Thursday 23 May 2013

Fashion Forward Dubai: 5 Middle East designers to look out for

I’ll admit. It’s probably the only time I miss being in Dubai, even though I lived there for many years before moving to Singapore, I've never really had any feel for the place.

That was before the Fashion Forward event, which took place recently and could be the first step towards nurturing a real fashion scene in the desert

When people complain to me about the ‘lack’ of a proper fashion scene in Singapore, I always tell them to compare it to Dubai, where there is hardly anything interesting fashion-wise. The first vintage shop in the country opened only a couple of  years back while the concept of ‘local’ and ‘independent’ designers was non-existent bar for a handful of individuals who introduced this idea not too long ago.

But when I learned about Fashion Forward happening in Dubai, I breathed a sigh of relief that perhaps the city has finally started celebrating the young talent and giving them a proper platform and the exposure they deserve.

A beautiful dress from Lebanese designer Dina JSR at Dubai FF

And as usual, Michael Cinco brings the drama to the catwalk...
And oh how I wanted to be there for the Starch Foundation show! I'm
especially in love with the work of Celine Der Torrosian of AZADE like
this cool outfit which I want to get my hands on!!!

The event which ran over 4 days a few weeks back included shows from Middle East-based designers, talks by the likes of respected designer Rabih Kayrouz and other industry insiders,  pop up shopping emporium showcasing products from around the region and social events for the fashionistas to show off their latest frocks and mingle.

See, if I were back in Dubai, this would be the sort of event I’d be waiting to cover (mostly the shows, exhibitions, not the social part ;-)) . And since this is just the first season – I’ll definitely make sure to be there the second time around!

Among the participating designers, there was a considerable number of Lebanese who are probably the most fashion-forward in the region (seriously I’m not just being biased here ;-)) and although I am miles away from home at the moment, it didn’t stop me from following what’s happening – and of course I have something to say about it!

So here are the 5 shows, I wish I was there for and in my opinion – are a great representation of the fashion scene in Dubai and the Middle East in general.

-    Essa

Remember that kefeyya dress I keep wearing? It is one of the handful items I bought from Essa when I was back in Dubai, and I still cherish and wear till now!

Essa, the Indian designer who was born and bred in Dubai is not much known beyond the UAE but among the local fashionistas in the know, he is one of the earliest on the scene.
What I love about Essa is that he keeps evolving! He is as eclectic as can be and embodies everything I love about fashion especially the fun factor!

The collection he showed this year at Fashion Forward was probably the most toned-down I’ve seen from him so far and although I admire the maturity it displayed, I cannot but help wonder whatever happened to the crazy, colourful and faboulous OTT designs he used to make?

But then I look at the shoes – resembling giant horse hoofs – and the men’s creations and I can see that although the aesthetics are more refined now, the idea of playful, uber cool attitude is still in the heart of his work.

-     Starch Foundation showcase

Ok I’m not going to talk in detail about this because I’m planning to feature some of Starch designers separately on this blog – and perhaps bring some of them over to a Singapore shop near you very soon ;-)

The Starch Foundation, set up by designer Rabih Kayrouz in Beirut is a great example of the fashion boom happening in the region specifically Lebanon. I’ve featured before some of the previous batch of designers from Starch (Dina Khalife, Mira Hayek, Missak HajiAvedikian, Azzi andOsta, Malaika Najem) and the amazing talent of the new designer like Celine Der Torrosian of AZADE, Bashar Assaf and Hussein Bazaza)still amuses me! Check out some of their stunning work and tell me you don’t feel as inspired as I do!

-    Dina JSR

Elaborate yet aesthetically refined, Dina’s work is probably the strongest on the FF catwalk. The amount of detail, intricate craftsmanship and sublime cuts and silhouettes make her stand out. No wonder then that this designer has dressed celebrities such as E!TV presenter Guiliana Rancic and is on her way to stardom.

I love the architecture-inspired cuts and details in the dresses which remain understated yet glamorous. Dina raises the bar high and is definitely one to look out for!

-     Michael Cinco

The Filipino, Dubai-based couture designer used to feature regularly in the fashion publication I worked for in the city. And recently, he has become much more known due to dressing stars such as Katy Perry and the participants in America’s Next Top Model. Cinco’s designs are feminine and edgy at the same time and his latest collection is much more subtle than the extravagant designs he used to make, and perhaps more wearable.

I love the use of lace and embroidery which despite their delicate nature, the whole look is still dramatic and somehow royal.

-    Zayan the Label

Before becoming a designer, Zayan Ghandour was well-known in the fashion scene in the UAE as the owner and buyer of one of the hippest boutiques in town, S*uce!  I was even addicted to S*uce when I lived in Dubai for it always stocked unique, fearless and stunning pieces for those who are not afraid to stand out from the crowd.

The success of S*uce seems to have brought out the designer in Zayan who has launched her label shortly after I left the country and is proving to be a big success with her customers.
Her collection ‘Brown Paparazzi’ at FF showed a fun take-on basic dresses with a ‘pearl necklace’ illustration, a mix of textures and silhouettes which are all fun, girly and sweet.

The Lebanese designer’s showpiece was a ‘wedding look’ consisting of a pink full tutu skirt and front tie shirt - complete with a cap and veil -  echoing a soft 80s vibe. It surely got everyone smiling and it’s kinda refreshing that in this highly pretentious industry, someone doesn’t take themselves too seriously and is just enjoying what fashion is there for. So kudos to that and I’m hoping on my next visit to Dubai, there will be one tutu left for me :-)

All photos from Fashion Forward facebook page. Follow them for updates on the next event.