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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

A preview of Dubai's Fashion Forward 2017

With the 10th season of Fashion Forward coming to Dubai this weekend we present a preview of the shows, labels and industry talks on the agenda

Roni Helou autumn/winter 2017. Courtesy Roni Helou
Roni Helou autumn/winter 2017. Courtesy Roni Helou

It’s hard to believe, but Fashion Forward, the closest thing that Dubai has to a fashion week, is about to celebrate its 10th edition. That’s five years of unstinting support for regional designers, both emerging and established.

Taking place from this Thursday until Sunday, at the new Design Quarter venue in the Dubai Design District, FFWD is celebrating this milestone with an impressive calendar of events, which promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Here is a preview of what we are most looking forward to.

A total of 29 labels are showing this season, with a dozen returning designers, including Roni Helou. The Beirut-based designer was selected by Starch Foundation to launch his brand and showcase his first collection at the ninth Fashion Forward Dubai earlier this year.

Helou’s bold use of masculine tailoring for womenswear is already a favourite with The National’s Luxury magazine, which used his pieces in its September fashion issue. For Helou’s FFWD showcase, we are looking forward to a show he describes as being all about “strong women”.

Image from Arwa al Banawi autumn/winter 2017 collection. Courtesy Arwa al Banawi
Image from Arwa al Banawi autumn/winter 2017 collection. Courtesy Arwa al Banawi

Saudi designer Arwa Al Banawi is also back with her trademark sharp blazers and bold patterns, as is Emirati Madiyah Al Sharqi, who will be bringing her signature textured style to FFWD. Skilful at blending weighty fabrics, she is also known for her unusual combinations, such as shearling and lace.

Part of Madiyah al Sharqi autumn winter 2017 FFWD finale show. Courtesy Madiyah al Sharqi
Part of Madiyah al Sharqi autumn winter 2017 FFWD finale show. Courtesy Madiyah al Sharqi

Another welcome return is Hussein Bazaza, whose bold designs are rapidly becoming a talking point. Strong shapes mixed with fearless patterns and colour (chartreuse velvet against digital patterning, anyone?) display a design maturity far beyond this 27-year-old Lebanese designer’s years. Lara Khoury, too, is becoming a force to be reckoned with. Her fluid style, which melds feminine drapery with structured, architectural cuts, is of the moment, yet somehow timeless.

Among the newcomers to FFWD is menswear designer Amine Bendriouich, who draws heavily on a Moroccan heritage to create dynamic menswear that is sparse of cut, but lavishly decorated.

Also new to the schedule is Uniti by Babak Vosoughi, a label that will be bringing edgy urban menswear to Dubai, while the city’s own Varoin Marwah will show off tailoring infused with cultural elements.

Another feature is Mini Fashion: Beyond Native, which is presenting three labels. Dress Addict, by Artem and Victor, is men’s luxe sportswear meets streetwear; Wael offers immaculate men’s suiting; while Zaid Farouki creates womenswear that reinterprets Arabic culture in modern designs.

No FFWD round-up is complete without a nod to the event’s over-the-top finale by Amato, which is now something of a tradition. We caught up with the brand’s designer, Furne One, ahead of the show, to ask why it is so important to be part of FFWD.

“Amato Couture has showcased at FFWD from the very beginning, and the challenge is to raise the bar even higher. We are known for avant-garde and dramatic shows, and this season will be no different. We will be diving into the deep abyss and bringing ashore beautiful gowns, sleek intricate dresses and flowing capes – all with the signature Amato twist. We design for women who are not afraid to explore their fashion styles, and who defy the norms,” says ever flamboyant One.

Part of Amato autumn winter 2017 FFWD finale show. Courtesy Amato
Part of Amato autumn winter 2017 FFWD finale show. Courtesy Amato

The Amato show is always jam-packed, despite a starting time of 10pm. “People line up hours before the show just to get in, and even fight for front row seats and backstage access,” the designer confides.

In addition to the shows, this season sees an expanded series of Fashion Talks that include conversations on day 1 with the queen of digital prints herself, Mary Katrantzou. Day 2 will include talks on the effect of influencers on fashion, while day 3 offers the opportunity to listen to Godfrey Deeny. In a real coup for FFWD, Deeny will be sharing his insights into fashion, gleaned from a career as an international fashion critic, which has seen him described by The Business of Fashion as one of the top 500 people shaping it. Armed as Deeny is with a staggering knowledge and an acerbic wit, this will be a highly entertaining event.

Guests can also look forward to a pop-up store by regional online store The Modist, which will prove a boon for anyone looking to snap up some on-trend pieces. Also, the Fashion Future space in Building 4 will focus on graduate shows, while Building 6 will house the Fashion Cinema and Library. Swiss luxury watchmaker Baume & Mercier is, for a second year, the official timekeeper for FFWD, and as such is collaborating with three regional designers on a special project. Hussein Bazaza, Zayan Ghandour and Rula Galayini are creating one-off straps for Baume & Mercier watches, which will be on show in the brand’s boutique in The Dubai Mall, and auctioned for charity next month.

Finally, ahead of the event, on Wednesday, FFWD is holding a D3 Preview, where visitors can get acquainted with designers, browse, shop and have pieces customised.

Above all, it’s a show of support for the region’s enormous talent.

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