Designs on you. Emirati designer Muna Al Zarooni at her boutique in Sharjah Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/XPRESS

DUBAI An Emirati designer who is among 12 aspiring designers handpicked from across the Arab world for the region’s first ever fashion reality show says she is proud to have made the cut.

Muna Al Zarooni from Sharjah is the only UAE contestant in the soon-to-be-aired Arabic version of the American reality show Fashion Star. Having already filmed for the show that will see internationally acclaimed Lebanese designer Reem Acra as the chief mentor, Al Zarooni hopes she will now receive a greater acceptance of her work.

“When I started eight years ago, people did not have faith in my work. My father was not convinced that my profession could be financially rewarding. But I stuck to my gut and ambitions. Today I am happy that I have a brisk business. Every time I sell a dress I tell my father about it. He is very happy for me now,” Al Zarooni tells XPRESS while taking a break from her work at her boutique not far from the Al Qassimi Hospital in Sharjah. A number of hand-beaded crystal bridal and party dresses peep out from the stands in the boutique. “Everything you see is custom-made with tulle, dentelle and Swarovski crystals. Then there are special materials that I personally order from Turkey. Each and every creation of mine is not just exotic but a bespoke work of art suiting only one individual,” she explains why her prices start from Dh3,000.

Hard work pays off

However, she says it’s not her price tag but her hard work that took her to the reality show that had the likes of Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos as judges in the original version aired on NBC for two seasons until 2013 in the USA. “At first I was just doing abayas and kanduras. Then I started making simple day gowns and finally graduated myself to designing haute couture. Thanks to my passion to learn something new, I have been able to keep up with current trends,” adds Zarooni whose most expensive work till date - a designer wedding gown - has sold for Dh60,000.

“After Fashion Star, I learnt a great deal more about haute couture. The whole experience has been very exciting as I have had the chance to meet some famous people from the industry. I made some good friends on the show and you will see the camaraderie between the contestants when you watch the programme,” says Zarooni.

Launched by the Dubai Channels Network (DCN), Fashion Star will also see, besides Acra, acclaimed designers like Hanna bin Abdel-Salam, Ramzi Tabiaat and other industry experts.

Tunisian model and actress Leila Bin Khalifa will be lead presenter, making her debut as an Arabic TV host. “For any aspiring designer, it’s an incredible feeling to be sharing the stage with such a stellar line-up. Winning or losing comes later,” says Al Zarroni as she recalls her days on the sets of the show filmed in Dubai and Beirut.

Winner takes it all

According to Sara Jarman, Director of Dubai One, the concept of Fashion Star is such that at the end of each episode three designers will be placed in ‘Danger Zone’ following which one will leave the show. Besides walking away with half a million dirham prize money, the winning designer gets a chance to display his or her work on e-commerce portal Namshi.com to sell it.