On February 3, 12 budding designers entered in the toughest competition of their careers as they became contestants in the UAE’s Fashion Star, a reality show that will not only catapult the winner into sartorial stardom but also see them create a Dhs500,000 fashion line. Not bad, eh? 

The three people determining the fate of the next big fashion star in the Middle East are industry heavyweights and celebrity mentors: designer Reem Acra, model Hanaa Ben Abdesslem and creative director Ramzi Tabia. So what does it take to be the next big thing in fashion? We spoke to all three judges and grilled them on their own experiences as well as what they expect from the 12 contestants…

Reem Acra

Lebanese designer eponymous with bridal gowns and show-stopping red carpet dresses. Huge Hollywood following.

Reem Acra How To Be A Fashion Star In The UAE

For the Fashion Star winner, this will be their big break. What was yours? 

I don’t feel that I can tell you ‘OK, I did this and that was what launched me’. I feel that every day is a big break. I think it took a long time, a lot of effort, and a lot of hours in a day… over many many many days.

How did it feel seeing so many celebrities wearing your dresses on the red carpet at the Golden Globes?

It is important because this [making bespoke gowns] is what we do very well and I wait for it every moment, as it’s not something that is very simple and easy to do. We’re not just dressing anybody – we have to dress specific people, celebrities of a certain level.

Malin Akerman Reem Acra golden globes 2016 best dressed 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Arrivals

Malin Akerman wearing Reem Acra at the Golden Globes 2016

What are you looking to achieve from Fashion Star?

Fashion Star is really to open the door for the fashion industry in the Arab world, to help the next generation. I felt a calling that I could make a difference. I myself had taken a road that was very difficult and I was the leader in it, the first Arab woman… actually the first Arab designer to go to America and be based internationally. I’m the first one, the only one that’s really based internationally, so I feel my role was very difficult and I feel that I can make a difference for others.

 How can someone impress you?

It is very hard to impress me. I don’t know if this is good or bad but you cannot impress me in one time. You have to keep impressing me for me to be impressed.

What are your opinions on fashion in the Arab world?

I have to say that having the Design & Fashion Council in Dubai is already a big step, and I think Fashion Star is going to be another big step in the region’s fashion industry. This is just the beginning. It’s like seeing something born before your very eyes, like how Dubai was born. I think it is amazing for me to witness the birth of the fashion industry in the Middle East and to be a part of it.

What’s the best advice you can offer to a budding designer?

Stay down to earth. Do not believe that you have already achieved your end goals, because there is a long road. And you have to work hard. Talent is not enough. You have to work hard.

Related Story: Lebanese Designers Reign Supreme At The Golden Globes 

Hanaa Ben Abdesslem

Tunisian supermodel and the first Muslim spokesmodel for Lancôme.

Hanaa Ben Abdesslem How To Be A Fashion Star In The UAE

What’s your role on Fashion Star?

My main role is being a mentor for the designers and participating in evaluating their creations according to the themes given by Reem Acra.

What do you hope to achieve from the show?

I hope to offer my guidance and support in helping the designers achieve their objectives.

What’s the best advice you can offer contestants?

Be true to yourself in reflecting your identity in your creations within the themes given.

What are your opinions on fashion in the Arab world?

I’m very proud to be part of the Arab culture and of my origins. When I meet Arab designers who are determined to make an imprint in the industry and reflect their culture in their creations it gives me hope and I become very optimistic.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

One of the most memorable experiences was my encounter with Jean Paul Gaultier. He fascinated me and we had an interesting discussion. He was one of the designers that inspired to become a model. My second most exiting experience was when I presented the Givenchy show Collection spring/summer 2011.

Related Story: Models Need At Least 10,000 Instagram Followers Before Getting Booked 

Ramzi Tabiat

The creative director for Al Ostoura, a woman’s online fashion site.

Ramzi Tabiat How To Be A Fashion Star In The UAE

What will be your role on Fashion Star?

Other than being a mentor, I believe my role is to be the tough mentor. Someone has to give the contestants the harsh reality of what the retailers expect, and what consumers expect, and not just someone to pat them on the back for no reason. I am the ‘very hard to please’ kind of man.

What do you hope to achieve from the show?

To give my experience to the upcoming young generation of designer. I also hope that through the show and the designers that we mentored, we are able to really put an Arabic designer on the forefront of the Arab fashion scene that can eventually, with time, experience, and hard work, go international.

What’s the best advice you can offer contestants?

Hard work, hard work and… hard work. It is crucial to have creativity, but creativity on its own will not take you very far and that’s why you have to couple it with hard work, it will take you so much further. Also, it is also important to never to give up on your dreams and goals.

What are your opinions on fashion in the Arab world?

The fashion scene in the Arab world is still in its beginnings, so there is definitely a lot of room to grow and evolve. The Arab world is now a very big consumer for fashion and it’s only growing to the point the rest of the world is really depending on. So I believe that Arab designers really have a lot to prove, and a lot to show, but right now people kind of underestimate us, so it’s time to start proving them wrong.

Related Story: UAE Set To Put The Middle East On The Fashion Map 

Images: supplied and Instagram