A vision. Conceptualised and realised by a group of individuals who simply thought to themselves 'you know what, enough of the show off - let's build...'
And so, you've seen all the news, the pictures, the hype. All wonderful, and well deserved. But...
The internationally inclined, in-depth and unabashed insight of this fashion forwarding necessary triumph has arrived, for you... below:
Within my worldly observations, opinions and executions in cultural excellence, I've never deemed it necessary to consult, cover or attend any of the so-called "fashion weeks" Dubai has unfortunately wasted claim on. This is mainly due to the fact that without production lines, actual collections, buyers, first class editors or any kind of global influencers, none could have deemed themselves an adequate platform - for any kind of adequate showcase. If the 'fashion industry' surrounding these 'shows' would even be the right title for a group of basic non-entities, whose overall contribution to this industry's growth would generally consist of flocking, posing and photo bombing.
Almost 7 months ago, my dearest of friends/PR maven/Dubai fashion disturber Saira Mehar told me about a concept for the region called Fashion Forward.
"Babe, this is everything you stand and pioneer for" said she. "Your push for cultural ownership, identity, story, intelligent application, filtering the fake, developing the excellent, all that, this is it, and bougi must come to Dubai to highlight it..." said she.
"I see..." said I. Does this mean the true talent I know to exist in the region will now have the starting foundations they need to properly express themselves? "YES!" said she.
There was no doubt in mind that my lady Mehar was accurate in her description, and so... I came to Dubai.
There were workshops, teachings and lessons. There were questions, words of advice and moments of analytical glory. There was a chance to listen, to hone in and examine previous journeys of fashion success - and failure. There was content (or more accurately, a look into the lack thereof). Identity, story and ownership. What to continue. What to stop. What to really take home as valuable tools for elevation. Other than a stream of instagram photos and social kisses, of course.
A particular moment in this higher learning experience came in the form of Rabih Kayrouz, and his inspiring work with the Starch foundation in his home country of Lebanon. The rather legendary Mr. Kayrouz attended Fashion Forward as a mentor - first, followed by a marvelous display of Starch designer skill, the works of a well supported next generation, if you will.
How refreshingly bold Rabih was in expressing his experienced opinion. We touched on the relationship between culture and commerce, a misunderstood concept in the MENA region that I regularly advocate for. The missing pillars, such as the realisation in one's own story, and telling it independently, the correct developments, and how to harness them further. His words speaking to me like beautiful music, sweet to the ear, familiar to the heart, oh so soothing on one's soul:
"Fashion weeks are failing because we don't need them and can't do them - yet... let's work on fixing our electricity first"
"Get up, and remember who you are"
"As people of the Middle East, what is our DNA? What reflects us? Certainly not any bastardisation of our good taste..."
"Let's take a more anthropological perspective in our creation, and like you said, like bougi, bring back the best of what makes us..."
So, there was a lot. Over 15 shows actually, which felt a little tight unfortunately. No time to digest one show before having to rush to the other. And let's not discuss the near stampedes taking place upon entry to each venue... very uncouth.
I was particularly drawn to designers who clearly found inspiration in their own signatures, their own unique style delivery, clearly recognised and associated. Examples: Dina JSR and her evening gowns. Zayan's playful comforts. Emporer 1688 - with that supreme print, gold accessorising, future and yet classic air.
Just watch: pink link by Dina JSR
By Emporer 1688
So impressed was I by Emporer 1688's collection that a visit to their Dubai based boutique was a must. Ordering a suit of my own, while sharing the love with Cameron Silver, aka Bravo TV's Duke of Melrose & owner of "Decades" - LA's most respected vintage store, aka also the author of "Decades" (same name), aka general style God. Naturally, he loved.
Ezra put the 'show' in fashion show. Simply and stupendously. A musical soundtrack that left us with nothing but the rawest of emotion, and his eloquent designs. Truly, a bravo moment.
Just watch: pink link by EZRA
Essa, and a men's collection that left me particularly WANTING - even as a woman. Dark and colourful, obscurely and fittingly. Wonderfully.
Michael Cinco, and all that detail. All that glorious detail. I honestly couldn't tell you how he so perfectly managed to balance grace, innocence and purity, with a strong stench of punk? But he did. Amato gave a superb dose of decadent detail too, as part of his more theatrical show of couture. I asked Mr. Cinco what the relationship was between the Philippines, fashion and Dubai. Why Dubai, as the chosen land of success for many of the Philippines' most prestigious designers?"... ... ... ... "Well, we're gifted in our patience, a lot of patience" said he. Ha.
By Michael Cinco
By Dima Ayad
Lace was used popularly across the board and throughout Fashion Forward's opening season, which will never be a problem for moi, thanks to a mild obsession with the fabric. Its intricate beauty and vast possibilty, just timeless. Dima Ayad's contribution to the lace love was especially memorable; she clearly has every woman in mind, which ranks highly in my 'never will I ever be a zero size' life.
"When great minds combine" by Rabih Kairouz & Rozan Ahmed
"Bedazzled power rangers"
"Ear lobe glory" by Plush Beirut & Vanina
"Facial glory" by Amato
"Matted shades" by Mr. Dolce, Mr. Gabbana & Ms. Ahmed
"Vogues & front rows..." by Ahlan
"Minerals for hand bags" by Lebanon
"For this love of lace"
"Pretty things on pretty hands" by Starch's Talah Hajjar
"How to match a bright yellow wrist band..." By Chanel, MCM & green leopard prints
"Fashion is not a democracy..." by the CFDA's Steven Kolb
Move on up.
In the spirit of it all, we move fashionably 'forward' and season 2 already promises to make an even bigger impact, with topics such as e-commerce coming into play, content development, power of story and a wider representation of Middle East talent showcasing their homegrown gifts, on what is definitively the best platform.
Salutes, Fashion Forward, on this progressive, most righteous rise.