Whose glamour is it anyway?
Michael Kors opened its first outlet in Beirut. That is great news, but the powers that be need to infuse more money in indigenous fashion designing talent
Even as American brand Michael Kors opened its first store in Lebanon a few weeks ago, and even as more fashion brands start to court the Middle East, some questions remain unanswered. How aggressively will brands localise to include a more Middle Eastern flavour? Or will fashion always remain a toy of the wealthy to sate their Occidental fetish?
The answer is not as straight as it seems, but there could some promising solutions in our journey to finding that answer: a recent article located seven Middle Eastern designers as the names to reckon with in the near future: The Emperor 1688 ( three brothers of Iranian origin, the line features slick patterned suits); Poupee Couture (accessory designer Roula Ghalayini’s candy- coloured clutches were included in British
Vogue’s ‘Hottest Bags’ list); Kage (launched by besties Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage’s designs vacillate between minimal and recherché); Rami Kadi (Lebanese-raised Rami Kadi’s gowns are ready for the next Academy Awards, if the buzz is to be believed); Zareena (inspired by Middle Eastern and Indian motifs); Bashar Assaf (atmospheric prints and symmetrical designs that dazzle); Jean Louis Sabaji (Google this for yourself to believe the magic). These are only some of the names – lists, as they say, are subjective.
So while Dubai is all set to become one of the fashion (read: retail) capitals of the world, it will also behoove local authorities to promote local designers with even more fervour. Perhaps subsidising up- and- coming Middle Eastern designers so that their brands can withstand the delusional Expo 20/20 real estate rates that we have been deluged by might be a good starting point. This suggestion is not too far from how authorities are indeed looking to take the design industry forward.
For instance, construction has already begun on a massive project called the Dubai Design District or D3. The first phase of construction on the 1.7 million square-metre site will cost around $1 billion and D3 will be ready by 2015. The Mall of the Emirates, on the other hand, is investing $1 billion over the next five years with the aim of adding new stores and doubling sales.
Furthermore, the numbers justify the need to promote local designing talent: a little more than half of all major international retailers have outlets in Dubai; of $7.6 billion spent in the Middle East on fashion in 2012, almost 33% was spent in Dubai alone, according to consulting firm Bain and Company. Foreigners account for 90 per cent of the population in Dubai; over 200 nationalities are represented here. Thus, if shopping on such a staggering scale is permitted to go taxfree, there is no harm in opening our doors wider to indigenous fashion designing talent. After all, how many Debanhams discount sales can one wait for when there is so much local couture to posh up your wardrobe?
Persian Panache...The Iranian trio that comprises ‘The Emperor 1688’