Getting Down to the Bare Essentials

21 Nov 2011

An interview with the co-founders of Bare Essentials Jan Curtis and Cheryl Mason

Fashion business partners, Jan Curtis, 47, and Cheryl Mason, 49, followed their dreams and ambitions to run their own boutique business. Nine years on ‘Bare Essentials’ is now one of the UAE’s most popular swimwear boutiques with its unique approach to ‘swimwear-wardrobing’. Jan’s career has spanned both fashion and business across a number of leading UK high street retailers. Now a working mum, she’s successfully found the balance between family and running an expanding business. For Cheryl, it’s all about customer satisfaction and giving women today that essential feel-good factor as they run onto the beach. After a long and successful career in customer relations as a first class flight stewardess, she is passionate about making women feel fabulous, confident and stylish.

How did you first become involved with running your own swimwear boutique here in Dubai?As friends, we had discussed opportunities and ideas for running our own fashion business. We both worked part time in the boutique and always saw the potential to take Bare Essentials onto the next level. We presented our business proposal to the owner who was moving to Hong Kong and they accepted. Our dreams of owning a business became a reality and we’ve never looked back.

What does your average working day involve?
Our working day is spent with time on the computer and responding to emails. We also work in the shop and help customers as well as planning our marketing and promotions. Then there are regular meetings with wholesale clients and consignment contracts. This is followed by reviewing financial accounts and projecting cash flows. We also have meetings with various business consultants, PRs and we have to organise our social media and marketing too.

What is the best thing about being a fashion boutique owner?
We enjoy the fun, freedom and opportunity to travel away on business to some fabulous places. Our last buying trip to Hong Kong was superb. You never get tired of being part of the fast pace and cutting edge of the fashion and retail industry. We make sure we’re in the boutique almost daily and really enjoy the mix of interesting people that come to the shop. They always remind us of what an international fashion hub Dubai has become.

What are set to be the ‘hottest sellers’ here in the UAE during the beach-friendly winter months?
Dubai is such a stylish city bursting with fashionistas and swimwear this season has many influences and trends. Bold floral prints with that feminine girly touch are ensuring there are ruffles everywhere. There’s also a strong ethnic influence, using culturally inspired designs and eco fabric with hand beading, to get that sought after tribal beat look. Don’t forget the cutting edge techno designs, including Moontide’s futuristic Prism design which is stunning and very flattering. Moontide was voted the number one best-selling swimwear label in the UK this year and is regarded as an industry innovator – this gives us huge influence in the competitive swimwear sector. Bare Essentials is very proud to be an exclusive retailer of the brand for the Middle East region.

Teresa Moore is the new face of Moontide – why was she chosen?
Originally a Kiwi swimwear brand, Moontide wanted to have Teresa Moore, New Zealand’s top fashion model, to headline their new collection. Teresa has featured in countless magazines – Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Spanish Vogue, ELLE and W magazine. She’s also worked for some of the world's leading fashion and beauty companies including Ralph Lauren, Victoria Beckham, L’Oreal, Aveda Corporation, Wella, Levi Strauss & Co, Bloomingdale’s, Marks & Spencer and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Got any tips for looking good in swimwear?
Buy what fits and feels good. Don’t get hung up on sizes. Think about body shape and what would suit you. Don’t always think big to cover bottoms – sometimes a smaller cut can give the illusion of longer legs and slimmer thighs. Try not to draw attention to the parts of your body you dislike. For example, patterns draw the eye up the body.

You’ve been established for over 10 years now, what is the secret of your success?
We give our customers a first-class, personal service and get a lot of repeat business. Working with Moontide we can offer top quality, cutting edge fashion and styles. We have the largest range of separates and reversibles in the UAE. We can generally find the perfect fit – top and bottom. Our passion is to help women feel confident and beautiful about themselves.

Got any top tips for aspiring business women?
Take professional advice. Do your research on the market you wish to enter. Be positive, believe in yourself and go with your instincts.
Have fun! Be prepared to work hard and not rely on others.

How do you achieve the work/life balance and get some time to try your ranges out on the beach?
Co-ownership makes a huge difference. As working mums we understand the pressures of family life and therefore support each other as much as we can by sharing the work load and responsibilities. We plan our time on a monthly basis, to ensure some time for ourselves. We have employed and trained up exceptional staff who are invaluable.

INFO: Bare Essentials is located in Jumeira Centre, Beach Road, Dubai. Selected lines from Moontide are also available from Star Blu boutique at The Westin Mina Seyahi and Atlantis Hotel boutique on The Palm. The boutique is a haven for all those looking for gorgeous swimwear and boho chic jewellery and accessories. A full gallery selection from the latest Moontide collection is featured on Ahlan! Live. For more information visit  and find us on Facebook.