Our fash­ion ed­i­tor in­ves­ti­gates Dubai’s plans for be­com­ing a glob­ally recog­nised fash­ion city.

Fri­day’s fash­ion ed­i­tor Lind­say Judge in­ves­ti­gates the flour­ish­ing fash­ion in­dus­try in the UAE and shares her pre­dic­tions for this year

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When it comes to mov­ing for­ward, the UAE has no short­age of am­bi­tion. Whether it’s a new build­ing, shop­ping mall or – as we saw last year – a canal, our coun­try of res­i­dence makes the im­pos­si­ble pos­si­ble and it does it quickly too. Just 40 years ago Dubai was a small city sur­rounded by desert, and we can all see to­day the me­trop­o­lis it has be­come in that short time. While Dubai’s tourism is thriv­ing, its fash­ion in­dus­try is in a growth pe­riod. With big ideas of be­com­ing a glob­ally recog­nised fash­ion city, there’s no rea­son why Dubai can’t crack that fash­ion bar­rier and be listed with the likes of Lon­don, Paris and New York as a key fash­ion city in the fu­ture. While this might be a long way off yet, there are small but sig­nif­i­cant changes hap­pen­ing in an aim to get in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for the in­cred­i­ble de­sign tal­ent we have here, but at the same time nur­tur­ing and look­ing af­ter the po­ten­tial we have lo­cally in the UAE.

‘The UAE is more than com­ing into its own, par­tic­u­larly with the in­ter­nal em­pha­sis on home­grown de­sign­ers,’ says Jane Mon­ning­ton Boddy, di­rec­tor of Colour and Wom­enswear at trend fore­caster WGSN. ‘For this part of the world [the Mid­dle East], it is ab­so­lutely cor­rect to say that it is and will con­tinue to be a fash­ion hub.’

Here are our pre­dic­tions for the fash­ion in­dus­try, home and abroad, in 2017.

Ev­ery year my friends ask me the ques­tion: ‘When will Dubai have some­thing that’s as big as New York Fash­ion Week?’ Each time my re­sponse is the same. ‘Dubai doesn’t need to copy other cities, be­cause we have some­thing re­ally unique here.’

While the likes of New York and Lon­don fash­ion weeks are an ul­ti­mate goal for fash­ion de­sign­ers around the world, what I love about the UAE and its fresh, grow­ing mar­ket is how we look af­ter and pro­mote home­grown tal­ent. Fash­ion For­ward has be­come a great plat­form with lo­cal de­sign­ers – both small and larger busi­nesses. ‘Fash­ion For­ward was devel­oped to ad­dress a spe­cific need that we iden­ti­fied in the re­gional mar­ket – for a fash­ion move­ment or plat­form that would cel­e­brate re­gional de­sign­ers,’ says Bong Guer­rero, CEO and co-founder of FFWD. ‘Com­bined with the sup­port of our loyal spon­sors and the in­ter­na­tional speak­ers we host ev­ery year, we are con­fi­dent FFWD will con­tinue to be the lead­ing plat­form for re­gional tal­ent [in 2017].’

We can ex­pect to see more in­ter­na­tional buy­ers and press at­tend­ing Fash­ion For­ward this year with the hope of get­ting even more of our lo­cal brands recog­nised.

‘FASH­ION FOR­WARD was devel­oped to ad­dress a spe­cific need that we iden­ti­fied in the re­gional mar­ket – for a fash­ion MOVE­MENT or plat­form that would CEL­E­BRATE RE­GIONAL DE­SIGN­ERS’

While Fash­ion For­ward will con­tinue to pro­mote lo­cal tal­ent in the re­gion, Arab Fash­ion Week was devel­oped two years ago to show­case in­ter­na­tional tal­ent. Bring­ing de­sign­ers from Europe and beyond, the five-day event will take place again this year from May 16-20, with the de­sign­ers yet to be an­nounced. While it is im­por­tant for the UAE to have a suc­cess­ful fash­ion week, it can also have a neg­a­tive ef­fect and be­come con­fus­ing to con­sumers if there are too many events hap­pen­ing. For 2017, I hope the fo­cus will be on one or two ma­jor events that will be recog­nised in­ter­na­tion­ally.

Fash­ion For­ward has the lo­cal an­gle well and truly cov­ered, but I would love to see Arab Fash­ion Week (or Dubai Fash­ion Week, which is ru­moured to be mak­ing a re­turn this year), push­ing the in­ter­na­tional an­gle. With the right in­vest­ment and mar­ket­ing, is there space for a plat­form for es­tab­lished in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers to choose to show their col­lec­tions, as other ma­jor cities do? Vic­to­ria Beck­ham for ex­am­ple, has shown her de­signs in New York since her first run­way show, de­spite be­ing from Lon­don. While get­ting Beck­ham to show her col­lec­tion here is a long way off, other de­sign­ers are be­gin­ning to look at dif­fer­ent cities (Saint Lau­rent re­cently showed a col­lec­tion in LA rather than Paris). So per­haps well-known fash­ion de­sign­ers might choose to show their col­lec­tions in the UAE in the fu­ture, if we have a plat­form for them to do so.

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Above: Amato by Furne One at Fash­ion For­ward. Be­low: Ital­ian de­signer Gi­ada Curti Arab Fash­ion Week

Street style fash­ion as well as Emi­rati de­signer Madiyah Al Sharqi (right) took cen­trestage at 2016’s edi­tion of Fash­ion For­ward

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