In an exposé regarding the top emerging fashion epicenters of the world, Savoir Flair touched lightly on the conditions that are giving rise to powerful fashion industries in five countries. The continuation of this series has concentrated on South Africa, Brazil, India, and Australia, and this week we are discussing the factors and fashions that are putting the UAE on the map.
In the past several years, the UAE has become a topic of many feature articles regarding the country’s rapidly growing fashion scene. Most recently, Imran Amed of Business of Fashion penned an op-ed after his visit to Dubai entitled Can Dubai Really Become a Global Fashion Capital? – a subject which was further explored in a long-form essay by Robb Young called Momentum in Dubai, Middle East’s Fashion Mecca. While it is always encouraging to see high-level journalism applied to the question of the region’s growing fashion status, what both of these pieces failed to mention was the actual designers who are putting the UAE on the map. While the region’s luxury purchasing power is extraordinary – accounting for over $300 billion in luxury purchases per year, a figure which is growing at an annual rate of five percent – the GCC’s success story goes far beyond the figures. In fact, it is the talent of regional fashion designers that have attracted the attention of major luxury retailers like Moda Operandi, who now see the UAE as a valuable resource when it comes to scouting emerging talent.
Beyond that, the government of the UAE is keen to support new fashion designers, which is indicated by the construction of Dubai Design District, and the launch of The Dubai Design and Fashion Council in 2014. Further support is given to regional talent by Fashion Forward and Abu Dhabi Fashion Week, which bring an international audience to the UAE to witness the collections of our talented designers.
Read on for a breakdown of the top 11 UAE-based designers, and why they’ve landed on our list.
Madiyah Al Sharqi
Madiyah Al Sharqi‘s eponymous brand is based in Fujairah and was launched in 2012. She is known for her exquisite, lavish designs, and uber-feminine aesthetic which is usually translated by a palette of dreamy pastels and luxurious fabrics. Her work quickly caught on regionally and internationally and is now stocked at retailers the likes of BySymphony and Moda Operandi. Recently, Al Sharqi has expanded her vision beyond confectionary eveningwear to include a smart, stunning line-up of daywear, and she has been experimenting with a more earthy palette. The results are nothing short of astonishing, and are at the top of our list when it comes to Fall/Winter 2016 collections we’re looking forward to getting our hands on.
Nathalie Trad is without a doubt one of the region’s best fashion success stories. Since the launch of her eponymous clutch label in 2013, she has been heaped with international acclaim. Dozens of celebrities – like Olivia Palermo, Solange Knowles, Sienna Miller, and Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz – have not only named her their favorite clutch designer, but proudly sport her wares on the daily. Her sculptural, glossy aesthetic results in clutches that are works of art, and her latest collection is one of the most stunning we’ve ever seen in person.
House of Nomad
Ever since House of Nomad was launched by Ahmed El Sayed and Saleh Al-Banna, the brand’s sleek, minimalist designs have been the choice of the region’s best dressed. With several design awards under their belt already, House of Nomad decided to take a more sophisticated turn for Fall/Winter 2016, with a muted, neutral palette and luxe fabrics, with options that are created for both men and women.
Rami Al Ali
Couture designer Rami Al Ali has amassed legions of loyal fans via his pristine, lavish designs. Fans of his work include regional influencers like Diala Makki and international celebrities like Beyoncé Knowles, Chanel Iman, and Kerry Washington. In addition to his celebrity clientele, Al Ali has also gained global recognition due to his presence at Paris Couture Week. Recently, Al Ali has decided to expand beyond the couture category to include ready-to-wear looks, much to the delight of women around the world who love his flattering, feminine silhouettes and his hand-crafted embellishments.
Nafsika Skourti first landed on our radar at Fashion Forward, where her energetic, youthful collection reinforced the idea that streetwear has a viable voice in the UAE. Her cleverly crafted collections resonate deeply with the politically and culturally savvy, and have helped garner the young designer international recognition in major fashion publications globally. In addition to helming a rapidly growing brand, Skourti has also been recognized as a regional trendsetter, and was recently part of Burberry‘s Art of the Trench project.
When the rest of the world thinks about Middle Eastern fashion, they instantly think of hijabs and abayas. For that reason, it can be quite challenging to rise above perceptions and expectations of what Middle Eastern fashion should be. Faiza Bouguessa is one designer that is revolutionizing the way the rest of the world sees fashion in our region, and she is doing it by cleverly reinventing the abaya. In fact, her designs are so compelling that even Beyoncé Knowles is a fan. What sets Bouguessa‘s work apart is her impeccable tailoring and rich fabrics, which make her menswear-inspired designs hang beautifully on the body.
Reemami, the brand launched by Reema Al Banna in 2009, is one of our favorites because of its strong, feminist stance. Reemami is known for its quirky, whimsical prints, but behind each artistic scene is a message about the strength of women (her boxing-themed collection is an excellent example). While Savoir Flair was in Paris for Fashion Week, we visited Al Banna at her showroom where were treated to a sneak preview of her Fall/Winter 2016 collection which includes some of her best work to date. We are more than excited to see her brand grow and reach a new audience as the young designer continues to expand her creative reach.
Although Taller Marmo was launched in October of 2013 by designers Riccardo Audisio and Yago Goicoechea, results were fast for this young Dubai-based brand. In two short years, the excellence of their work was recognized by the International Woolmark Prize when they won the regional portion of the competition, and flew to New York City to represent the UAE with a gorgeous six-piece capsule collection. Modernity is a driving force behind their aesthetic, leading them to update traditional suiting with festive prints, or tufts of feathers, thereby providing a unique and luxurious wardrobe for the working woman of today.
While a flirty, youthful silhouette acts as a support structure for Ayah Tabari‘s Mochi collections, it is her kaleidescopic prints and embroidery that have really carved an identity for her brand. Her designs are inspired and named for locations that Tabari has visited, and her travels act as both a signpost for her work and a resource for finding artisans to help craft her clothing. What is so unique and interesting about the way Tabari conducts her brand is the timeless nature of each collection – each one is “seasonless” and always available. This means that if you go to her site, you can still purchase and wear past collections like ‘Jaipur’ , ‘Thailand’, and ‘Hungary’.
As an artist, photographer, and designer, Nadine Kanso‘s primary concern is in showcasing and reflecting the identity of the contemporary Arab. This thesis is found throughout her work, but nowhere as strongly as her Bil Arabi jewelry line. Every piece that she creates carries with it a message, with rings and earrings that come in the shape of Arabic words or letters. These pieces are both exquisite works of art and identity signifiers that everyone from the local fashion lovers to Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner love to wear.
Regional “It” girl, Lilian Afshar, sought fulfillment from the world of fashion, and in 2014 she solidified her status as one of the region’s best designers when she launched her gorgeous box clutch label L’Afshar. Her marble and bug designs were instant hits, but as the brand has grown, so has Afshar’s artistry. We viewed her most recent work at her showroom in Paris and instantly fell in love with her whimsical forthcoming collection in which each delightful clutch was named for a character in a Wes Anderson film. While some local designers never make it further than the UAE, Afshar is stocked around the world and has been recognized in international fashion publications.