When you enter the 70s Californian villa with Moorish accents which looks like a private home in Venice Beach but is actually a shop & café in Dubai, you feel like visiting friends at home. Only the second glimpse lets you know that you are actually in a shop where you can find all the design and artisan jewels you were always looking for. Not a typical choice of location, far away from the malls and a stock that you usually find in Paris or St. Tropez. No surprise, I talk to Caroline Rossi de Rosière, one of the associates from Comptoir 102. We sit in their sunny courtyard café and Caroline tells me how a girlfriend’s idea and the entrepreneurship of Emmanuelle Sawko became a growing business. Emmanuelle was in Paris at the time I came to Dubai and answered my questions over the phone.
IRMA: What was your first thought when you moved to Dubai?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: The move was not easy initially. I was living in NYC before and had to leave my life there, my friends, the project I was working on. But I wanted to make the most of it and moved to a house right on the beach. This gave me the positive energy I needed to be happy and start a business.
IRMA: What do you like most about this town? And which place is your favorite spot?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: The sea. I grew up surrounded by spectacular nature and I feel the need to recharge in the elements, let it be the ocean or the mountains (I grew up in the French Alps). When I’m in Dubai I walk home by the beach behind Comptoir 102 in Jumeirah 1 at sunrise or sunset. That’s where I let go of the tensions or little stresses of the day.
IRMA: Comptoir 102 seems like an oasis in the middle of Dubai, far away from shopping malls. How do you get ideas to make this concept always an interesting place?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: We didn’t want to be in a mall and fell in love with that little villa by the beach on Jumeirah Road. We also wanted a place where people come, slow down and take time to chat, be together, and this one of the reasons why I wanted to have a restaurant. The place is constantly evolving because we like change. I’m traveling most of the time, always on the lookout for new designers or artists.
IRMA: When you think of fashion, in which way do you buy jewelry, clothes and accessories for the Middle East?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: We decided to open Comptoir because we were missing many of our favourite designers. We are only buying things we love, designers we’re having a crush on, not trying to cater for a specific market.
IRMA: Is Comptoir 102 also a meeting place for a European crowd?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: Our clients are European as well as locals. We were one of the very first organic and healthy cafés to open in Dubai and people loved the idea. It gathered a really nice and diverse crowd of food lovers.
IRMA: What is your favorite dish at the health café?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: I have many! But anything with avocado in general! Like the avocado and seaweed pesto. And of course the choco petit pot which is a big favourite. But I try to change the recipes often.
IRMA: Which pieces are essential when traveling to Dubai?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: A hat to protect your skin. I like long floating dresses with a bohème look, like the one from Raquel Allegra.
IRMA: In terms of accessories, which item do you always take with you when leaving the house?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: My bag, of course. À Delphine Delafon or Jérôme Dreyfuss.
IRMA: The best product for protection against the heat and air conditioning?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: An organic balm. I stopped using conventional products on my skin a long time ago, as these are laden with chemicals that are absorbed through the skin. We want to introduce some of our favourite brands in the UAE. This is why we are launching our corner Officine 102 in March, which will offer pure and organic beauty products.
IRMA: How would you describe the style of your clients in Dubai?
EMMANUELLE SAWKO: They come from a very different background and culture, which is fantastic. What they share, though, is their love for healthy food, their sense of style, a keen eye on art and design.