How Define Body & Mind Conquered Dubai

With single-sex classes and diverse partnerships, the Houston-based is staying true to its roots while navigating the local norms.

By Ellie Sharp July 8, 2016

Rev room photo 2  i4wtts

Define opened its first international studio in Dubai in June.

If you thought Houston was hot, try getting your workout on in Dubai, where the tropical desert climate routinely surpasses 100 degrees. We’re dehydrated just thinking about it.

The stifling weather conditions did nothing to deter Define Body & Mind founder Henry Richardson from opening the company’s first international studio in the United Arab Emirates' biggest city in June. Locals, travelers, and expats have all shown an immediate positive response to the opening, says Richardson, who has already heard from Houstonians who went to visit friends and family in the city and were over the moon to discover their favorite studio so far from home.

Just like its 11 stateside sister studios, everything from the friendly, certified instructors, class offerings, and even the indoor temperature—72 degrees, if you’re wondering—remain unchanged. “[It’s all part of the] same extension of our brand and mission,” explained Richardson. The facility is located in the Silverene Tower Dubai Marina, an expat-heavy area of town previously lacking in boutique studios, but strives to assimilate into the community by remaining respectful, tasteful, diverse, and approachable to everyone.

“We’re not trying to go to a new place and ruffle feathers in a way that makes us look bad because we’re trying to be respectful of all individuals and cultures,” says Richardson. For example, the logo is presented in English and Arabic, and women-only classes are offered for those wishing to de-robe prior to exercising. Co-ed classes are also available with accommodations on clothing allowed for women who prefer to remain covered (essential fans are in place, as usual). The quartet of co-owners of the Dubai location reflect the commitment to staying true to the studio's Houston roots while assimilating to the new environment. Co-owners Thomas and Betsey Favrot are high school friends of Richardson’s, while co-owners Mohammed and Subhi Khudairi are familiar with all of the local customs and can help ensure an appropriate image of the company. The staff and instructors also represent a melting pot of backgrounds, hailing from California, Chicago, Seattle, the UK, as well as Dubai.

Just as in the US, the Dubai location will work towards maintaining and building connections with the community through partnerships and hosting donation and charity events as a way to channel the incredible philanthropic attitude of Dubai’s residents. Richardson says he is currently building a relationship with a juice store that’s close to the studio and looks forward to the pending opening of the area’s first Lululemon, which should open even more doors for collaborative events. 

Where will Define turn up next? Asia, South America, Mexico, and Canada have all been suggested by fans of the brand. At this rate it’s only a matter of time before Define has truly a worldwide presence. How’s that for the ultimate class pass?

Chair pose team photo di3elx
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