Six Designers from the Maghreb and the Middle East that will Shake Things Up in 2018

Six Designers from the Maghreb and the Middle East that will Shake Things Up in 2018

With the launch of Vogue Arabia earlier this year, who settled down in the now-famous Dubai Design District (d3) – the city's go-to destination for fashion and lifestyle – Dubai, and the Middle East as a whole, have once again been on the fashion industry's radar.

Hussein Bazaza, SS 2018, FFWD

Vogue Arabia is much more than just another fashion glossy. Its launch is more than just an addition to Condé Nast's media imperium. In fact, the launch of the world's most famous fashion bible in the Middle East is a symbol of a long overdue recognition towards designers and creatives from the Maghreb and the Middle East.

Most countries in the Middle East have long only rimed with “oil money” and “tax-free haven” only (and still do), which is why local creatives and entrepreneurs, and the fashion and luxury industries in particular, have been working hard to show to the world that some of the major cities in the Middle East, such as Dubai, can also grow into an authentic cultural hub. Today, Dubai's creative minds are working harder than ever to prove that an actual cultural (r)evolution is not only happening across the Middle East, but that it also deserves to be recognized and respected as such by the international opinion.

Needless to say, while “purchasing power” is still what drives brands and entrepreneurs to the United Arab Emirates, and to Dubai in particular, money is not everything – it also takes courage, determination and an innovative mind to face the challenges that come with the region, and these essential character traits very much describe Bong Guerrero's mindset. Guerrero is the CEO and Co-Founder of Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD) and can proudly look back on 10 editions of FFWD that have contributed to shape Dubai's fashion and luxury scene, while serving as a business platform to talented designers from the Maghreb and the Middle East.

Utruj, SS 2018, FFWD

“Since its launch FFWD has handpicked talented designers who represent the region’s individuality, creativity and diversity, but this season was a key milestone for FFWD as we transformed the platform to encompass fashion, retail and entertainment on a much larger scale than ever before,” Guerrero tells NOWFASHION. “The signature move to the center of d3 is a pivotal moment in FFWD’s five-year journey and we are thrilled to have welcomed guests from all over the world to experience the next step in FFWD’s evolution.”

And indeed, with the continued support of d3 and the Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC), FFWD has become more than just another fashion week, it has actually grow into a true launch pad for regional design talent to establish themselves across the region, but also on an international level.

Events such as FFWD, but also the more recently launched Modest Fashion Week and Arab Fashion Week all lead to one conclusion: Dubai, the cultural hub of the United Arab Emirates, is not only a tax-free haven for international entrepreneurs, it has also establish itself as a reference point in the fashion industry, with a notable influence both within and outside the region.

With an entrepreneurial and galvanizing spirit, FFWD has been showcasing and promotings young, talented designers over the past five years, who have been working to shake things in the Maghreb and th eMiddle East. Here are some of the most fashionable movers and shakers, that we discovered at Fashion Forward Dubai over the past years, and that will certainly cause more ink to flow in 2018. 


Amato at FFWD

During Fashion Forward Dubai, Amato is always on everybody's lips. The Filipino designer Furne One has made a name for himself in Dubai for the past decade, dressing an exclusive private clientele with his so-called "prêt-à-Couture” designs, with most of them residing in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and others gracing the covers of magazines and attending red-carpet worthy events in Hollywood in his creations, such as Beyoncé and Katy Perry, who often wear his show pieces on stage. Judging from his va va voom dresses and over-the-top runway shows that always mark the end FFWD with a blast, Furne One is not afraid of the rules and dictates of the industry and would do anything for fashion. He opened a new boutique in Dubai's Design District earlier this year and is definitely our Fashion Forward favorite!


Hussein Bazaza at FFWD

Hussei Bazaza is the winner of the first edition of the and DDFC Fashion Prize (now the DDFC Vogue Fashion Prize) – the first fashion prize of its kind in the Middle East to offer a regional counterpart to the ANDAM and the LVMH Prize. The young designer studied fashion in Beirut and Paris and worked for Maison Rabih Kayrouz and Elie Saab, prior to starting his own womenswear label. Hussein Bazaza has been presenting his collection at Fashion Forward Dubai ever since the Starch Foundation – a non-profit organization that helps launch Lebanese emerging designers, founded by Rabih Kayrouz, Tala Hajjar and in collaboration with Solidere – took him under their wing in 2012, by supporting the creation of his first ready-to-wear collection. He's been designing sophisticated and eclectic women's ready-to-wear ever since and is a Fashion Forward Dubai regular.


Amine Bendriouich at FFWD

“Thank you for your stereotypes, I am building my own aesthetics” is a statement by the Moroccan designer that epitomizes both his attitude and work as and artist. A Moroccan multi-tasker, Amine Bendriouich is the eclectic and forward-thinking designer and artist behind the unisex fashion brand Couture and Bullshit. His edgy unisex collections quickly became iconic to the younger Moroccan generation, while appealing to fashion conscious people abroad, in Paris, New York, Amsterdam, London, Berlin, Tunis and Lagos. By dissecting his Berber heritage through clothing and confronting it to a fresh, contemporary expression that consists of pop and urban style elements, Bendriouich brings Moroccan ready-to-wear to the next level. He's been working and producing art and events with fellow movers and shakers, such as the visual artists Hassan Hajjaj and Kehinde Wiley, as well as the musician Keziah Jones. He's unstoppable, to say the least – and the presentation of his latest collection “A DNA” was a highlight of the last edition of FFWD.


 Mohanad Kojak at FFWD

Mohanad Kojak, one of Egypt’s young and celebrated designers, made a bold debut at FFWD last season by showcasing feminine ready-to-wear in a palette of luscious pink/salmon, blue, gold and a whole lot of striking red. Kojak's work is mainly about, textures and ornaments that are shaped with volume, draping and pleating – and mostly create illusion and drama. Especially the bomber ruffled gold jacket, with angelic figure statement from the SS18 collection, just wanted us to attend any kind of soiree, dressed in combination with the golden skirt. His love for tules, draping, volume and sequins created a dramatic effect. Overall a great execution, showing yet again what kind of homegrown talent Egypt bares.


Nabil Nayal at FFWD

Nabil Nayal is a Syrian-born British fashion designer who made his debut at Fashion Forward Dubai last season, but has already conquered our hearts. The young designer has studied fashion at the Royal Colleg of Art, an opportunity that was given to him by the British Fashion Council, as he won their MA Scholarship Award. Last year, the National Museum of Scotland also revealed a collaboration with Nayal, that featured two pieces from the designer's SS16 collection alongside a host of iconic designers to form part of a new permanent exhibition dedicated to international fashion and textiles.I n addition to this, the twenty-something designer also already won the Royal Society of Arts Award, the Graduate Fashion Week ‘Best Womenswear’ Award and has been shortlisted for the prestigious LVMH Prize in 2015 and invited to show at Paris Fashion Week. His style is minmal and sharp, and Nayal is prominent for being one of the first designers in the world to use 3D printing on his clothing. Way to go!


Laila Abduljawad at FFWD

With modest wear increasing in its universal appeal and popularity, Saudi’s Jeddah-based contemporary brand UTRUJ designed by Laila Abduljawad is producing women's ready-to-wear with an ambition to universalize the traditional abaya by designing it as versatile outerwear. UTRUJ actually aims to bridge the fashion gap between the Gulf and the rest of the world. Amidst an area where differences are celebrated, UTRUJ primary aim is to empower women with ready-to-wear that is functional, eloquent, while respecting cultural and religious customs – we applaud this and want to see more!

With additional reporting by Ali El Yahiaoui.