Living & Working in Dubai * Carinne Abou-Huguet


7 Moksi Women answering my 7 questions : how they are Living and Working in Dubai. 

I was so happy all these 7 women wanted to participate - even more when I could work with the lovely Rebecca Rees - who photographed all their outdoor portrait photo's. We only had 1 day (a crazy busy day!) to make it all happen, since everyone has a busy schedule. So in one day we drove around Dubai in the heat and visited them all.

People have a certain image in their heads when thinking of Dubai. Instantly only thinking of the luxurious side of living - which is here too. But there are more people simply living their normal everyday lives - being a mother, being a creative or running their business. They mix this all together - most of them doing so while creating their home away from home. To me, that's what makes them great & inspiring Moksi Women.


This week, meet lovely French designer Carinne About-Huguet from Keenbags.

When I was living in Dubai, I visited the arts and crafts markets often. There I met Carinne, who is originally from France but has been living on and off in Dubai since 2003. Carinne created her unique collection of bags, lunchboxes, wallets and more from the traditional Arabic ghutra fabric and turned Keenbags into a very recognizable brand.

In 2014 she kindly showed me around behind the scenes in her studio and shared her story. You can read it [here] and see how she creates Keenbags. Carinne is always friendly and hardworking, determined and super creative - she is one of the people I’m very glad to say that our paths have crossed in Dubai - not only as a customer but on a personal level as well.

Merci et à bientôt Carinne!



** What inspired you to start your business / work in this branch? 

I’ve always travelled a lot with my husband and later with our twins. I love to search for traditional fabrics in each country when we are there. Traditional fabrics are a strong reflection of people's culture. Naturally when we moved to the UAE in 2003, I looked for traditional textiles and the thin ghutra fabric caught my eye. I was surprised that this was used only for local men - not for the local women. I also love sewing - thanks to my mother - and I started to use ghutra fabric to create pouches and messenger bags for women. Because it is very fragile, I found a way to protect it with another cotton fabric combined with a clear plastic. KeenBags was born because I wanted to turn a man’s accessory into a woman’s accessory.


** In your work, what is your favourite creation you have made so far?

My big tote bag. It’s resistant, easy to use and to clean, convenient with an inside pocket and a key-holder. It’s my it-bag.


** Working in Dubai, how would you describe it to anyone not living here?

I feel balanced on this point. It’s really easy to start a small arts and craft business here. Dubai is full of nice markets, which helps to give your brand a strong visibility. However, once it’s time to grow bigger you need to invest a lot and in my opinion there isn’t an in-between position here.


** Which side of running your own business / working in this branch excites you the most?

I love the freedom of having my own business and the pride of creating something. I also love meeting new clients, listening to their feed back and trying to keep improving my work for them. Above all it’s the human contacts with my clients and my suppliers which I really love. If I’m not running from one place to the other, searching to buy my fabrics and my accessories, I love to sit with my vendors in their dusty shops, while sharing a chai tea with them. It’s their traditional tea with concentrated milk, sugar, cardamon and a spoon of coffee. It's the worst ever tea for your diet, but it’s also the best because I have to sit and spend time with them. Here you will hardly see an expat lady walking in but they are always nice to me and we spend time talking about different things.


** As a working mother, how do you keep a good balance between work and your life at home?

My twins, Prune and Mathis, are now 15 years old. They come home from school at 3.30pm or sometimes at 5pm so this gives me time to work and make my trips during the day. Since January 2015, I decided not to exhibit on markets during weekends anymore, only on week days such as the Marina Souq market. And if I ever get busy when they are at home, they fully understand it. They are proud of my work and know that I sometimes have to rush and they need to be on their own. It’s also a way for them to grow up. However, I drive them to their sport and music activities every afternoon and we always have dinner together with my husband, when he’s not travelling, and these are our precious times together as a family.


** Do you have any tips for other women who want to start their own business or work here in Dubai?

Whatever you wish to start as a business, you need to know that it is a huge amount of work and there are concessions at the beginning. It’s not only a question of money but more of will and self-confidence. And this can be difficult to overcome. I started my business without any money to invest. My priority was to be as professional as possible from the very beginning. Step by step I built a brand and a wider collection and now I can invest in bigger shows, such as Fashion Forward. After the first 3 years I also learned that a bad experience often brings you to a better one. 


** And last, what is the best part of living in Dubai?

I love the balance of a modern lifestyle and the traditional city. Living as an expat with my kids and husband enjoying the easy life of Dubai with our friends. There are beaches, the desert, sports, and I love walking into the old part of Dubai. Taking the small wooden boats (the abra’s) to cross the Creek, visiting art galleries where local artists are displayed, or discovering new small shops with amazing fabrics - it's all about balance.

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*Photo Carinne by: Rebecca Rees for Moksi Collective

*Join Carinne on Instagram: @keenbags or visit her on Facebook: /Keenbags