Fashion Week Middle East falters at its Dubai debut

Amid no-shows and delays, the inaugural Fashion Week Middle East faced a lot of growing pains. We talk to its organiser and one designer about their take on the event which took place over the weekend.
The Egyptian designer Hany El Behairy drew a large crowd at his show at Fashion Week Middle East. Courtesy Bareface
The Egyptian designer Hany El Behairy drew a large crowd at his show at Fashion Week Middle East. Courtesy Bareface

Amid no-shows and delays, the inaugural Fashion Week Middle East faced a lot of growing pains. We talk to its organiser and one designer about their take on the event which took place over the weekend

The organiser

Stephanie English-Strickland is the chief executive and managing director of the event organiser English-Strickland & Associates.

How has the inaugural Fashion Week Middle East (FWME) gone?

This is the first season and the first day was a bit challenging, I would say. But, by the end of the night, it was going very smoothly.

What types of challenges are you talking about?

Scheduling challenges, shows running late. We’ve also used a lot of volunteers and sometimes volunteers don’t show up. Bareface model and talent agency did a fantastic job of helping out and it all came together, at the end of the day.

The top-billed designer was Betsey Johnson, but she didn’t appear. What happened?

You know what, Betsey Johnson, bless her heart, will be here next season. She was cast on [reality-TV show] Dancing With the Stars and said: “Stephanie, I would love to come, I’m trying to work it out and if I get voted off I’ll be here. But if not, I’m still going to be dancing with the stars.” So we wish her well and hope she succeeds to the end.

Fifty designers were originally scheduled to appear and then it got down to 25. What’s the actual figure?

About 18 designers – and I’m glad, because 50 would have been overwhelming for the first season. It was ambitious and, maybe, as we build through the years, we’ll get back to that number.

What has attendance been like?

It has been OK. Like I said, in the beginning it was challenging, but we had pretty much a full house for Emily Saunders and a great turnout for Hany El Behairy.

How many buyers have attended the shows – presuming that is the main objective of staging FWME?

It is and we had a buyers’ brunch with about five there, which was really great, and here [at the shows] we have about 10, possibly.

Cameron Silver, the fashion historian and founder of the preloved luxury boutique Decades, in Los Angeles, took to Twitter about FWME [he complained about not having the terms and conditions of his appearance upheld]. Why was he unhappy?

I don’t know, there was a lot of confusion there. For any part that we’ve played in Cameron’s disappointment, we’ve already apologised. We still love him, he’s been fabulous for decades and we love his Bravo TV show. He came and we were very appreciative of that and he’s gone home. Maybe one day he’ll come back, we’ll see.

Do you think you could tempt him back to the region next season?

I don’t know, but I hope so. The universe will let us know soon, won’t it?

The designer

The American fashion designer Jerome LaMaar is the creative director and owner of 5:31 Jérôme.

How has your experience of FWME been?

It’s been great. It’s new and it’s fresh and I think it’s going to explode. There’s a nice collective of designers with a great point of view.

Are you primarily here to court buyers from the region or just to expand your client base?

A bit of both. I’m from New York, so it’s always great to come to a new, developing city and see what the feedback is.

How many buyers have you met so far?

It’s interesting; I’ve spoken to a lot of them via email, but I haven’t met them face-to-face yet. But after the show, they want to see pictures and eventually meet with me, so I’m excited.

Which stores would be your golden ticket?

The Cartel [a concept showroom and store in Dubai], and Barneys New York.

Talk me through your catwalk collection?

It’s inspired by the concept of what a mirage is. Fabrics appear to be like silks but are cottons. Trousers are made from linen and wool but look like tulle. So there are plenty of optical illusions done in a very feminine and elegant way.

Was the mirage theme planned especially for Dubai?

It just happened. The concept came to me two years ago when I first started working on my line and now it just so happens that I’m in Dubai surrounded by sand and all my desert-inspired pieces.

What do you make of the regional fashion scene?

I’m fascinated with the Middle East and I love the simplicity of the abaya. Ladies here have a beautiful understanding of fashion and I love the idea of “protecting what’s yours” when you exit your home. I feel that’s also where my collection comes from: the pieces are almost like armour but are truly feminine and don’t show too much.

www.531jerome.com

rduane@thenational.ae

Published: October 4, 2014 04:00 AM

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