Dubai: The UAE is no stranger to extravagance and flair when it comes to hosting events of any kind; and last week the American University in the Emirates (AUE) joined in to host an underwater fashion show at the Atlantis Hotel.
Professional scuba divers showcased a total of seven mermaid and oceanic-inspired creations by the School of Fashion in the 11-million-litre Ambassador Lagoon which is home to several hundred species of marine life.
The event was the brainchild of Dr Fran Apprich, assistant professor of media at AUE, whose aim was to get students to open up their minds to new ideas.
"I went to a fashion show recently and it was uninspiring, the gowns were beautiful but the surroundings were really unimaginative," she said. "So I thought about doing something exceptional in Atlantis and underwater to get students to think outside the box."
The display was a 30-minute show of colourful creations complete with frills, ribbons and tails, one of which was even a wedding dress; more artsy than catwalk frankly, something the German national acknowledged.
"We wanted to create art and sell it," she said. "But simplified versions of them, because underwater they look great like jellyfish but if you wear it in public, it would look bizarre."
The designs are on sale at Sukar.com, a private online shopping club, until December 22, with prices ranging between Dh300 and Dh5,000.
Dr Apprich said the fashion showcase was not merely about clothes but also about allowing AUE media students to gain practical experience.
"The concept was a great underwater fashion show documented by our media students and brought out to the public," she said. "The students also enjoyed seeing the real media come here and see everything in practice."
The designs were created by a team of 70 students within a month under the supervision of AUE fashion design programme coordinator Sana Abbasi, said Dr Apprich.
Much thought went into the types of fabrics used for this unique show. "We used light fabrics, such as twill and nylon, that don't suck up all the water which would make it hard for the models to swim," said Dr Apprich. "Normally any dress weighs about 10 times more in water, so we had to use very light fabric to make it successful."
"This has been an amazing experience for me and I feel like I've learned a lot," said Maria Faisal, a fashion design student at AUE.
Bringing on the funk
"I was pretty stunned when they told us there'd be an underwater fashion show, but I think it worked pretty well," said Alia Mohammad, an international relations student at AUE.
Alia is even considering buying a few of her peers' creations.
"The leggings are very colourful and showed clearly through the glass," she said. "I'd buy the blue leggings with the black spots on them. They were funky and I like funky stuff."
The money from the sale will go to the Blue Flag Programme, which is run by the Foundation for Environmental Education, helping to protect beaches and marine wildlife globally.
Yet, the underlying message in what some would call a bizarre or genius event — depending on perspective — was to illustrate to the students that nothing is beyond their reach.
"I wanted the students to learn nothing is impossible and you can do something people are actually interested in," said Dr Apprich. "We have a large Emirati student body, which make up 80 per cent of our total, and this new generation is innovative."