Sole DXB has undergone quite a transformation in the past eight years.
Now of a size to attract brands such as Adidas Originals, Burberry, Farfetch, Puma and Kenzo, which will all be offering their latest wares this year, more street-style designs will also be available courtesy of niche names such as Les Benjamins, Shabab Intl and even old-school sportswear label Kappa.
More importantly, however, is that somewhere in the middle of its jam-packed calendar, Sole DXB will host a brand new venture. Titled d3 Marketplace, it is an exclusive platform set up in conjunction with Dubai Design District to support 12 up-and-coming fashion designers from across the world and help introduce them to a wider crowd.
Just as Fashion Forward Dubai is about giving a hand up to new fashion names, Sole DXB is offering the same boost to streetwear designers – and giving more choice to shoppers along the way.
Here are the labels to look out for during Sole DXB.
Founded by Azra Khamissa, this Dubai bag brand is focused on sleek style, with a nod to sustainability. With an eye on the bigger picture, the label sources underused – and extremely hard-wearing – camel hide. “We decided to use camel leather due to its durability and availability in the local market,” Khamissa explains. “The skins are all ethically sourced from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.”
By tapping into this local material, Khamissa is not only helping to reduce the carbon footprint of her products, but her brand is bolstering the local economy, too.
For its latest collection, the house has teamed up with regional talent to add an Emirati flavour. "This winter we are collaborating with a local designer that has been making a lot of noise in the region, Precious Trust. We have created a leather bag that will be launched exclusively at Sole DXB."
One of the brands returning from last year's festival is Leaf Apparel. Hailing from Cape Town, this streetwear brand was founded by Salik Harris, offering loose, almost snowboarding-style tops and trousers. Functional and durable with understated touches, this is seriously wearable skate gear. At last year's event, the brand was so popular that rap star Roxanne Shante donned Leaf Apparel for a talk she gave. Expect pieces made exclusively for this year's festival.
One and Four Studio is the brainchild of Egyptian designer Engy Mahdy and offers loose clothing with a unisex concept. Aiming to blur the lines of sharply defined sartorial expectations, Mahdy explains, "gender fluidity is important within streetwear culture, where it is very common for pieces to be unisex". "In urban wear, clothing, shoes and accessories, are not defined by gender but by the persona of the type of consumer that will wear them," she says.
Think the same top recut for men and women, or masculine cargo shorts upgraded with a twist. "It's important to understand the relationship we have with our clothing, physically as well as emotionally, so the idea is to create a collection that consists of pieces that are designed to be worn together," she says. "We are big fans of Sole DXB and the marketplace ill also allow us to play with some exclusive pieces that were not part of the most recent collection, which were designed specifically with the Sole DXB crowd in mind."
In keeping with the company’s forward-facing philosophy, each piece is made only to order, slashing costs and waste.
Jungles Jungles is a vibrant Australian brand that throws its upbeat logo over cropped sweatpants, hoodies and beanies. Seemingly dropped on sleeves and randomly plonked mid-thigh as a pattern, the logo even makes an appearance on slides and socks (make sure to grab a pair of these). Carefree, filled with attitude and bristling with colour, this feels like Stussy for the modern age.
Next up is Tania George by Jordanian designer Tania Haddad. Offering predominantly womenswear, with some unisex elements, this line is full of retro cuts decorated with cartoonish motifs. Think 1970s Artex jumpers with pastel stripes and cropped trousers covered in milk cartons, all proudly made in Jordan. Despite the cartoon sketches, Haddad is far from childish, having cut her teeth in Florence and New York before returning home in 2015.
Another home-grown label is Vent, which boasts a streetwear collection of sweatshirt dresses and skull sweatpants. "Sole DXB has always been a platform for fashion, art and design, and grants me a huge opportunity to be a part of the culture that is the ever-growing fashion scene in the UAE," founder Yasmina Bourji explains.
Already known for its Shirts that Hurt range – T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with images of Britney Spears, Travis Scott and even Tupac – Bourji says she is confident Sole DXB visitors will find lots of new things this weekend. "You can expect new winter collection pieces and a collaboration dropping exclusively at Sole DXB," she says.
Russian collective Faces&Laces Locals, an online base for young designers, brings an international touch to d3 Marketplace. Part of its offering is the Liars Collective, a sassy, graphics-based brand that uses clothing labels as ironic decoration (grab a tote bag and prove your fashion chops), while another must-shop is DOPECLVBWORLD, whose artwork veers from soft and dreamy to spiky dancing figures. Perfect for days at the skate park.
WafflesnCream is a Nigerian collective of skateboarders, BMX riders, musicians, graffiti artists and videographers who have created a sharp line of clothing most recognisable for its black-and-white squares. Running to trousers, bucket hats, skateboard wheels and even towels, this really is covetable stuff.
The biggest draw of d3 Marketplace has to be Xzavier Zulu. Already described as the new godfather of denim – a huge title in its own right – Zulu has launched his own label called -ism*. For Sole DXB, Zulu is joining forces with Levi's (its other major collaborations at the event is with Bape) to create a limited-edition, three-look capsule collection from repurposed denim. Having scoured Levi's old stock and mixed it with vintage finds, Zulu has conjured a fresh new approach with pieces such as a flat cap cut from back pockets and a kimono-style jacket patchworked from different shades of blue. Limited to only three pieces per style, this is one for serious collectors.