x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The outlook remains sunny - for now

Dubai fashion week It braved the recession and acquitted itself quite well, featuring sunny yellow as the colour of the season.

A bright yellow dress by Salma Khan.
A bright yellow dress by Salma Khan.

As Dubai Fashion Week drew to a close on Thursday with an outstanding, clean-cut collection from the British-Omani label BodyAmr, there was plenty of discussion about the purpose and success of the event. A lacklustre response from the industry's money people was to be expected in a season when even London Fashion Week had to pay for flights and accommodation for international buyers to ensure the crowds. But in the main the feeling was that, with a few awful exceptions, the clothes had improved somewhat on last season's collections.

While few collections were radical, groundbreaking or even truly fabulous, they were almost all packed with pretty silken gowns that will sell well for those buyers who pick them up. Wearability is always a recession watchword, and while the conceptual fashion is interesting, the season's fashion weeks so far have all featured plenty of realistic fare. So here, in tribute to the flattering frock, is an analysis of the key looks of DFW.

First off, yellow is the colour. The nice thing about autumn/winter in Dubai is that it's as bright, fresh and colourful as spring/summer, with one or two concessions to the slightly cooler weather. Thus, almost every designer sent out a dress in acid yellow, often in the floating layers of gossamer-light silk that were a favourite for the season. Among the best were versions by BodyAmr, Aly Al Fawaz, Royal Rickshaw and Raakhee Raipanchula, all of whom kept the shapes simple and slender, letting the colour do the talking.

Next, embellished abayas made an appearance, as expected, but the draping and gathering that appeared right across the collections this season lent themselves beautifully to those fluid silhouettes, with ruffles and ruching enhancing a strong selection of evening abayas by Reem and Hind Ali Beljafla for their label DAS, and more austere shapes with batwing or kimono sleeves at Amal Murad, all brightened with vivid trimmings.

Sharp tailoring is not a common sight in Dubai, but both Vikram Phadnis and HSY applied their superb cutting skills to richly embroidered jackets, waistcoats and A-line dresses worn over churidar pyjamas, with swathes of heavy fabric keeping things luxe and feminine. This wintery look was complemented with autumnal shades of teal, gold and rust, but those were not the only cold-weather shades among the vivid brights: two of India's favourite designers, Phadnis and Manish Malhotra, eschewed the traditional Bollywood bling in favour of pared-down palettes of black and gold, for collections that were regal but spare.

Straight on trend was the obsession with folding, draping and ruching, with fabric either sculpted over strict corsets and stiffly ruffled, as at Amit GT, fluidly hanging in one-shoulder gowns, falling into multilayered dresses, or scrunched over wide crinoline skirts. One look that was beautifully in tune with the international collections was the cropped harem pant at Vikram Phadnis, paired with neat, tight, high-waisted jackets and bare feet with anklets.

Those figure-hugging gowns in vibrant shades, the extravagant Swarovski detailing (because no UAE collection is complete without crystals), the cartoonish appliqués, the fishtail hems in sequin-studded tulle: they may not be groundbreaking but they are, for the moment, what Dubai Fashion Week is all about. To draw international buyers, things will have to change - and the presence of the likes of BodyAmr and Vikram Phadnis shows a willingness to look forward - but for now, for this season, there remains an industry and consumers enough to keep things ticking along. Job done.