A World of Charm

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Discretion and elegance are key for Yasin Saleh. And these aspects, coupled with his love for travelling and intimate dinners with close friends and family come through when you step into Little Black Door. Sharon Carvalho speaks to the founder about the journey and transitions that brought him here

How did the idea for LBD come about?
Little Black Door is made from experiences. I have always had a penchant for the dated sophisticated European lounge and urban music. During my years of travel throughout London, Paris, greater Europe and also New York, I began drafting a version of a lounge, which can be best described as an ‘Urban Gentlemen’s Lounge’. This is the contemporary evolution to what would otherwise be a classic old-school watering hole if placed
in another era.

Upon moving to Dubai I met a gentleman by the name of Yansane Abdou who worked at one of my favorite restaurants. From there, a friendship grew and he also understood the essence of what LBD was all about. Which is easier said than explained. We then embarked on a journey to manifest the vision to create a business based on similar family moral values, business ethics, hospitality quality standards and diverse style appreciations.

How did you come up with the name?
The name needed to be meaningful. I conceived it based on one part brand character description and another part target clientele recognition. ‘Little Black Door’ permeates our main impressionable ethos, which is the practice of discretion and understated elegance. We have an element of exclusivity that is not based on socio economics but rather socio cultural awareness for arts, music, cocktails and food. We say it’s for ‘The Seekers’.

Little Black Door has also been purposely coined as ‘LBD’, which historically is known amongst women and the fashion industry as the ‘Little Black Dress’. This monogram has a double entendre and, hence, an easily remembered monogram by many of our clientele. We believe we are a fashion centric hospitality brand and have recently hosted shoots for many international fashion houses.

How did the transition from lawyer to business owner happen? And why?
I was a corporate lawyer by trade, having previously worked in London. Entering business and entrepreneurship was always part of the life plan. So, throughout my legal career my mind was always considering commercial as well as legal analytics. Entering the hospitality industry was a long time goal so that I could merge my passion for interior design and concept creation with my professional background in the legal and business world. I believe a creative idea is only as good as the ability to execute it.

What makes LBD stand out among Dubai’s party scene?
The primary ethos from the interiors to the cocktails and food is a focus on ‘Urban Understated Elegance’, a bit of Old World Europe mixed with a New York warehouse vibe. We offer customers quality cocktails and food within an urban yet luxuriously ambient atmosphere without the commonplace bling that has historically permeated Dubai. We shy away from sparklers, magnums of bubbly and commercial music. Our clients are the perfect illustration of our brand. They can appreciate the finer things without succumbing to the need of being grandiose in their expression. One need not be loud to be noticed.

What were the challenges to setting up LBD and how did you overcome them?
The hospitality industry is famously known for being very competitive, especially in a cosmopolitan and well-travelled city as Dubai. We also have very high expectations as a team on what we wanted to create with LBD. The first key is to get the right ingredients, the most important of which is the team. It took about three years to put together, was the primary goal and what we are most proud of. We truly have a group that are experienced, yet always open to learning more, ambitious and have a true belief about the LBD ethos. Once this primary foundation was set up, we focused on the ancillary elements that require originality such as interior design, branding service standards and the product quality. The whole endeavor was challenging and remains to be so as it is integral to be consistent. You can never get complacent in this industry.

Flash forward five years, where do you see LBD?
As stated, Little Black Door is all about discretion. We didn’t declare the name to the team or publicly until two weeks before opening. Accordingly, our future goals are also kept close to the chest. But it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the cities that inspired LBD during my travels could also potentially play host to it!