Although the Spring/Summer 2016 runway shows of New York, London, Milan, and Paris wrapped a few short weeks ago, there was still one major event for fashion lovers to look forward to: Fashion Forward in Dubai. Now in its sixth season, the Middle East’s strongest fashion “week” (or long weekend, rather), has moved beyond start-up stages to become a force to be reckoned with. By bringing established and emerging talent from the region — and beyond — together with an elite trio of speakers, and an audience that comes from all corners of the world, Fashion Forward Season 6 set itself up for success. Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist fame, the Global Brand President of MAC Cosmetics, Karen Buglisi Weiler, and Imran Amed of Business of Fashion were brought in this season as the keynote speakers of FFWD. The event also boasted panel discussions with Huda and Mona Kattan of Huda Beauty, John William from London College of Fashion, a host of regional bloggers that included Mahmoud Sidani and Nadya Hasan, and many others. Proof of FFWD’s growth can be found in the increased number of catwalk shows, from last season’s 24 to this season’s 33, which included ten newcomers. That means nearly a third of the schedule was devoted to “new blood”, with Bedouin, Elio Abou Fayssal, Orkalia, Fatema Fardan, Army of 1, Mashael Al Rahji, Zaid Farouki, Jelena Bin Drai, Nasiba Hafiz, and Saba Tark all showing at FFWD for the first time.
Day One was off to a solid start with a presentation by The Starch Foundation, which is one of the region’s best resources for emerging Lebanese fashion talent. Founded by Rabih Kayrouz and Tala Hajjar, The Starch Foundation is a non-profit incubator program, a sort of “mother hen” to fledgling designers, helping them through the design process of crafting their collections, and also assisting on the business side with marketing and promotion. This season, they showcased a talented group of brands: Mira Hayek, Ardashes, Nour Najem, and La Terre Est Folle.
If you were hanging around outside the shows, chances are you picked up on some buzz about Nafsika Skourti, a talented young designer whose collection at FFWD thumped to a bass-driven beat as youthful camo separates stomped down the runway. Her street style tastes are especially timely given the rise of individualist, millenial culture in the region.
Meanwhile, Zaroon by Zareena threw back the halcyon days of the 60s with embroidered mini dresses, breezy kaftans, and flirty plaid dresses with mod porthole details. Her collection was brimming with life, as models literally twirled down the runway, crowded onto “street” benches on the sidelines, and appeared to be having a fabulous time.
Hussein Bazaza stole the wow-factor for the day, with one of the most Instagrammed collections of Day One. His couture gowns swept down the runway featuring lavish, colorfully embroidered gowns, vibrant Persian-inspired prints, and relaxed lounge-y cape-backed frocks for day. It’s no wonder so many regional celebrities flock to Bazaza for a spotlight-stealing look. Michael Cinco ended the night in spectacular fashion (as always) with jaw-dropping ball gowns that highlighted his incredible skill as a couturier. Midi-length looks featured stunning ombré surfaces that twinkled with thousands of tiny crystals, while one of the most impressive looks of the evening was his stained-glass gown. Talk about shutting it down!
The Middle East’s versatile voices reflect the nature of fashion on a global scale. Although Fashion Forward does tend to show the same small pool of designers every season, their contributions are so varied and vast that they actually culminate in a broad spectrum of styles, silhouettes, and looks — enough to suit every taste under the sun.