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Dynamic duo Anna and Annabelle guide us through the souks, modern markets and galleries that are creating beautiful and contemporary artisanal products.

Dubai is a contemporary melting pot of cultures, with an eclectic style that’s contributed to its global reputation as a fashion destination. Anna Bolton-Riley and Annabelle Fitzsimmons have cleverly brought all of this panache for design into one online marketplace: Little Majlis.

The pair, one from New Zealand and one from Australia, met in Dubai on separate business trips more than a decade ago. While in the region, they discovered a plethora of independent fashion brands, artisan products and locally-made items, but there was no one central place to find them – and so, Little Majlis was born. The idea was to build a creative community for small brands, Gulf-based designers and boutique shops, with the aim of encouraging local shopping and supporting local talent.

Anna and Annabelle clearly have a keen eye for design, having both worked in creative industries in the past, and recognised the huge pool of craftsmanship talent in Dubai. Their products are generally produced in small quantities and made by hand by artisans based in the emirates. The latest online portfolio might include beautiful kaftans and fashion pieces in heritage prints, vintage-style homeware and personalised designs using a mix of modern and traditional techniques.

Fashion and arts and crafts inspiration can be found across Dubai, from its colourful souks and cool pop-up markets to elegant outdoor shopping areas such as City Walk or Box Park. The shops, galleries and showrooms at the Design District are a good port of call for local inspiration. There’s also Alserkal Avenue in Dubai’s industrial quarter, a cluster of architect-designed warehouses that house galleries and workshops. Or for a riotous splash of colour you could take an abra (water taxi) across the creek to the Textile Souk, which has a fabulously vibrant selection of fabrics, lace, buttons and sequins. It’s easy to see how inspiration struck Anna and Annabelle on their visit to Dubai all those years ago.

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