x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Gulf designers catch Hilary Alexander's eye at Muscat Fashion Week

The Telegraph fashion journalist Hilary Alexander is on the ground for Muscat Fashion Week.

The person that designers showing at Muscat Fashion Week clamoured to have their photo taken with was not one of the many royals or Gulf socialites in attendance but the legendary print and broadcast fashion journalist Hilary Alexander, who had flown in from London to participate in the event for the third time.

"It's lovely to be here and I think Muscat Fashion Week is very sophisticated," she said between shows.

Despite having sat through hundreds of fashion weeks from New York to Delhi over the course of a career that has spanned decades, the diminutive New Zealand-born style savant clearly hasn't lost her zeal for good design.

Toes tapping and pen scribbling throughout MFW's opening night on Tuesday - and clad in an ensemble that included a Dries Van Noten skirt, a vintage jacket from Rajasthan, bejewelled flip-flops from Topshop and a Maasai necklace made from recycled car parts - Alexander was struck by the UAE-based label DAS Collection.

"Hind Beljafla seems very well organised and I thought some of her evening wear was beautiful," she said. "There was a red evening gown with a caped top and a full skirt, which was lovely. There was also a rise-and-fall dress that had a green top and blue, slightly petalled skirt.

"Some DAS pieces reminded me a lot of Yves Saint Laurent's early collections, which were Morocco and jalabiya inspired," she added. "So if he can do it in the 1970s, I don't see why it can't be done in the 21st century."

Whether Middle East and North African fashion displayed in Oman holds much appeal for developed western markets, Alexander was cautiously optimistic.

"I think you have to pick carefully," she said. "Some of the pieces look very traditional but there are others where you think 'Gosh! That is a beautiful evening dress' and you don't think of it as regional or Gulf. It's just an evening gown."

Though she wields the power to crush or catapult emerging designers through a single paragraph on the Telegraph's website, Alexander had nothing but encouragement for the couturiers gathered in Muscat for the three-day event.

"I find it fascinating to see a country starting to develop its fashion industry," she said, adding that she was intrigued by the Omani designer who launched the three-day event. "And I would have liked to have seen more of the beaded minis and leggings by Nawal Al Hooti as that was really striking."

Muscat's fashion week should be considered outside of industry stalwarts London or Paris fashion weeks, she added.

"You can't compare them, really, and shouldn't even try. I think the important point is that fashion is not just a frivolous exercise in shopping. It's a real growth industry and it provides employment as well as a boost to the economy. It's not just women going out and buying handbags."

rduane@thenational.ae