x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Fashion Forward is bringing Middle Eastern style to the world

Fashion Forward aims to showcase the work of regional designers with an educational twist.

The UAE-based fashion designer Ayesha Depala. Jaime Puebla / The National
The UAE-based fashion designer Ayesha Depala. Jaime Puebla / The National

Fashion Forward aims to showcase the work of regional designers with an educational twist.

Designer dates

From Friday until April 29, 18 established and emerging designers from the UAE, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait will congregate in Dubai. Making its debut on the circuit, Fashion Forward will provide creative types with a platform to show their latest couture and ready-to-wear collections to an international audience.

Among the highlights are couture from the UAE-based designers Essa, Ezra, Furne One and Michael Cinco. Another must-see show will be that of the Qatari label Toujouri, as Lama El-Moatassem sends form-fitting cocktail dresses and elegant evening gowns down the catwalk. From even farther afield, the Uzbek designer Yokut Schmid will roll out her nature-inspired designs for women, under her Dubai-based label Whyesse.

Tailored talks

This is more than another fashion week, which is particularly important since the abrupt cancellation of Dubai Fashion Week last year due to funding shortfalls (with no signs of a resurrection). Fashion Forward also offers workshops and interactive sessions featuring designers, buyers and editors.

Heavyweights from the London College of Fashion and New York-based Fashion Institute of Technology are due to fly in to offer advice to those looking to set up their own label or break into the competitive world of fashion photography or journalism.

The event's diverse range of programming aims to meet a real need in the regional industry, according to Bong Guerrero, Fashion Forward's chief executive and creative director, and co-organiser with Ramzi Nakad.

"Education, debate and candid discussion are critical to the growth of the fashion business across the Middle East," he says.

US-UAE ties

Paying his first visit to the Middle East will be Steven Kolb, the chief executive of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). He oversees operations for the US fashion industry's pre-eminent designer trade association.

With his expertise regarding all things apparel, Kolb will be on hand to advise how best to establish a similar fashion trade body for the Middle East.

"Fashion is a global business, and to succeed designers need to understand international markets," he says. "American designers are interested in doing business in the Middle East, and Middle Eastern designers are interested in America. For the CFDA to be a part of Fashion Forward allows us to help bridge these opportunities."

Fabulous finale

Next Sunday marks the last full day of the event, kicking off at 1pm with a masterclass in hair trends by L'Oreal Professionel, Paris.

Also not to be missed, as she showcases her autumn/winter 2013 collection, will be the Dubai-based designer-to-the-stars Ayesha Depala. She'll bring the day's proceedings to a climax with the final show at 9.30pm. Those who don't want to leave empty-handed, but are unable to stretch their budgets to accommodate couture, can satisfy their cravings at one of the pop-up shops that will be dotted around the venue. Among the many stands, and up for grabs, will be Ottoman-inspired turbans by the Emirati designer Khulood Thani and handcrafted diamond-embellished rings by the Lebanese jewellery creator Francois Ayoub.

Fashion Forward will be held at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai from Friday until April 29

Spaces for the interactive sessions are limited and by invitation only. For more information and to register for a chance of an invitation, go to www.fashionforward.ae