x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai puts its best foot fashionably forward

Fashion Forward is presenting 18 designers, including three to watch: Furne One, Ezra and Essa.

The designer Essa poses at home. Jaime Puebla / The National
The designer Essa poses at home. Jaime Puebla / The National

Is the region's fashion industry about to be shaken up? Definitely, if Bong Guerrero, founder of the inaugural Fashion Forward event coming to Dubai this week, has his way. From Friday until Monday, the event provides a platform for established and emerging talent from the UAE and across the region to come together in a series of catwalk shows, panel discussions and social events.Here are three of the movers and shakers to watch out for.

Furne One's show on Sunday is sure to be a standout

Famed internationally for his ethereal, intricately embellished gowns, the Dubai-based designer jumped at the chance to get involved in Fashion Forward.

"I want to help promote Dubai as a fashion capital and I totally support Bong's vision," says the Philippines-born creative. "I came here 14 years ago and I really love the UAE. I see its huge potential as a fashion hub. My autumn/winter 2013 show will be based on the 'garden of good and evil' - angels and demons - holy and unholy. There's mostly black and white pieces with plenty of thread work, lace and metal embellishments. I'll be mixing up couture pieces with prêt-à-porter."

If you take a shine to any of the designs you spot on the catwalk at Fashion Forward, you'll have to head to One's boutique, Amato, in the city's Al Hanaa Centre to obtain them. That's if he lets you leave with one of them. "All the pieces I really love, I make sure to keep close! They are not going anywhere!" he says, laughing. "I might lend them out to pop stars, but they always come back. Take Katy Perry, for example, when I did her California Dreams tour, the MTV Awards and so on. Same with Nicki Minaj when I did some outfits for her videos."

Despite his glamorous clientele, One remains humble and happy that his passion for fashion is shared by performers such as Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.

"They are very down to earth and so professional to work with," he says. "And I have no problem designing for curvy girls. They are perfectly in proportion. I love curves."

Catch Amato by Furne One on Sunday at 8.30pm

For more information go to www.amatohautecouture.com

Five things Essa wants you to know

Promising to wow the crowds on the first day of Fashion Forward is the Dubai-based designer Essa, a much-loved, outspoken couturier

1 He's a fan of the event

"Fashion Forward is the only way forward, if you excuse the pun. It's the new voice, the platform, the window of opportunity for designers and a window to the world. Your structure and whole entire business model changes if you follow them. Khalas! We [designers in the UAE] now have a system we can, and must, go by."

2 It's curtains for Dubai Fashion Week

"I'm sorry, but Dubai Fashion Week is in the gutter. It's finished, it's over. Many false promises were made and I don't mind going on the record saying that. And, let me say, its failure wasn't in any way the Government's fault. Proven by the fact that Bong didn't need a Government sponsor for this event."

3 He is bringing a luxe locomotive

"I will be sending 38 womenswear and 12 menswear pieces down the runway. It will be like a Japanese technotronic train. There's just one gown and it's the most edited, severely beautiful, pared-down, modern, fresh and strong collection. There are no embellishments at all. Just, supremely avant-garde cuts and handcrafted pieces.

"With the palette, we're talking about autumn and whites; the most beautiful colours in the world, but not a single bright one. Unless, you consider white bright, of course."

4 A mysterious muse

"The inspiration for my collection is a lady whose name begins with 'M'. She's magical, mysterious, mad, majestic and a mother.

"She is a real person, she's one of my muses and she'll be revealed on the day of the show. But even she doesn't know who she is.

"This is a collection of a very modern woman who is very effortless and taught me something incredible and life-changing in my life. She taught me: 'Don't sweat the small stuff. Ever.' You really have to practise but you must let everything go."

5 Success is about perseverance

"My philosophy is to get up, shut up and work.

"The biggest challenge of the year so far has been a high-class one; being sold out and our manufacturers struggling to meet demand. We're trying to expand very carefully and it just takes a lot to get the right artisans in our workshop and especially high calibre 'petites mains de la haute couture'. We do deluxe ready-to-wear and we're primarily using haute couture fabrics for our prêt-à-porter now. So we're going in a very high-end direction."

Essa's show will take place on Friday at 8.30pm

For more information visit www.facebook.com/pages/ESSA/190046554421257?sk=info

Five questions for the Manila-born, UAE-based couturier Ezra, who is set to deliver a romantic catwalk show inspired by his recent travels

What will you be unveiling at Fashion Forward?

The title of the collection is "Definiendo el Amor", meaning "Defining Love" and it was inspired from my trips to Barcelona. I was in the city last year and I loved it - the people, the food, it was all fantastic. I was amazed by the works of Antoni Gaudí and how his architecture seemed so modern and ancient at the same time. So I drew inspiration from that.

How does that translate to your designs?

My pieces are very structured yet still feminine and with some architectural touches I took from the Gaudí museum. The gowns, from their form to their flowers, are reflective of Barcelona's buildings. I've also used a lot of soft fabrics like silk chiffon, dentelle and crepe. To make the dresses elegant, I've added a lot of beadwork to bring out the silhouette, too.

You'll be in good company at Fashion Forward, alongside Michael Cinco, Essa, Furne One, etc. Are you all friends or just competitive peers? What's the dynamic of the group?

Oh yes, all of them are my friends, which is really nice. Although we're all in the same field, we have different clients, different tastes and styles. That's good because we need to have a broad variety of designers here with varied collections. Of course, it is a competition, but it is a friendly one.

In terms of international designers, your love of Lacroix is well documented. Does he still reign supreme for you?

Yes, I still love the colour palette of Christian Lacroix and Valentino when it comes to simplicity and femininity.

Alexander McQueen is also one of the best and of course I have huge admiration for late Christian Dior.

You've gone from seven to nearly 65 employees in less than a decade. What ambitions do you still have for the label?

Well, I never expected this kind of success. In fact, when I started in 2004, I was pretty much doing everything myself; from the buying to the designing, pitching to clients and even the accounts. So I'm very happy that little by little we've been able to expand a lot in nine years.

Catch Ezra's show on Saturday at 6pm

Visit www.ezrafashiondesign.com for more information

The first edition of Fashion Forward runs from tomorrow until Monday, It is a free event, but entry is by invitation only. To register for your chance at an invitation and to see schedule details at Dubai's Madinat Jumeirah, go to www.fashionforward.ae

rduane@thenational.ae

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