Carla Chahrour Dubai
The first ‘Japanese lifestyle culture shop’ in the United Arab Emirates and the region FRAME provides a modern shopping experience that is both conceptual and unrestrained, offering a space where fashion, coffee and ramen symbiotically collide.
FRAME offers a series of three interlocking spaces with each space specializing in a different concept. The first segment is the “FRAME shop”, which is a vast retail space with avant-garde Japanese brands such as Comme des Garçons, Undercover, Junya Watanabe, Neighborhood, and many more.
The second segment of the store is a Japanese restaurant called “YUi” that is dedicated to offering authentic hand-made ramen noodles.
The third and last segment is the “La Cabra” coffee-shop that provides a unique coffee experience through looking for “Brightness” in coffee, which requires focusing not only on sourcing, roasting, and brewing coffee, but also on the overall flavor.
The creative force that founded FRAME in 2017, Chong Uk Ahn, better known as Peter, spoke exclusively to Arab News Japan about the influential processes that lead to the inception of the shop, most of which is inspired by Japanese craftsmanship.
Peter’s journey to his creative profession has been anything but linear. Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, he spent his days indoors, finding comfort in books, music, writing and visits to libraries or art galleries.
“I got inspiration from lyrics of beautifully written songs, the adventures of a protagonist in novels, and from art works,” Peter said.
Despite his affinity for the creative arts, Peter did not pursue it academically and instead, moved to Singapore to earn a degree in an unrelated domain after he obtained a scholarship through a big Korean company that supported students to select a school of their choice outside of Korea.
In 2011, Peter was sent to Dubai as a dispatcher for a company that he was working for at the time.
Though he did not initially think that he would be settling down in Dubai for a long-term, he quickly fell in love with the city as it reminded him of Singapore. Eventually, it became his home as he met his wife and started a family.
The decision to open FRAME initiated in 2015, before the birth of Peter’s first child, which enticed him to analyze himself and his surroundings in order to be able to envision his upcoming role as a father.
“In 2015, my wife was pregnant with our first child and I had been thinking about the kind of father I wanted to be, the type of environment our child will grow up in, and how I can make a difference in her life,” Peter said.
“As we were an expat family living in a city where the culture is so diverse, I wanted to contribute to creating a space or platform where arts, food, fashion, and other elements from different places can be shared. To make this come true, I thought about people’s lifestyle in Dubai. The concept that came to my mind was eat, drink, and shop. I wanted to introduce everything from eating, drinking, and shopping for the necessities of life in one space,” Peter elaborated.
Reinterpreting retail, FRAME focuses on curating crafted items alongside Men’s and Women’s apparel collections and various genres of home essentials, stationary goods, globally sourced records and vintage books, plants, food items, toys and artist-driven collectibles.
The most intriguing aspect of the store lies in the details that collectively form the entirety of the space. Every aspect of the store, from the items on display, to the architectural design, have been meticulously selected in order to reiterate the Japanese cultural conception.
Signature design elements manifested within the store include a wall intricately displayed with artist-designed skateboards, and shelves made of authentic Japanese wood exhibiting the founder’s personal collections of books and Bearbrick toys, which chronicle the narrative of the space through depicting both art and culture simultaneously.
“There are four areas that we look at when selecting products to carry at the store which are brand story, quality, design, and functionality. Ranging from COMME des GARÇONS founded by a living legend Rei Kawakubo, Medicom Toy’s collectibles that carry this beautiful ‘kidult’ culture, craftsmanship of Yumiko Iihoshi’s plates, to rising brands such as BLAKEYEPATCH, when looking at promoting Japanese fashion culture, we are not selecting brands that ‘foreigners’ will buy (or from the perspective of a non-Japanese customer), but selecting items that actual Japanese consumers are buying in downtown Japan,” Peter said.
In an attempt to gain more insight about the one-of-its-kind store, manager Amirlan Kurakov took Arab News Japan on a tour around FRAME, where he explained their ongoing mission to inspire and introduce people to the premium Japanese lifestyle and culture.
In doing so, Kurakov took the time to briefly elucidate the stories behind some of his favorite brands and pieces. His extensive knowledge about the designers present in the store help in the comprehension of why certain pieces of garments or footwear were created in a certain manner.
This not only provides customers with a greater understanding of the artistic graphics being displayed on their clothes, but also helps them personally associate with the different brands present.
The personal-story within FRAME extends into the formation of the restaurant YUi, which was named after Peter’s first daughter. YUi also translates to ‘only one’ in Japanese, and was set as the name of the ramen joint at the time of its establishment in 2018 due to it being the only dedicated ramen house in the region. Further emphasizing the Japanese-influence behind the name of the restaurant, the logo itself is derived from Japanese tribal family symbols, which adds meaningful authenticity to the overall concept.
YUi stays true to its time-honored traditional roots in every way. One could be forgiven for thinking they’re in a ryoken in Kyoto upon entering the restaurant, thanks to the minimalist interior and small dining areas separated by wooden partitions.
The ingredients used to prepare the dishes are of paramount importance, with the restaurant’s aspiration of offering dishes that allow customers to sensuously discover the deep flavors of Japanese ramen.
The dishes served have been consciously prepared to suit the country’s culinary preferences through the usage of halal chicken and fresh clam from local suppliers in the production of the broth.
This is mixed with carefully selected Japanese ingredients to remain true to the authentic flavors, and simmered for 10 hours every day to intensify the flavor.
Fresh batches of vegan ramen noodles, which are made in-house, are prepared everyday and aged for one day to ensure chewiness and firmness in the texture, making the ramen bowls served nothing less than works of art.
A wide variety is offered on the menu to leave customers spoilt for choice, including the Maze Soba (ramen noodles served with miso flavored minced chicken,) and Shoyu ramen (ramen noodles served with miso dashi broth served with chicken charsu, menma (bamboo shoot) and sweet onion).
For the vegetarians, the Miso Veggie Ramen, which is vegetable-based miso broth served with mizuna, eggplant, spring onion, carrot, mushroom and menma, is a must-have.
There’s a dish for every kind of ramen connoisseur at YUi.
The multi-sensory store, host to a select curation of Japanese lifestyle enhancements, is purposefully designed to take your five senses on a journey: Smell, with the La Cabra coffee-shop adjacent to the shop, emitting the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans that submerges the space with delicious fragrances. The taste, with the Japanese ramen restaurant YUi housed within the retail shop, offering a range of high quality dishes. The heart, with the array of hand-picked items. The sight, with the meticulously designed architecture of the store, and the hearing, with FRAME Records’ selection of music vinyls from all over the world.
In retrospect, FRAME is more than merely a ‘Japanese lifestyle culture shop’ but an all-inclusive cultural experience.
“We hope to provide anyone coming into FRAME the same service and retail experience as what he or she will experience at the stores in Omotesandō,” the founder of FRAME and YUi Peter Ahn said.