The Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience is many things but most importantly it serves as an eye catching platform for young talent around the world. I was lucky enough to sit with the emerging designers from the Middle East region whose collections rival those of the top fashion houses in the world. With personal mentoring sessions by Franca Sozzani, Editor in Chief of Vogue Italia, these designers showcased their creations at the Fashion Catwalk of The Dubai Mall flagging off the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience.
The first fresh faced designer I spoke to was Lulwa Al Amin from Bahrain, who ironically, discovered she wanted to be a designer when flipping through the pages of her mother’s Vogue Italia magazine. She started sketching and discovered the passion to design. As time passed, she started to work with leading names in the industry such as Matthew Williamson & Brown’s. In her opinion, she feels fashion is always evolving and social media plays a big role. “People are more aware of designers all around the world where as when I was growing up and aspiring to be a designer, I used to only look at magazines. Now you can be your own fashion through Instagram and other social media channels that get your message out to others.” After the message is out, what does the future look like? Well, pretty big! She aspires to be a world famous fashion designer but more importantly to have people appreciate her designs, wear them, embrace them and keep them going from generation to generation where they become vintage pieces.
I then came across one of the newest designers on the block, Wadha Al Hajri who is based in Qatar. Her soft spoken and endearing demeanor was interestingly woven into her bold color block designs. She exuded a calm strength in her personality as well as in her designs. When asked about her influences, she mentioned the main piece of art of Rene Magritte titled “Scheherzade”. This is very evident in the use of pearls mixed with Islamic and Bedouin patterns. She has no qualms bringing the traditional look and clashing it with the modern age woman. “I want my designs to go beyond the stereotype, to encourage women of all faiths to do what they love and not be afraid.” Her bold words make her collection come alive in a way that only a fresh designer can achieve.
Next up was Razan Al Azzouni. A classic look and effervescent feel, she made her interesting background of being born and raised in Saudi Arabia and wanting to be a fashion designer sound like the easiest thing in the world. She produces her line in Saudi Arabia and makes clothing that goes from day wear to cocktail to evening wear seamlessly. Working with the likes of Franca Sozzani has been ‘a dream come true’ for her and we can all see why. If that wasn’t enough, having something like the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience right in her region has given her more hope for herself as well as other up and coming talent of the region. “Dubai is the center of the Middle East so to speak, it’s the perfect hub to start this initiative. Fashion is global and it is something that can go everywhere and be adapted to any culture. The beauty of Dubai is that you can never get bored.” When asked about other markets of focus for her and her label, India will be lucky enough to see her collection in October. She will be co-hosting a pop up dinner with Dinner Club 57 (an underground supperclub in the UAE hosted by the girls behind No.57, a boutique cafe coming soon to Abu Dhabi.) which will include a fashion show of her most recent line. And yes, we at MissMalini will be sure to keep you posted on this!
Another Saudi based designer I was excited to speak with was Ashi Studio who started in fashion in 2002. Just 5 years later, he started his own house in 2007 and since then, has 2 categories of work: the couture line and the ready to wear line (launched recently). He was contacted by Vogue Italia and recently showcased his collection in Milan where he received an overwhelming reception and rave reviews. The Indian market is a big one for him, perhaps the connection is that he is inspired by music and movies, mostly dramatic ones (yes, Bollywood does come to mind). When asked if he watches Bollywood movies, his amazingly sarcastic expression was coupled with “Who doesn’t watch Bollywood? I do watch some and I don’t believe its dramatic. It’s culture, and as inspiration, it would be a beautiful thing to use.” Lucky for us, he also produces some of his line in Bombay itself. And what does he hope the Vogue Dubai Fashion Experience will be in the future? Like others, he feels Dubai is becoming the hub and in 2-3 years, it will be the hot spot for fashion. And could be on par with cities like NY and Milan. To close things up, I asked what his goal was for this Experience and he simply stated, “I want to woo the audience.” Fair enough, I say.
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