A pioneer of the Dubai fashion scene, Bong Guerrero left Manila at 17 and studied in California, before ending up in Dubai in 1990 – just as the region’s fashion scene began to emerge. After opening his own perfumery and working in event planning, he realised that there was an opportunity to develop fresh talent, yet there was no real platform to showcase said talent on an international stage. That’s how Fashion Forward Dubai was born.
Since 2013, Fashion Forward’s CEO and founder has been highlighting the best emerging names on the scene in his biannual fashion showcase, which has been woven into the city’s dynamic urban fashion scene. This season is no exception: established couture designers like Ezra, Michael Cinco, and Amato unfurled their Spring/Summer collections, alongside promising new designers like Mrs Keepa, Jessica K, and Roni Helou.
NOWFASHION’s Maura Madeddu chatted with the businessman during Dubai’s four-day fashion week, which closed Saturday.
Maura Madeddu: Dubai’s fashion week has been full of social events, presentations, fashion shows, and talks. The key highlight of Dubai’s fashion week has been the “Shop the Show” (a see-now-buy-now concept), which is essential in a market where luxury consumers with a penchant for high fashion demand immediate satisfaction. Why is this?
Bong Guerrero: The Middle East is a luxury market, consumer-oriented and strong in the retail sector. It's a market where its clients (particularly Arab women) have a very high spending power. When an Arab woman sees an item she likes, she wants it and she wants it now. This is why the Shop the Show is so crucial for us and, most importantly, for our designers.
MM: You have said that Dubai’s fashion scene is rapidly evolving. It’s a reflection of the city; it’s eclectic because of the various nationalities participating, and because of its global appeal. How would you explain the success of this event?
BG: When we created Fashion Forward, our aim was to create a platform, a voice, a stage, for regional designers because they didn’t have such opportunities at that time. Over 200 nationalities live in Dubai – this is why people here are more inclined and open-minded to reach new visions and vice versa. Designers are inspired by this melting pot.
MM: How has Fashion Forward played a role in shaping the identity of Middle Eastern fashion?
BG: Fashion Forward plays an important role in increasing their visibility and building their strong identities, not only in the short- but also in the long-term, because of the diversity of professionals coming each season as buyers, journalists, influencers. We hope to continue increasing the number of international experts and creative talents coming to visit us every season. And, of course, to continue to offer our regional designers the platform they deserve, in order to make them stay and feel appreciated in their country.
MM: You have a balanced mix of international and regional designers, and have now unveiled the Garden section hosting jewellery and accessories designers from all over the world. What is the near-term goal?
BG: There is a very strong correlation between visibility and availability. Everything today has to be current, mainstream, and we are trying to adapt to this fast-changing reality. Of course, we do not want to neglect the importance of buyers’ calendars – the brands will still follow it. But from the beginning, we have been considering that the industry’s schedule actually is very different from the customer’s schedule, so we are trying to get Dubai’s fashion week more B- to C-oriented.