x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Confusion surrounds last-minute postponement of fashion week

Confusion surrounds the last-minute postponement of Abu Dhabi Fashion Week.

ABU DHABI // Confusion surrounds the last-minute postponement of Abu Dhabi Fashion Week, an event organisers said would put the capital on par with the great fashion cities of Milan, Paris and New York. Abu Dhabi companies named as sponsors of the event, which had been scheduled for last week, are either denying involvement or saying they have been unable to establish contact with organisers for several months.

Press material released earlier this month by the co-organisers, Maven Corporate, listed several sponsors including Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi Government's investment arm, Aldar, the emirate's largest property developer, and Etihad Airways. Maven Corporate announced last Wednesday, a day before the event was due to start, that it would not take place because of "unrealised contractual commitments of the Emirati majority shareholder". It promised new dates would be announced "in due time".

Tom Clarke, a spokesman for Etihad, said the airline was "not a sponsor" of this month's cancelled fashion show. Ousama Ghannoum, the marketing and media director of Aldar Properties, said Aldar was a sponsor only of the Abu Dhabi Fashion Week launch event in November last year and the inaugural Abu Dhabi Fashion Week in March. He added: "We did not agree to sponsor any other fashion week." A spokesman for Mubadala said in February it had agreed to sponsor the fashion week for "two seasons", specifically the two events scheduled for this year.

"Despite efforts to contact Maven Corporate since April of this year, Mubadala has been unable to reach them. This is obviously very disappointing for everyone involved." Saeed al Badi, the president of Gulf Horizon Group, said the fashion week's chief organiser, Dr Alice Teeuwen, initially approached his family about being partners and sought help in contacting major corporations that could act as sponsors.

"When she came to the UAE, we opened our house, we opened our heart," Mr Badi said. "We said we'd support any contacts she needs." He said the fashion week launch event last November and the first fashion week in March went well. However, around the time of the March event, employees of Maven Corporate began contacting the al Badi family claiming they had not been paid. Dr Teeuwen, he said, approached the family requesting financial assistance, something he said the family had not agreed to provide.

He said the family had not been in contact with Dr Teeuwen since earlier this year and he was "shocked" that Maven Corporate was still using the family's name, along with the names of Etihad, Mubadala and Aldar, in relation to the event. He said Maven Corporate "had no right" to continue to use these names. Several sources have indicated that suppliers previously involved in the fashion week contacted sponsors after they had not been paid.

One supplier involved in the launch event in November, the Swiss-based Edward Quinn Archive, said it had only this month been paid for 83 photographs it supplied. Ursula Frei from the organisation said 22 photographs were damaged and eight were not returned. According to Ms Frei, "many, many other suppliers and clients in Europe" were not paid. The inaugural Abu Dhabi Fashion Week in March this year, for which Aldar was listed as the foundation sponsor and Mubadala and Etihad as gold sponsors, featured well-known brands such as Pucci and Missoni.

A promotional event to launch the brand the previous November included a fashion show by the legendary Italian designer Valentino. In last Wednesday's statement, a "Maven Corporate representative" said the latest event was being "postponed" with "sincere regret". The event, the statement said, was being organised by Maven Corporate and the Fashion Resources Park, a "state-of-the-art hub and headquarters for the fashion industry being planned in Abu Dhabi".

"The unrealised contractual commitments of the Emirati majority stakeholder have forced us to defer the launch of the event," it said. The National contacted Maven Corporate, but the only response was an email containing last week's statement. dbardsley@thenational.ae