9 highlights from Arab Fashion Week

The all-digital event presented spring/summer 2021 collections from designers around the world

The 12th Arab Fashion Week drew to a close on Saturday, concluding an all-digital event that featured more than 30 fashion designers from around the world. Here were some of the standout moments.

Maya Diab’s opening address

Arab Fashion Week brought in the big guns to kick off its 12th event. Lebanese superstar Maya Diab presented an opening address, lauding the event for going ahead in spite of global challenges. Diab, who was named Fashion Icon of the Arab World by the event organiser, the Arab Fashion Council, delivered a live speech from Beirut, appearing on an empty catwalk in a feathered dress. "I salute the council for keeping the event happening in these hard times that the world is passing through. Stay safe but stay trendy as well," she said.

Amato Couture goes Bollywood 

The UAE's Amato Couture continued the event's star-studded streak with a short fashion film starring Bollywood actress Urvashi Rautela. The former Miss Universe India helped showcase Amato’s Divine collection, which was strong, tribal and overloaded with the brand's signature embellishments, including earrings that dropped to midway down the chest, oversized necklaces fit for a Nubian queen and a playsuit that could double as a suit of armour.

Brazilian flair

Day two of Arab Fashion Week was dedicated to Brazilian designers, as part of an initiative dubbed Brazil Noble. Six of the country's designers presented their spring/summer 2021 collections.

Lebanese-Brazilian label Aavva, founded in 2011 by Ahmad Ammar and Vincenzo Visciglia, delivered an unashamedly sensual black-and-white collection that featured corsets worn as outerwear; semi-transparent gowns slashed across the front; pearlesque fringing falling across backless dresses; and a plunging suit jacket adorned with crystal lapels.

Nonetheless, it was the look that covered the most skin that made the most impact. The brand's bridal offering, a voluminous tent of white fabric with a single pleat down the front, paired with strands of oversized black beads, was as simple as it was striking.

Ezra Tube’s futuristic approach

Committed to melding fashion and technology, by embracing smart fabrics, and embedding sensors and microchips into fabrics and embroidery, Turkish brand Ezra Tuba offered a warning in its Arab Fashion Week outing.

It's founders, Turkish sisters Ezra and Tuba Cetin, presented a short film starring robots, who warned of the environmental and humanitarian risk currently facing planet Earth. The clothes themselves were as futuristic as could be expected, with silver space-age boots, oversized visors and graphic patterning against an all-black palette.

Tech-savvy footwear

Day three of the event was dedicated to Lebanese fashion designers, in a tribute to Beirut. Footwear label Poise launched its latest collection, a collaboration with technology giant Microsoft. Inspired by the Microsoft logo, the new Poise stilettos feature a bow on their side, and come in bold block colours. They are crafted from deadstock leathers by artisans in Lebanon, and are available on a pre-order basis. "Technology is here to empower, define and elevate the fashion business," said Emma Boutros, creative director of Poise.

“With Microsoft, we tried to create shoes that we want to believe are more of an antidote to the dark mood enveloping 2020. The #poisexmicrosoft shoes will lift you up physically and metaphorically, by lifting your mood and bringing you joy.”

Star power

"Every woman is a star," said Lebanese designer Aboud Jammal, in explanation of his latest collection, Luminescent. At Arab Fashion Week, he presented a line of sensually draped evening gowns in bold, iridescent shades of orange, raspberry, cobalt blue, emerald and purple. Artfully crafted from raffia, metallic fabrics, silk muslin, dotted tulle and delicate floral and beetle-shaped embroidery, this was one of the event's stand-out collections.

Floral delights

Colombian designer Glory Ang captured the vibrancy of her Cartagenian roots with a collection that was modern, feminine and inclusive. Ang presented her spring/summer 2021 Manglar collection in a short film that transported viewers to the heart of Colombia.

Taking direct inspiration from the mangroves found in the South American country, as well as the flora and fauna bordering the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Ang combined simple cuts, bold colour combinations and vintage-looking fabrics to deliver a collection that is immensely wearable.

Back to nature

The origami-inspired sleeves on a bright green fitted jumpsuit set the tone for Jane, the latest collection from Maison Mada'en. The line was simple yet sculptural, dominated by geometric silhouettes and plenty of taffeta. The brand's founder, Farah Bseiso, a Jordanian-British designer who now lives in Dubai, decided to unveil the collection in the Green Planet, as a comment on the more simple, natural lifestyles we have all been forced to consider as a result of the global pandemic.

A celebration of female strength

Precise, architectural, graphic, bold and feminine, the latest collection from SemSem is a statement on women's strength. Plisse techniques and pyramid-inspired silhouettes nod to the engineering background and Middle Eastern heritage of the brand's founder, Abeer Al Otaiba. Draped gold gowns referenced Egyptian goddesses, while soft, luxurious silks were hand embellished to create dramatic kaftans.

"This season, I felt called to focus on the unwavering strength of women," said Al Otaiba. "Given what is currently going on in the world, women are juggling it all – we're teachers, cooks, caregivers and more. The challenges this year has presented reminds me women are resilient and should feel beautiful in all of the different hats we wear."