pair of loafers, which again is a simply brilliant idea!

Issa for House of Fraser

When Issa for House of Fraser went away for a while, it left a gap in the womenswear market. I’d always loved their easily wearable and affordable fashions whenever I’d be in London and now I can rejoice that they’ve come back to delight. Glam and well made, the collection inside the Lounge features short fake furs and colorful wrap dresses, with a twist. These won’t come undone if you’ve tied them incorrectly because the wrap part is stitched. And I love love love their colorful purses, both the one with the lips and a champagne crystal clutch that’s immediately red carpet ready.

Villa Yasmine

I will preface this by saying that I adore ethnic fashions. I mean, I’ll take something one-of-a-kind looking and colorful over designer wear any day of the week. But Villa Yasmine has taken that concept to the max, with a collection of straw bags, beaded jewelry and cotton clothing that I could get used to wearing on a regular basis. Just find me a nearly deserted island somewhere in the Pacific, and I’ll move there with my Villa Yasmine head to toe wardrobe. They have also come up with an ingenious way of keeping our headphones untangled by wrapping them in colorful thread, which of course also makes them absolutely beautiful. Great, great stuff!

I love fragrances but I’m a flower girl through and through. I’m not into Oud scents, which are very popular in the Gulf, unless they are worn by the right person. And that person is definitely not me. Give me a jasmine scent or a rose perfume and I dream of that moment after my shower when I get to spray it all over and feel like I’m a princess, all fragrant and perfect. Truly, nothing is as evocative as scent memory and as scents go, Arcadia is pretty darn fabulous. Their No.7 scent is a pure rose, better than any I’ve ever smelled. This morning, after I put it on and forgot about it, I kept feeling like I was walking through a rose garden — but then realized it was me! Of course, they make several other scents that range from flowery to spicy and all greatness in between.

The official hosts and sponsors of the VIP Lounge this year, Le Clos is a couture spirits experience which operates as a duty free outlet at the Dubai International Airport. For all who love a good cocktail, this is the place to be and having a soft place to fall inside the VIP Lounge at the end of each day of the festival has been really fantastic, thanks to them.

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