Fashion guru Reem Acra set to reveal top local talent at Yas Mall fashion contest

Catwalk to success: Three emerging UAE-based designers vie to become winner of Yas Mall’s ‘Design your way to runway’ competition.

Shamsa Saeed Khalaf Al Mazroui’s collection for Bon Dana. Courtesy Shamsa Al Mazroui
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It’s not everyday that a luminary from the world of haute couture comes to the UAE to judge a regional fashion show, but on Wednesday, Reem Acra will do just that.

The Lebanese designer, who is based in New York, will be in Abu Dhabi to choose the winner of Design Your Way to the Runway contest at Yas Mall.

Three finalists have been shortlisted from hundreds of entrants in a competition aimed at promoting local talent. Held in conjunction with Yas Mall Fashion Week, which runs from Wednesday, October 12 to Saturday, October 15, the winning designer will be flown to a yet-to-be-revealed fashion destination, such as London, Paris or New York, by Etihad Airways. They will also have their pieces displayed at the Tyrano department store in the mall.

“We are committed to supporting the next generation of creative talent through initiatives such as this,” says Saoud Khoory, the mall’s general manager. “These competitions help pave a way for discovering and nurturing fresh-thinking, emerging talented designers, and we are proud to be leading it.”

Acra selected the finalists based on the wearability, creativity and originality of their collections. They are: Shamsa Saeed Khalaf Al Mazroui, the Emirati owner of the Bon Dana label; Arshia Khan from Pakistan, the founder of the brand Arshys; and Ukranian Katerina Nechyporenko, who is a spatial-concept designer at The One stores.

Each of them submitted six sketches of designs from an arabesque collection, which will be shown on the catwalk on the opening day of YMFW.

“I was surprised and delighted when they told me I was shortlisted,” says Abu Dhabi-based Al Mazroui who specialises in Emirati eveningwear and luxury nightwear.

“I focused on light, summery shades of gold, green and pink using dentelle, silks and chiffons accented with crystals and embroidery.

“We need more designer competitions like this to motivate young local talent to pursue a career in fashion. This will help develop of the fashion scene in the Abu Dhabi. The prospects are good and the hard work will pay off.”

Al Mazroui, who began designing clothes in 2001, is no stranger to accolades, having won Emirati Designer of the Year in 2012 at the Arab Woman Awards. To be recognised by Acra, however, would be particularly special for her.

“Reem fills me with a lot of confidence,” she says. “And through this competition, I know I’ll receive a lot of exposure in front of fashion icons like her and international brands.

“I believe it is very important to establish new clients and thus develop my business – and perhaps I’ll event be succeed in displaying my outfits in Harrods one day.”

Increased exposure and expanding her brand are also the priorities for Khan, from Dubai. Her style story began in 2008 when she debuted her label at Dubai Fashion Week. She went on to scoop the Swarovski Innovation Design Award in 2009, and after a hiatus to raise a family, she is keen to return to the fashion scene.

Her entry features retro-style kaftans and colourblocking capes, inspired by the sleek contours of the Formula One racing cars of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“For designers such as me, the biggest challenge is finding opportunities that give us a chance to show our creativity,” says Khan. “The UAE market is very competitive because of the large melting pot of cultures, and we therefore need to create collections with global appeal.”

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