Dubai’s cou­ture star Michael Cinco – he’s dressed Bey­oncé, J Lo and Mariah Carey – opened up his glam world to Fri­day at Fash­ion For­ward.

Michael Cinco is Dubai’s cou­ture star, dress­ing the rich, fa­mous and fash­ion­able. Fri­day opens up his world with an exclusive look at the in­tense re­al­ity behind his dreamy Fash­ion For­ward run­way show


FFilipino fash­ion de­signer Michael Cinco is Dubai’s go-to man for ball­go­wns and red-car­pet dresses. His highly em­bel­lished, ex­quis­ite de­signs have be­come some­thing of an in­sti­tu­tion since he brought his stu­dio here in 1997 and de­vel­oped his cou­ture line. From his base in Dubai, he trav­els all around the world pre­sent­ing his de­signs and dress­ing celebrity clients – and that in­cludes Bey­oncé, Jen­nifer Lopez and Mariah Carey. He’s shown at Paris Fash­ion Week, but this sea­son he de­cided to bring his show back to his Dubai home and to last week­end’s Fash­ion For­ward, the city’s big­gest plat­form for lo­cal and up­com­ing de­sign­ers to present their fash­ion col­lec­tions.

The bian­nual event (it be­gan in 2013) now at­tracts in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try ex­perts and buy­ers, and this sea­son, its ninth, saw 22 cat­walk shows from re­gional de­sign­ers as well as talks and pre­sen­ta­tions and The Show­case, which al­lows up­com­ing de­sign­ers to present and sell their clothes and ac­ces­sories on a smaller scale.

The magic of a run­way show of course starts months be­fore, in a de­signer’s ate­lier, cul­mi­nat­ing in a form of or­gan­ised chaos that brings to­gether mod­els, hair and make-up and rails and rails of huge gowns, all hid­den from the view of the guests lin­ing the cat­walk nearby. Fri­day, how­ever, was given exclusive ac­cess behind the scenes of Michael’s mag­nif­i­cent show, meet­ing the mod­els, who spend around two hours in hair and make-up, and see­ing them as they have a run-through of the show on the cat­walk – in their reg­u­lar clothes – around an hour be­fore it’s due to start.

Michael is a hands-on de­signer, and af­ter the re­hearsal, the 30 mod­els head to an­other room where he dresses them with the help of his team. Ev­ery out­fit is in­spected by Michael per­son­ally and last-minute al­ter­ations are done sec­onds be­fore the show starts (one model had the train of her dress cut shorter with scis­sors be­fore she went on). These gowns are more than your av­er­age dress – the de­tail that has gone into them means they are in­cred­i­bly del­i­cate and yet heavy to han­dle. While Michael wouldn’t dis­close the price of one of his cou­ture gowns, they are ru­moured

to cost any­thing up to Dh150,000. Once dressed, the gor­geous girls prac­tised their walks to en­sure they didn’t fall over, and, of course, took self­ies be­fore they headed for the run­way. It was in­cred­i­ble to see how ev­ery­thing came to­gether and while the feeling of stress is def­i­nitely present back­stage (es­pe­cially when 20 min­utes be­fore the show mod­els still weren’t dressed and some were still fin­ish­ing hair and make-up), once the show has ended, ev­ery­one is on a high.

‘Put­ting to­gether a fash­ion show is so stress­ful and I al­ways get ill af­ter­wards, but it is so worth it when the or­ders start com­ing in,’ Michael told us when we got to speak to him two days af­ter his show, once things had calmed down a lit­tle. ‘I’ve had a huge num­ber of or­ders al­ready – lo­cal cus­tomers who at­tended the show have been to my stu­dio to choose pieces, and I’ve also had a lot of over­seas or­ders from peo­ple who saw images of my show online.’

Michael has adopted the see-now-buy-now sys­tem that’s been tak­ing over the fash­ion in­dus­try in re­cent sea­sons; ‘it’s re­ally great that peo­ple can see my show and put their or­ders in straight­away. It’s chang­ing the way we work, but it means that the de­signs are fresh in peo­ple’s minds and they can or­der right away. The results have been amaz­ing al­ready.’ It takes up to three months from when the or­ders start com­ing in to them be­ing ready to go home. Ev­ery piece is hand­made to or­der. ‘Most women will come for two fit­tings, one for the ini­tial mea­sur­ing and then a fi­nal one for adjustments. I’ve also had a lot of or­ders from Saudi Ara­bia and Qatar. For these we will make the dress ac­cord­ing to their mea­sure­ments and they will come in for a fi­nal ad­just­ment.’

The col­lec­tion it­self was a cel­e­bra­tion of glam­our in pas­tel and golden shades. ‘I was in­spired to cre­ate the col­lec­tion on a re­cent trip to Ver­sailles Palace in France,’ Michael says. ‘Each part of the col­lec­tion is in­spired by an as­pect of the palace,’ whether it’s the hand-painted ceil­ing that was repli­cated on the fi­nale dress or the gowns that came from the gold pil­lars and fur­ni­ture. King Louis XVI and his ill-fated wife Marie An­toinette were the muses for the col­lec­tion, with their op­u­lent style com­ing through to the clothes.

‘My favourite pieces from my shows are al­ways the gor­geous ball­go­wns,’ he says. ‘I named these the Some­where over the Rain­bow col­lec­tion, be­cause they are colour­ful and have a mag­i­cal feel to them. In par­tic­u­lar, I love the last piece, which fea­tures the Ver­sailles Palace ceil­ing. This was com­pletely hand-painted and took the long­est to cre­ate.’ The dress in ques­tion was a sculp­tured body­con dress. The ceil­ing of the palace also hap­pened to be the de­sign of his cat­walk dur­ing the show.

Michael has had huge suc­cess af­ter his past shows at Fash­ion For­ward, in­clud­ing one par­tic­u­lar client he told us about. ‘It has al­ways been my dream to have a celebrity wear one of my de­signs for the Met Gala in New York. Af­ter my Fash­ion For­ward show in 2013, the Bri­tish singer Paloma Faith or­dered one of my gowns and

wore it to the event. I was told she saw the show online and had to have the gown as soon as she saw it. That re­ally was the dream for me.’

Michael’s celebrity clients are an­other rea­son he con­tin­ues to show here. ‘All the in­ter­na­tional stylists are watch­ing Fash­ion For­ward now… it’s how many of my celebrity clients end up wear­ing my pieces.’ He has had or­ders from a num­ber of huge celebs, with ev­ery­one from Bey­oncé to Mila Ku­nis to Lady Gaga wear­ing pieces that were first pre­sented here in the UAE. ‘The most ex­cit­ing thing for me is when the celebri­ties are com­ing to the UAE and I cre­ate pieces for them to wear,’ Michael says. ‘This hap­pened most re­cently with Mariah Carey when she was here for the Jazz Fes­ti­val [last month]. We made her three dresses, then went to her ho­tel when she ar­rived to do the fi­nal fit­ting. I’m so happy she’s worn all three gowns I made for her.’

But it doesn’t al­ways go that smoothly. Michael told us of a num­ber of celebri­ties he has sent dresses to, dresses that never got worn. ‘I’d love to dress Madonna, An­gelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett. I have made dresses for these ladies be­fore but they didn’t end up wear­ing my de­signs. This hap­pens a lot, as they of­ten get of­fered money to wear cer­tain gowns by in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers. That’s some­thing I don’t do.’


onethe­less, he plans to keep send­ing pieces to lead­ing ladies and hopes to see some of them wear­ing out­fits from the lat­est col­lec­tion (we sug­gest he add Meryl Streep to that list). ‘When a celebrity wears one of my de­signs, I see an in­stant re­ac­tion with or­ders for that dress. This hap­pened when Jen­nifer Lopez wore one of my gowns at the 2015 Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards – the or­ders came straight af­ter it hap­pened.’

When Michael moved to Dubai in 1997 the fash­ion in­dus­try was al­most non-ex­is­tent, but this has rapidly changed. Michael sees things get­ting even bet­ter in the next few years. ‘We are see­ing a move­ment where many de­sign­ers’ big­gest cus­tomer base is in the Mid­dle East, so it makes sense for them to have a very big pres­ence here. Many years ago, it was the Chi­nese who spent most on fash­ion, but now, top de­sign­ers like Chris­tian Dior and Valentino have told me that it is our re­gion that is spend­ing the most money – which is what it is re­ally all about.’

Look­ing to the future, Michael says his main pri­or­ity is sell­ing clothes. ‘Good re­views of shows are great but the main thing that mat­ters to me is get­ting the or­ders in and hav­ing peo­ple ac­tu­ally wear my clothes.’ He’s ven­tured into cre­at­ing cos­tumes for films and mu­sic videos, for Mila Ku­nis in Jupiter As­cend­ing and for Bey­oncé in her 2015 mu­sic video for Haunted. ‘Both of those were great but mak­ing cos­tumes is dif­fer­ent from de­sign­ing clothes and that’s what I ul­ti­mately want to stick to. We’ll see what the future holds but for now I want to fo­cus on the see-now-buy-now as­pect of my show and make that successful.’

MIchael (back right) and his team are hands-on with the heav­ily em­broi­dered pieces, which are all hand­made in his Dubai ate­lier

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