As Arab Fashion Week rolls out the red carpet on May 9, the event marks a historical crossroads for the region’s burgeoning design landscape.
At one end, Saudi Arabia has declared it’s open for business after hosting the Riyadh edition of AFW last month; at the other end, the growing demand for Arab fashion has seen established brands such as Lanvin, Versace, Marc Jacobs and Gucci court the region’s clientele with their own stylish take on modest cuts.
Point this out to Jacob Abrian, CEO of Arab Fashion Council (AFC), which spearheads AFW and represents the design interests of 22 countries in the region, and he appears nonchalant to the growing competition on the international arena.
“The UAE has already proved itself as the fashion capital of the region, with some of the biggest names in the business setting up shop here without hesitation,” Abrian says. “Now, with Saudi Arabia emerging as a key player after last month’s fashion week in Riyadh, it is clear that the growth potential for creating a retail hub in this region is immense.”
The vision 2030 plan, as Abrian calls it, aims to bring investment, capital and even jobs to the UAE as AFC shapes it as the central nucleus for the region’s retail trade.
“Arab Fashion Council represents 22 countries in this region, and our aim is to create a local economy in the UAE that drives creative knowledge, provides collective expertise, experiences and resources that elevates the works of designers here,” he explains.
This creative fashion ecosystem will be a focus of dialogue and debate at the four-day AFW event in Dubai aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner, where ramp shows, panel discussions and awards will vie for the spotlight.
Gulf News tabloid! picks the key players and fashion pioneers that will present their designs at the event.
With a roster of celebrity clients that includes the who’s who of showbiz — think Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach and Priyanka Chopra — Amato Couture is the brainchild of creative designer Furne One.
Since its inception in 2002, the Dubai-based fashion house has created a style renaissance in the region, constantly pushing boundaries with its edgy, yet feminine, haute couture designs.
The designer credits his mother and grandmother for his creative genes, adding: “My collections aren’t for the faint-hearted woman, but one who is comfortable in her skin; her clothes are but a foil to reflect her inner persona.”
It is no surprise that the global powerhouse is opening this season’s Arab Fashion Week.
Show: May 9 at 7.30pm
House of Mua Mua
Mua Mua’s iconic hand-knitted celebrity dolls, made in Bali by Italian designer Ludovica Virga, also make an appearance at AFW after a successful showing in Riyadh last month.
The brand was born out of the need of providing the inhabitants of Bali a daily source of income after the tsunami struck Indonesia in 2004. Two years after the destruction, Mua Mua’s crocheted dolls made their debut. But success had to wait awhile, until a meeting with Karl Lagerfeld three years later gave rise to a partnership where Lulu was commissioned to provide more than 500 dolls to be sold in the designer’s stores.
Since, Lulu has taken her dolls to Milan, Paris and New York and has presented them on the biggest stages, with a range starring Lagerfeld, Lady Gaga and Anna Dello Russo, to name a few. The brand has also diversified to include funky T-shirts, jackets, as well as an accessory line.
Show: May 11 at 9pm
The modest fashion label stormed the runway at New York Fashion Week earlier this year, a capsule in purple and lavender tones playing out to the background of a clip that showed their creators’ story, through the days of escaping the war in Somalia, until settling down in the US. ‘A story of loss, love, sacrifice and commitment that resulted in Fllumae’, it stated.
The label was founded and designed in Louisville Kentucky by the Saidi sisters (Alliiyah, Fahima, Mona, and Luul) and their mother. On a mission to empower women of all backgrounds, regardless of nationality and beliefs, the family took up the cause to bring modesty into mainstream fashion. Fllumae designs outfits with a twist of eastern and western styles.
Show: May 10 at 9pm
With Saudi Arabia now at the brink of a style renaissance with the recently concluded Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh, Arwa Al Ammari’s ArAm brand stands at the cusp of this transformation. The fashion label embodies Ammari’s passion for the arts, being a painter and sculptor herself.
Since establishing the brand in 2013, Ammari was also selected to represent Saudi Arabia in the international reality show Fashion Star, among 11 other established designers from all Arab countries. After 10 difficult challenges, Ammari won the competition and earned the title of Fashion Star Arabia.
Ammari is now an ambassador of the Arab Fashion Council.
Show: May 10 at 9.30pm
With Ariana Grande, Charlize Theron and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan giving her their stamps of approval, Aiisha Ramadan continues to be a fashion powerhouse in the UAE.
In the 11 years since she launched her label, Ramadan has moved from strength to strength, winning the Young Designer of the Year Award by Swarovski and Al Ghurair Centre, earning a place on a list of the 30 Most Awesome Women in the Arab World in 2009, as well as being called one of the Gr8! Women Achievers in 2011.
The Lebanese fashion designer continues to draw a celebrity clientele for her ready-to-wear, couture, and bridal collections. The brand’s uniqueness is its intricate handmade, fine embroidery.
Show: May 10 at 10.30pm
An icon and a fashion powerhouse, Tony Miranda is a name synonymous with style through the decades. After starting out with the House of Joseph Camps, in 1967 he moved to Ted Lapidus, where he went on to transform the fashion brand over the next decade.
Through the 80s, Miranda courted all the top names in politics from across the globe, be it Hollywood’s Brigitte Bardot or the former President of Gabon Omar Bongo and First Lady Edith Bongo of Gabon.
Today, Miranda is considered an icon in the fashion industry, a name that is synonymous with some of the greatest to ever come out of Portugal.
Show: May 11, at 10.30pm
AFC Green Label
This year will also mark the launch of an eco-friendly collection under the AFC Green Label, which will create ready couture ensembles while promoting fashion sustainability as well.
Jacob Abrian, CEO of the AFC, spoke about this year’s event to Gulf News tabloid!, saying: “The UAE has already established itself as the fashion retail hub in the region. Our vision is to create a central channel that brings in all the different resources from the 22 countries — be it Egyptian cotton or Tunisian fabrics — to Dubai and transform this city into a buyers’ market that draws in all the major players. The future is in our hands and it’s up to us to create an environment that is conducive to sustaining our vision 2030 with the right foundation and the right education for designers of tomorrow.”
Show: May 11 at 8pm
Yu Jordy Fu is an internationally acclaimed designer, artist and architect, in addition to being the Creative Director of Fashion TV.
The child prodigy had her first solo art exhibition at the Beijing Capital Museum aged six, and her artworks have since been published into numerous books, and been exhibited internationally. Jordy was selected by the British Council as one of the top 10 young artists representing creativity in the UK.
Aside from being a commissioned artist for the French luxury fashion brand Hermes, the designer also spearheads her J By Jordy ready couture, which blends art and architecture with fashion. Jordy designs architectural and three-dimensional sculpted pieces, blended with traditional Chinese paper-cutting techniques, in a futuristic style.
Show: May 12 at 7pm
Check it out!
Arab Fashion Week runs from May 9 to 12 aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner. The Dubai-based Amato Couture will open the event at 7.30pm on day one, with the final day presenting the Arab Fashion Awards. Entry to the event is by online registration through its official website and invites.