‘THINGS MOVE FAST HERE’

UAE-based de­signer Deb­o­rah Hen­ning was one of two de­sign­ers sent by the DDFC to Lon­don Fash­ion Week. She talks of the op­por­tu­ni­ties Dubai has given her

Friday - - Fashion -

Deb­o­rah Hen­ning had an up-and-com­ing fash­ion brand in Lon­don be­fore she packed it all in to move to Dubai with her hus­band. Seven years later, she’s got an­other brand, and life has come full cir­cle: In Fe­bru­ary, she was one of two UAE-based fash­ion de­sign­ers cho­sen by the Dubai De­sign and Fash­ion Coun­cil (DDFC) and FAD In­sti­tute of Lux­ury and Style, a fash­ion school in Dubai, to show at Lon­don Fash­ion Week.

Deb­o­rah and Emi­rati de­signer Shaikha Amal Al Mak­toum (turn the page to find out more on her), were cho­sen by a panel of ex­pert judges to show their col­lec­tions at Fash­ion Scout Lon­don, an in­ter­na­tional plat­form that has seen the likes of Peter Pilotto, David Koma and Felder Felder show­ing their col­lec­tions to huge au­di­ences be­fore go­ing on to even big­ger cat­walk shows. The DDFC and FAD to­gether as­sisted with every step of the show from the or­gan­i­sa­tion to pre­sent­ing the col­lec­tion on the day.

UK-born Deb­o­rah started at Alexander Mc­Queen and Sass and Bide in Lon­don, and she’s known for her geo­met­ric mono­chrome de­signs; a trade­mark style that’s min­i­mal­is­tic and func­tional and un­usual for the re­gion. Per­haps this is what made her stand out from the crowd? We caught up with her at her of­fice in Dubai to find out about the ex­pe­ri­ence, the chal­lenges of run­ning a fash­ion la­bel, and what’s next.

How did you come to win the prize? I was in­vited by DDFC to go and pitch to have my show at Lon­don Fash­ion Week. I had to ex­plain what I would do and show them the col­lec­tion I would present at Lon­don Fash­ion Week. My brand is very min­i­mal­is­tic with mono­chrome colours, so I

told them I wanted to in­tro­duce prints and em­bel­lish­ment for Lon­don Fash­ion Week to take it to the next level. I ac­tu­ally found out on Christ­mas Eve that I had been cho­sen.

How was that ex­pe­ri­ence? Fash­ion Scout is a re­ally great plat­form for emerg­ing de­sign­ers. The Freema­sons’ Hall they have their cat­walk shows in is the most in­cred­i­ble space, so it was all re­ally over­whelm­ing. I used to work in Lon­don; I think this was just the per­fect en­try for me to get back into the city where I started.

What has been the re­sponse like? On the day, there were a lot of in­ter­views and peo­ple com­ing up to say they loved the col­lec­tion. The en­ergy is re­ally high af­ter the shows, but it’s once I get back to re­al­ity and or­ders start com­ing in that I’ll re­ally be able to tell the im­pact the show has had.

You men­tioned that you in­cor­po­rated print into your de­signs for the first time – what made you de­cide to do this? I just wanted to take my de­signs to the next level. I have a very dis­tinct style, but some­times it’s nice to switch things up and make peo­ple re­alise there is an­other level to the brand. I have a vi­sion of what I want for the brand and this is just step one of get­ting it there.

How do you think the DDFC has helped you ex­pand your brand? They were un­be­liev­able. They have a re­ally good sup­port network and what they are do­ing here at the mo­ment is in­cred­i­ble and ex­actly what Dubai needs.

You are orig­i­nally from the UK and your de­signs have Parisian in­flu­ences. Why did you choose Dubai to start your busi­ness? I moved here be­cause of my hus­band’s job seven years ago. It was re­ally hard for me at first be­cause I al­ready had a brand in Lon­don that was do­ing re­ally well; I’d even been fea­tured in Bri­tish Vogue. But when we moved here I had to give all that up and start from scratch. I started lec­tur­ing in some of the uni­ver­si­ties here so I could also suss out the in­dus­try. I al­ways knew I wanted to re-start my brand again so I just took my time and did it prop­erly.

Do you think be­ing in Dubai has af­fected your brand? My set style of geo­met­ric shapes and min­i­mal­is­tic de­signs is very dif­fer­ent for this mar­ket. It’s in­ter­est­ing to see how it would be per­ceived and so far the re­ac­tion has been great. There’s no way I would have had some of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that I’ve had here back in Lon­don. Things move so fast here, which is fan­tas­tic for me. What hap­pens next? The aim would be to con­tinue to show at Fash­ion Scout to keep up the trac­tion, but the worry is hav­ing the fund­ing to do it. It’s not cheap to put on a fash­ion show, es­pe­cially one on that scale, which is why this was such a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity.

Would you ever show your col­lec­tion here in Dubai? I’ve been ap­proached by Fash­ion For­ward [the bian­nual fash­ion show­case in Dubai] a num­ber of times but it’s hard to say yes as it’s such an ex­pense. For now I’d rather keep it for the in­ter­na­tional cities to get the big­gest im­pact. I’d love to show in Dubai – but if you’re only go­ing to show once a sea­son, it has to be a busi­ness de­ci­sion.

What do you think is the fu­ture of fash­ion in Dubai? I think lo­ca­tion-wise Dubai is a fan­tas­tic place to be for fash­ion brands – you can con­nect to Asia for tex­tiles and it’s re­ally easy to have shows in Europe. It’s much less sat­u­rated than some of the other cities. Things re­ally seem to be hap­pen­ing now.

What would be your mes­sage to young de­sign­ers just start­ing out? I think you have to have a very clear vi­sion of what you want. Peo­ple don’t buy into prod­ucts they buy into sto­ries so once you have that clear vi­sion in your head you’ll be able to sell it to others.

Deb­o­rah will be run­ning a fash­ion work­shop, How to Start a Fash­ion La­bel, on April 28 and 29; sign up at deb­o­rah­hen­ning.com/course. Her col­lec­tion is stocked in Har­vey Ni­chols Dubai.

I have a very DIS­TINCT style, but some­times it’s nice to switch things up and make peo­ple re­alise there is AN­OTHER LEVEL to the brand. I have a VI­SION and this is just step one of get­ting it there

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