Fashion Forward event set to be biggest so far this year

Fashion events in Dubai are part of the emirate’s plans to diversify and make Dubai a regional fashion hub.

Vincenzo Visciglia, left, and Ahmad Ammar, co-founders of Dubai fashion brand Aavva, with Anna Vladi, creative director of Rira Gallery, at the Fashion Forward event at Madinat Jumeria on April 12, 2014. Duncan Chard for the National.
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DUBAI // Fashion events in Dubai are part of the emirate’s plans to diversify and make Dubai a regional fashion hub.

Fashion Forward, a bi-annual event that brings designers from across the region for catwalk shows and workshops is expected to be its biggest so far this year with designers from countries from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.

Dubai hosts several regional fashion events such as Harper’s Bazaar World of Fashion and Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience so is increasingly attracting those passionate about fashion to the emirate.

Sally Edwards, director of Dubai Calendar, said of the event, which is in its third season: “Alongside its world-class culinary, sporting, music and community offering, fashion events such as Fashion Forward complement Dubai’s dynamic events calendar and encourage guests the world over to visit the emirate each year.

“Already a worldwide go-to events destination, Dubai is without doubt a fashion hub of the future since it plays host to the globe’s largest brands and the world’s biggest shopping centre, the Dubai Mall. Events such as Fashion Forward, which provide regional designers with a platform to showcase their work at the international level, constitute a key stepping stone in achieving fashion-capital status for the emirate as they help to export UAE designs out of the city and on to the global catwalk.

“It is thanks to such events that we soon hope to see Dubai’s name next to style capitals such as New York and London, which will in turn encourage a further influx of fashion-hungry visitors to arrive in Dubai.”

Vanessa Northway, head of the school of textiles and design at Heriot Watt University’s Dubai campus, agrees and says the event is a key time in the fashion calendar for Dubai and its future talent.

“Fashion Forward has become the major player in Dubai for promoting fashion within the Gulf and beyond. It’s a very central point for fashion and the event is an absolute must to attend. We meet and network with designers, merchandisers and marketing people from all over the Gulf and beyond.”

With a growing number of students in the emirate from the likes of Esmod school of fashion and Dubai Women’s College, she said such international events are key to developing local talent who get hands-on industry experience either interning or showcasing their designs.

Ms Northway, however, says that for the city to really be a regional fashion hub, “Dubai still has a way to go in creating a viable design industry to match the retail sector but it is definitely moving in the right direction”.

Bong Guerrero, founder and chief executive of Fashion Forward, said things are changing.

“In just under a year, FFWD has grown into a strong and credible fashion platform for the region and most importantly for our regional designers,” he said.

Having partnered Dubai Design District, he said the event is now part of “the Government and Sheikh Mohammed’s wider vision for Fashion 2020, growing and establishing Dubai and the region as a fashion and design hub for the future”.

Over the first two seasons more than 27,000 guests attended the event. Participants this year include the likes of Fern Mallis, the creator of New York Fashion Week.

“While our focus is heavily on our region and improving and growing our industry in the Middle East, through the support and involvement of these international guests we can learn and grow from the experience of these seasoned professionals,” Mr Guerrero said.

Dubai-based designers see it as an event not to miss, both for getting their own exposure and sourcing inspiration from other regional designers.

The founders of locally founded Aavva, which was launched in 2012, were at the event in Madinat Jumeirah yesterday.

“Fashion Forward really is a must-attend event for any designer here in Dubai and in the region,” said co-founder Ahmad Ammar, who is an engineering consultant in addition to his role as designer for Aavva. Though not participating this season, they say a presence is vital for anyone in the industry.

“We have been so busy this season with several projects and have been dressing several prominent figures here from TV presenters to influential locals, which is something we prioritise, but we will certainly be a part of the next show.”

His partner, co-founder Vincenzo Visciglia, an architect, said: “It is a huge platform for people around the region. Dubai is really becoming a fashion hub for this region. People have always thought of it as a place to come and shop but now there is a lot of emerging talent coming through who can really get the exposure they deserve through this event.”