London Fashion Week makes room for emerging Middle East labels

A pop-up showroom will celebrate the works of six regional ready-to-wear and jewellery designers, allowing them to showcase their creations to international industry leaders

Amid the usual fare of big-name designers at London Fashion Week will be a pop-up showroom entitled ­DXB>LDN. Located in the Designer Showrooms exhibition area at the Store Studios at 180 The Strand, the showroom will celebrate six emerging designers from the Middle East, and is curated by Dubai start-up Share This Space, which describes itself as the "Airbnb of commercial and creative spaces".

“We are using this opportunity to celebrate the women behind selected brands, and help the international community see the real [face of] modern and entrepreneurial Arab ‘boss women’,” says Shahzad Bhatti, founder of Share This Space. “Our ethos has always been to support designers, creatives and start-ups from this region, and the DXB>LDN Showroom is the perfect opportunity to showcase the talent we have on a global platform.”

The space where the six ready-to-wear and jewellery designers can meet and network with buyers and the media, with a select edit of their pieces available for sale. The designers include Lou by Hebatullah, Sheen, La Bulle and Also, Freedom.

"As a newcomer to the fashion industry, participating at LFW is an enormous learning opportunity on how to best present, increase awareness of and sell my brand. I hope to learn from industry leaders and make lots of fruitful connections," says Hebatullah Essawy, founder of Dubai's Lou by Hebatullah. The ready-to-wear womenswear label is known for its edgy creations; one of its collections draws inspiration from ancient Egypt, and includes pieces such as the Isis Wings top and Nefertiti vest, while the latest collection, Glitch, celebrates the beauty in flaws. "I have huge respect for Arab women in the fashion industry and, as a designer, I hope I can represent a fresh and edgy point of view of Middle Eastern fashion to London," adds Essawy.

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The city and its fashion week have always been a huge draw for designers and clients from the GCC. It’s what got Bhatti thinking about the showroom in the first place, he says. “We recently opened our first pop-up store in London and got a huge response from designers in the Middle East looking to expand their retail presence in London. So we thought, what better way to do this than at London Fashion Week, which is attended by the most important decision-makers in the fashion industry? We reached out to the British Fashion Council who were very supportive.”

Nosheen Bakhsh, who founded fine-jewellery brand Sheen in 2013, adds: “London is a central hub for fashion, and the access and exposure that this event offers Sheen is hard to put into words. I look forward to seeing where I can take the brand from here.” The Saudi-born Kashmiri designer, who is based in Dubai, channels her pluralistic upbringing in her collections, each of which is inspired by a particular culture; the latest, for example, references the royal jewellery from Mughal history.

For some of the designers, ­DXB>LDN is the perfect platform to gauge how their creations are viewed internationally. “I hope this showcase allows me to see how La Bulle is received by visitors to London Fashion Week and to gain more visibility,” says designer Esther Bon Antoun, founder of handmade womenswear label La Bulle. “Also, I will be surrounded by so many talented designers, and hopefully can collaborate with them in the future. My next step is to develop a winter collection, travelling as I do between Dubai, Beirut and Paris, and share this mix of cultures I put in my creations.”

Meanwhile, Dahlia Hage, founder of Also, Freedom, wants to use the opportunity to propagate the brand’s “exist with intention and not follow [others] blindly” motto. Known for its unisex T-shirts with thoughtful text, including its slogan “Don’t postpone your freedom”, the label aims to use fashion – and, by extension, the DXB>LDN showroom – as a vessel for people to re-examine their happiness.

“Fashion can be used to express a huge range of ideas yet, much of the time, instead of using their platforms to express actionable ideas, brands use text and the power of words for inactionable or purely trendy [expressions] that aren’t meaningful or won’t necessarily improve the quality of ­someone’s life,” says Hage. “Taking this further, inactionable labels then often propel a culture of mediocrity or pure relatability instead of improvement. Considering the power brands can wield, I believe such platforms should be used consciously,” she explains.

“I hope to spread the insight that higher quality messages need to be relevant in fashion. The current standards for thought and active expressions of freedom undoubtedly need attention. Our goal is to provoke more meaningful thoughts aloud by showcasing our brand at a creation-driven event like London Fashion Week.”

The DXB>LDN pop-up will be open from September 14 to 18 at 180 The Strand. Visitors can register online or at the entrance to access the Designer Showrooms


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