Opportunity comes knocking again

Having been the executive put in charge of reviving Dubai Fashion Week back in 2011, we asked Simon Lock what lessons had been learnt from the event's ultimate demise.

Simon Lock, the former creative director of Dubai Fashion Week. Photo Antonie Robertson / The National
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As the catwalks are ­readied for Fashion Forward’s ­second season from ­October 15 to 18, we caught up with the man dubbed Australia’s ‘godfather of Fashion Week’, Simon Lock. Having been the executive put in charge of reviving Dubai Fashion Week back in 2011, we asked what lessons had been learnt from the event’s ultimate demise.

Fashion Forward successfully burst onto the scene in April. What did you make of its debut?

I think they did a great job, they really did. They were very clever not to stand too tall on their soapbox, which is maybe the mistake I made, quite frankly. They basically said, we don’t know where this is going, let’s give it a try, nurture something and let’s do it together. That was very smart. They underplayed expectations and it was a great event. It really showed the enthusiasm of the industry to get together and do something ­powerful.

What more could be done to galvanise the UAE’s fashion industry?

I’m really hoping the Government’s initiative [to become a global fashion hub], Dubai Fashion 2020, will be the catalyst to bring it all together.

Industries need a framework and one of the problems with Dubai Fashion Week was that it was privately owned by a company that really didn’t have a vested interest in the fashion industry at all. They were in it for the commercial outcomes the event could generate.

Fashion weeks are part of an ecosystem, with all parts of the industry contributing, building and evolving slowly. So, when the organisation that owned DFW didn’t get the commercial results they wanted straight away, it was a case of, we’re pulling the plug, see you later.

I was disappointed and, at that time, thought perhaps the Government would get behind the event and there would be some future to it. But I do realise there needed to be a greater infrastructure around it for them to do that – and that is being built now.

Is the Dubai Fashion Week mantle hard to shrug off? Are you tired of answering questions about its failure?

No, not really. It just died a natural death because it wasn’t sustainable. For me, what’s far more interesting is what the Executive Council and Tecom have done in creating Dubai Fashion 2020. The seven-year support programme will really look to develop a number of growth opportunities for the fashion industry. There’s also talk of generating a fantastic, hybrid event which could be the new coming of something like Dubai Fashion Week or even build upon Fashion Forward. From giving support to entrepreneurs and starting fashion and incubator programmes – all these new initiatives will connect with what Tecom have already announced in D3 [Dubai Design District].

You’re working on private and public fashion projects in the UAE. Does that mean the DFW experience didn’t completely perturb you?

Exactly. The thing that I’m really thankful for is that at least the Dubai Government has asked me to look at some of its future plans. I came here armed with all my international experience and I’ve developed a lot of intellectual property in the fashion industry. Now, I feel I also have a lot of understanding and local experience. So, yes, I feel I have a perspective which could help.

What else have you been up to?

Kirsten [a partner and a fashion editor] and I have been travelling a lot and we’ve been working on our website, KirstenMeetSimon. It’s a bit different, have a look. I think we’re up to 90,000 unique visitors per month now, which is great.

• For details on Fashion Forward Season 2, visit www.fashion­forward.ae. Follow Kirsten and Simon’s conversations, ­confessions and closets as they ­attend global fashion events at www.kirstenmeetsimon.com