Prince of the Palm

Complete with its own private beach and sweeping vistas of the Gulf, this flamboyantly renovated villa in one of Dubai’s most exclusive enclaves is home to a fashion industry powerhouse 


Born to Indian parents in Tanzania, acclaimed fashion designer Shaukatali “Ali” Alibhai has lived a colourful life, to say the least. His career has taken him all over the world, during which time he has been the creative force behind global brands, including Vera Mode and Zara and Mango, but after decades spent globetrotting, Ali finally decided to lay his hat in Dubai. Known for his lavish sensibilities, he purchased a six-bedroom villa near the Frond Tip of Dubai’s prestigious Palm Jumeirah and set about renovating the property, blending his unique style with influences from Morocco, India, Africa and traditional Europe. Here, he chats to Property Report about the fashion industry, influences and his exceptional collection of heirlooms and antiques.

Tell us a little about your background in the fashion industry.

I was born an artist and followed this passion into fashion. My first big success was back in the early 80s being the main force behind Vera Moda which has now has 10,000 stores world-wide. Also at this time, I worked with many other famous brands like Esprit and Mango. I became the #1 design supplier for Zara.  I watched the company grow from a very small Spanish company to the huge worldwide brand it is today. I still work with many brands including Promod, River Island, Topshop, Miss Selfridge.  At the present time I am working with my son and due to launch in January, a new unique brand “Alilia” which will be available world-wide online and in key flagship stores with mid to high end product.  Having been in the fashion industry for 39 years, I decided to let my creativity channel freely through Alilia without the necessary constraints of designing for an existing brand. Fashion is, after all, a lifestyle that changes, shapes and touches.  Fashion is you, me and them, altogether at once. {+++}

The villa is located on what has to be one of Dubai’s most prestigious sites. Why did you choose to live in Dubai and how did you come to acquire the property?

Yes indeed! This is undoubtedly the best Dubai has to offer. Jumeirah Palm is iconic and is the only one of its kind in the world. There are so many reasons I decided to reside in Dubai. I have had myriad different living experiences but fell in love with the city immediately; with the lifestyle the energy, the beaches, the fashion, and the pace of life that is so exciting. Yet with my oasis here in my beachfront Palm home, I can be at peace and my creativity is assured. I bought the property several years ago as a standard villa.  As soon as I walked in and saw the floor plan I knew immediately that I could create something very unique. Being an artist, I wanted to create something very different and was honoured that it was placed number one in the 2008 Top 100 Dubai Homes.

The interiors are eclectic to say the least! How would you define the design and style you have implemented here?

It’s a mix of Oriental/Moroccan influence mostly but with so much more!  I have collected lots of the pieces of furniture from the Maharaja Palaces in India.  It’s a mix from all over the world really.  I worked intensely on this creation with around 40 people every day and finished it in 4 months.  I love colour and in every room I have mixed to create 7-8 colours. Travelling extensively has also enabled me to acquire art and artefacts from every corner of the globe. I have also been fortunate to experience and love many different cultures and styles over the years.

I understand you’re long-term collector furnishings and antiques, many of which are on display throughout the villa. Tell us about some of your favourite pieces.

Easy! My favourites are my tow antique Napoleon cabinets—these I got from the Maharaja of Bikaner India—and have a very high value in the market today. It’s hard to pick favourites after these two, though, as I love every piece, especially the old items of Art.  My villa is bot complete without these antiques and furniture and this is why I’ve decided to sell them with the villa.

So you’re selling the property? What’s next for you?

Yes, it’s now on the market. I have been fortunate to obtain arguably one of the best plots remaining on the Palm – almost at the tip of N Frond.  This is a frond on which the master developer Nakheel has introduced different styles of villas. I am excited to build and create something completely different—a modern style—in this new villa. Of course I will be very sad to move on from this villa, but will be happy in the knowledge that someone else can enjoy the immense energy that has gone into creating this home.