The finalists for the 2021 Fashion Trust Arabia Awards represent a wealth of talent from across the Mena region, bringing together emerging designers from Lebanon, Egypt, the UAE and more.
From a record number of applicants, 24 shortlisted names were announced on Monday for the annual awards, which celebrate the categories of ready-to-wear, eveningwear, jewellery, accessories and debut talent.
In the wake of 2020's myriad difficulties – from the pandemic to the blast in Beirut – even well-established fashion brands around the world have struggled to adjust, making support for rising talent even more important at this time.
"We received a record number of more than 800 applications and had an immense pool of talent this year," said Fashion Trust Arabia's co-founder and co-chair Tania Fares.
“We feel that designers and businesses need assistance now more than ever. I wish all the amazing finalists the best of luck, they are all exceptionally talented.”
The winners of each of the five categories will be announced on Thursday, March 25, in Doha, in a physical ceremony that will also be live-streamed.
Founded in 2018 as a non-profit organisation to nurture and support emerging talent in the region, Fashion Trust Arabia aims to shine a spotlight on the many talented creators across the region.
To this end, each year it tasks an advisory board with selecting 24 finalists from hundreds of applicants.
This year's board includes Tunisian actress Afef Jnifen, Chloe designer Gabriela Hearst, fashion journalist Hamish Bowles, stylist Ib Kamara, French Vogue fashion director Aleksandra Woroniecka, Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz and Lebanese creative director Roger Moukarzel.
Meet the 2021 FTA Awards nominees
This category includes eponymous Lebanese brand Lama Jouni, which launched in 2013 and is known for its sleek tailoring and strong contemporary vision. The other nominees are Cynthia Merhej from Lebanon, Maram Aboul Enein from Egypt and Iraqi brand Zaid Affas.
One nominee is the Moroccan designer Mohamed Benchellal, whose modern take on eveningwear has captured the attention of fashion magazines around the world, as well as bagged him the top award at the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize.
The other names up for the FTA award are Eli Mizrahi from Lebanon, Harith Hashim from Iraq and Laith Maalouf from Jordan.
Alia bin Omair is one of the names nominated in this category. The brand was founded in the UAE in 2016, and bin Omair uses elements from the country and transforms them into precious jewellery, such as her Levonah necklace, cast from frankincense.
The other names given a nod in the category are Azza Skhiri Bouchamaoui from Tunisia, Julien Riad Sahyoun from Morocco, and Tania and Dima Nawbar from Lebanon.
Although only launched in 2019, Saudi Arabian label Dania Shinkar has been nominated for the FTA Awards. Using Italian know-how to create its eye-catching and eccentric designs, the eponymous label offers an antidote to mass production.
Also nominated in the category are Bilal Fellah from Algeria, Kuwaiti designer Haya Al AbdulKareem and Zakaria Bendriouich from Morocco.
Franca Sozzani Debut Talent Award
Iraq's Malik Thomas Jalil Kydd has been nominated for the category named in honour of the late Italian Vogue editor. Leaning on his mixed British-Iraqi upbringing, the designer creates gender-fluid daywear, often using traditional motifs.
The other names shortlisted in this category are AbdelGader El Tayeb Al Sadig from Sudan, Mina Tahir by Mintallah Tahir from Egypt and Roudha by Roudha Ahmed Almazroei from Qatar.
In addition, there is a special sixth category that this year will highlight Colombian designers.
The first initiative of its kind in the region, winners in each category will receive a grant of up to $200,000 and a one-year partnership with Matches Fashion, which includes showcasing their collections across many platforms, plus mentoring from industry experts.