She may be one of the region’s best-loved bloggers, but Natalia Shustova isn’t about to stop there. “I'm a very creative person and I have a lot to share. My blog is only the beginning of what I want to do in fashion. I launched Shoestova as an outlet to express my creativity. Three years on, I actually want to make a statement in the fashion industry and create a platform that will inspire people and help change their perception.”
Shustova's statement comes in the form of GREY SPACE, a sales and distribution agency and fashion consultancy offering showroom representation in the Middle East for emerging fashion, jewellery and accessory designers from all over the world. “GREY SPACE is a travelling concept store that curates fashion, art and design with a very strong focus on social elements such as all-day breakfasts, live music, cinema screenings, and workshops,” Natalia tells Grazia of the inaugural event. “Today we’re in Dubai but next time you could find us in London or Baku or Sydney. The set-up will always have the same feel, but the brands and designers and the collections we curate in every location will be always new, different, unique.”
It made its debut this month, with a pop-up space in a disused office block in DIFC featuring the work of familiar names including UAE-based brands Reemami, Arwa Al Banawi and The Modist’s new label Layeur, plus the Mukhi Sisters and Vanina from Lebanon, and Amr Saad from Egypt.
The concept was born after Natalia noticed a gap in the market. “Through my life on social media, I was constantly approached by designers from all over the world, who were gifting me their creations in the hope of gaining exposure and finding their way into retail in the Middle East. I always told them there were better ways to go about it, however we had no showroom or sales and distribution agency I could refer them to.”
Until now, that is. Natalia, who founded the concept with her creative collaborator Nadine Kabbara, continues, “It’s a retail platform without retail rules.” Tell us more… “We held intimate dinners together, we also exposed our designers to a wide range of customer profiles, influencers, and media and retail professionals which they wouldn’t have had access to without GREY SPACE. Many of our designers were in Dubai for the first time and we wanted them to remember us as something special.”
With Fashion Forward, Arab Fashion Week, International Dubai Fashion Week and Dubai Collections filling up our fashion calendars, one thing the emirate isn’t short of is a fashion event, let’s be honest. So what makes Natalia believe GREY SPACE can make its mark on the Middle East? “GREY SPACE is different to anything else you’ve seen before,” she insists. “We are a shopping experience, where experience comes first. It’s a community, not just a business or a pop-up. Shopping should be entertaining.”
GREY SPACE’s next project will be a homeware pop-up. But where does the success of the latest retail concept to transform the way the region shops mean for Natalia’s influencer alter ego? “As someone who is quite well-known on social media, I want to constantly inspire people to reinvent themselves. I want to stay ahead of trends and already be onto the next thing long before it even becomes the next thing. It’s easy to get absorbed in an ‘Instagram bubble,’” she reflects. “I wanted my story to be different. It always was.”