Fashion Forward Dubai - Middle East’s definitive fashion platform

Last week, the fashion crowd gathered for three busy days of events at FFWD: Dubai and the Middle-East’s definitive fashion platform, which represents the roots, attitudes and lifestyle of the emerging Arab Fashion Community. A bold effort to ensure visibility and support for the talents of regional fashion, the event is recognised as the most important fashion week in the UAE. It is also one of the most respected in the Middle East, being the only one to have the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC) and Dubai Design District Chamber’s support.


Backstage at the Amato Fall/Winter 2017 couture show in Dubai (Courtesy of PR)


The investment that the region has dedicated to culture in general in recent years is noticeable. A growing list of initiatives - such as Art Dubai and Design Days Dubai - as well as the construction of new cultural venues, like the Dubai Opera, underline the regions proactive intentions. Coinciding with these initiatives, the first printed issue of Vogue Arabia was recently launched with a double cover featuring American-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid in a traditional hijab. This ensured that the fashion week here was not only about presentations and shows, attracting key connoisseurs from different areas of the industry. It is here that they come together to talk about important themes such as how to build creative content and the “See-Now, Buy-Now” debate. Talks were tabled by esteemed guests such as Ramzi Nakad and Bong Guerrero, CEOs of FFWDDXB, Daniel Coutinho, CEO of Nowness, and Etienne Cochet, Head of WSN Development, to name but a few. A key point that emerged from the conference was that fashion is often regarded as a source of instant gratification. Another important note was made on the growing importance of consumer feedback and social media in the system, with buyers oftening turning to Instagram as a vital source in the search for the latest designers. As a consequence, “Fashion is going too fast, and if it goes too fast there is no more dream, no more emotion,” said Janet Wong, Buyer at Cabana Fair. “Instant gratification of fashion will not cancel out exclusivity. Manufacturing takes time and there is a big difference between a trend and something unique.

The gap from the time a collection is shown and its delivery to boutique floors often gives fast fashion brands the chance to produce similar designs intended to hit stores at the same time as the luxury labels. The See-Now, Buy-Now model was supposed to be the luxury fashion industry’s answer to this issue. In late 2016, Christopher Bailey announced Burberry’s debut with a capsule collection that was available in store the day after the show, creating hype around the products and resulting in a spike in sales. However, the idea - originally considered as a strong marketing strategy thanks to its ability to create buzz around a show - has now been mostly shelved by early adopting luxury labels. The result of the debate got experts to come up with the response that “quality ready-to-wear needs time for true creativity and quality to flourish”. Another conclusion being that it’s apparently not yet conceivable to apply this fast paced process to the fashion system. Another very interesting conference was led by Mansoor Bhatti, leader of creative agency Things by People, and Daniel Coutinho, CEO of Nowness. Here, one thing they were sure about was that “brands should believe in creatives as they do designers, letting them express and reinterpret brand identity through their own style and vision.


Backstage at the Hussein Bazaza Fall/Winter 2017 show in Dubai (Courtesy of PR)


At the venue, Arab’s style identity was very present, each garment flowing with a sexy but sophisticated approach to fashion. Each performance was unique, shifting from haute couture to prêt-à-porter, from traditional abayas to quirky collections expressing the designers’ visions and showcasing their roots. A sense of community was created at the venue thanks to the fact that each event took place in the same location. The space, in Dubai’s Design District, hosted national and international press, along with influencers, bloggers and renowned clients who could mingle while having a drink at the SKÅL bar, powered by Absolut Vodka, in between shows.

Booths in a selected area were available for smaller and emerging brands offering them the chance to showcase their collections, strengthening the concept of FFWD as Trading Platform of the Middle East. Between the names worth mentioning here were Azra and Jou Design. Created in collaboration with Brag, a media agency dedicated to nourishing creative thinking and building community, FFW has not only created a platform in Dubai, it also takes designers to Paris twice a year as part of a sales initiative to help connect regional design talent with buyers and the European market. Special attention was also paid to the most social part of the event, centered around a set of bars cafes and food trucks. Not even the heavy rain could perturb the crowd who gathered here between shows to chat, drink and - finally - dance to the tunes of DJ Kaytek at the special afterparty.

Now, let’s have a closer look to some of the talents that particularly stood out at this edition:


The Amato Fall/Winter 2017 couture show in Dubai (Courtesy of PR)


Day 1

Nafsika Skourti: The sister act opened the first day of FW with a modern, fresh collection for the contemporary young woman.

Arwa al Banawi: A real show with singer Layla Kardan performing her new single “Suitable Woman”, the theme of the collection.

Hussein Bazaza: The Lebanese designer presented a collection inspired by the Japanese myth of Ah-kah-nay meaning deep red, or even Angry Child. The show mixed a 40’s spirit with a modern mood.

Michael Cinco: The Dubai based, Filipino designer closed the first day of Fashion Week with a stunning performance that left everyone speechless. The show underlined what fashion is supposed to be about: creating emotion and making us dream.


Day 2

Kristina Fidelskaya: An effortless collection of silky flowing pieces with a strong European mood.

Ghudfah: Saudi designer Sarah Albaz skillfully reinterpreted a traditional garment such as the abaya in a modern, minimalistic key. Effortless clothes for strong contemporary women.


Day 3

Tair: A menswear collection inspired by shamans opened with a beautiful and mysterious belly dancer. Designer Aliya won Grazia Style Award as Emerging Talent.

Amato: Closing the event with an intense couture show preceded by video of the bombing in Japan during WWII. Amato’s dramatic embellished gowns and pastel colours contrasted with the dark setting leaving guests pensive and touched.


Now, all eyes are on the Middle East’s growing fashion scene, which will be joining forces with UAE government funds for the next edition. Stay tuned to find out more!


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