Animal Kingdom and his fellow thoroughbreds were not the only winners at Saturday’s Dubai World Cup: earlier in the evening, it was the turn of fashionistas, out in full force as every year, to take part in the hotly-contested Jaguar Style Stakes.
Colour appeared to be the order of the day with many entrants sporting lime green, lemon yellow, turquoise blue, fuchsia pink and burnt orange, but the top prize of the night went to a demure pink suit and its wearer, Ilona Saleski.
Saleski -- who won the use of a Jaguar for a year, a HTC smartphone and an N Style pamper package among other prizes -- took us back in time to the 50s when Chanel suits were paired with pillbox hats.
“I perused magazines for looks I liked and picked elements from each to create my outfit. It’s a custom tailored suit. I even made my own hat for the day,” said the German. “I love the event, it’s such a wonderful combination of horse racing and fashion.”
Judge Mandi Kingsbury says it was Saleski’s adherence to racing fashion rules that made her ensemble the winning one.
“It’s been very exciting and very difficult judging this year as there are a lot of contestants, thereby giving us different takes on how race wear should be worn. We tried to enforce a strict code at the Jaguar Style Stakes about how you should dress for a racing event. We wanted something slightly conservative, shoulders should be covered, hemlines to the knee,” said Kingsbury.
“We were looking for something elegant and chic in a colour from the spring palette with a fascinator or hat to add a bit of flavour. This year’s best dressed winner was chosen because her look was very ethereal and she didn’t look like she was dressing in a very difficult sense. She reminded us of Coco Chanel,” Kingsbury said.
Kinsbury was joined on the judging panel by fashion week expert Simon Lock, TV and radio personality Simone Heng and Nicola Gibson, marketing manager for Jaguar MENA, who also judged winners in the Most Creative Hat, Best Dressed Man, Best Dressed Couple and Best Hat categories.
It was second time lucky for Evelyn McDermott, a runner up in the Best Dressed Lady category, who had won at a previous edition of the competition. Hinting at the direction fashion is taking, McDermott’s winning dress was from online boutique Asos. She paired the lime green fitted dress with Ted Baker shoes and a hat she made.
The secret to her success she said, was creativity. “I like to pick up a simple dress in an interesting colour and create something unusual to wear as a head piece,” said McDermott. “I think what’s on your head should be a work of art.”
Niayesh Ostad Hossein walked away with the Most Creative Hat prize for her orange and black turban-esque piece. Her rather delayed reaction to being announced as the winner confirmed that she was not expecting it.
“It came as a surprise. My friend Nazgul Nejmi designed the hat for me. I wasn’t planning on attending the races until this morning. I had a dream last night that I had won a competition so that’s why I decided to enter the contest when I came down to Meydan,” said Ostad Hossein.
“When coming up with the hat, I wanted it to be a multi-functional piece. You can shape this particular head piece into different shapes for your liking. I like to play around with what I have and I like to come up with different ways of wearing them whether it’s a hat or a scarf and that’s how I came up with this piece that you can change to a scarf today or a turban tomorrow or even a bag,” said Nazgul Nejmi, the designer of Ostad Hossein’s winning creation.
Orange seemed to be a favourite with the judges with the Best Hat prize going to Alisha Foley, who won for her orange creation with a leopard print underbelly.
“My sister made it. I wanted something in bright colours and something that would stand out since the races are always about the hat,” said Foley, who travelled from the United Kingdom for the races. She paired her bright head piece with a smart white peplum dress from high street favourite Zara.
Kingsbury said that Foley’s creation was chosen because it was very fashion forward and had an informed millinery cutting edge to it without being too avant-garde.
The category Best Dressed Couple put the judges in a bit of bother; they couldn’t seem to decide from the shortlist of candidates, but after much deliberation Meredith and Mehdi Pour emerged the winners.
“When deciding on our matching looks we wanted to be simple and classic. I am wearing an Alexander McQueen dress, he’s one of my favourite designers,” Meredith said.
“Her hat is from Louisa, an Australian designer. My suit is from Gianni in Italy and my shoes are from Ralph Lauren, my shirt from Prada and my tie is from Versace. The hat is something I picked up in the States,” Mehdi interjected. “I put my outfit together in one night but it took longer for my wife. I landed at 2am last night and my wife asked me to put together something to complement her look and here we are winners.”
The judges did not have to do all the hard work though. Style spotters in the crowd picked Alina Polyakova as Longines’ Most Elegant Lady. She oozed style and grace in her Tycoon dress paired with Gucci shoes, a gold necklace, Diane Von Furstenberg clutch and a cream hat, the designer of which she was tight-lipped about.
“I wanted something timeless for the races because this reflected my personal style. And since it’s early summer, I wanted a dress in a bright colour,” said Polykova, explaining her outfit choice. “I had the dress in my closet so I paired my accessories to match. It didn’t even take me a week to come up with the entire outfit so it really is an honour to win.”
Another first timer at Meydan to take home a prize was Best Dressed Man Simon Hanft, who said he had been planning his outfit for weeks, taking into consideration the advice of his mother and girlfriend.
He opted for a sculpted fedora hat by Rod Keenan, a fuchsia bow tie from Swedish designer Eden, a seersucker jacket in lime green, white linen pants, spectator shoes by Billy Reed and a macramé leather belt.
“I loved winning. I liked the emphasis the Dubai World Cup puts on style. At the big horse races in America like the Kentucky Derby it is expected that people dress nicely but there is no recognition for someone who does something significant so this is a good opportunity,” said Hanft. “It means a lot to me because the look is not something that I rolled out of bed and put together, it took preparation and time.”