Welcome to EW’s weekly series ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesspeople both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week we chat with the Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) of the Arab Fashion Council, Mohammed Aqra. With a passion for championing the region being of Jordanian roots, Mohammed joined the Council in 2018. His role largely involves developing the strategy with international and regional partners in order to foster the growth of regional designers on a global stage.

We sat down with the Arab Fashion Council’s CSO to find out more about the Council’s mission and what’s still to come in 2021.


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What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject was History, I loved it a lot, mythology as well.

What was your first job?

Working for my dad’s business when I was 15 years old

What inspired you to go into the fashion space?

When I was young, in my teenage years specifically, I was overweight I could never wear what all the cool kids were wearing especially my older siblings would shop from the best brands at the time. My mom would shop for me from the “big and tall section” especially from JC Penny because it was very difficult for her to find my size. The clothes were tight at times and not by choice.

When I turned 17 I told myself enough was enough, I started on my “get fit” journey and once the weight was off, I felt like a new person, new wardrobe, I started getting noticed and it kind of got me interested in myself and taking care of me. Shopping the most “it” brands I also went into modelling and from there I fell in love. It was not butterflies and rainbows for me, while getting modelling gigs my parents were so supremely against it. So, I started working with casting directors and models scouts to fill a gap that I had before by giving people of diversity a chance that I once wanted for me, to support inclusivity from the early times.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

Being of Jordanian roots, born and raised in the US always got me interested and determined to build something in the region which we have in the US but not in our region. I was impressed by what the Arab Fashion Council had started to build and there were so many synergies with what I envision and what the council is building. I got invited by the Arab Fashion Council board for a short trip consulting project and then I was requested to join the board full time. I really felt home away from home, and the workspace with people who are now my colleagues and friends that are like-minded got me rooted in Dubai.

How does the Arab Fashion Council support the local fashion industry in the region?

The Arab Fashion Council supports the regional industry by nurturing its creative resources through the entire fashion industry’s value chain. Many see the Council’s main activity to be coordinating the Arab Fashion Week, but it is way beyond that, the Council tackles every single aspect in the chain from resourcing fabric, strategizing factories business model, production, export to marketing. The Fashion Week comes as a celebration of the region’s compilation which enables the fashion designers to showcase their creativity to a global audience of buyers, press and UHNWI which is at the same time a prestigious platform dubbed as one of the big five fashion weeks.

What are the key elements of your role?

I oversee the strategy of the council, building the road map between initiatives, making sure I build the right story that does not coincide with everything else that we are doing. A big part of my role is building the strategy with international and regional partners to be structured in a way that would support the Council’s mission in fostering the growth of the designers. This involves brand to brand collaboration and linking together the stakeholders of the fashion industry.

Talk us through your daily routine.

Wake up, take an energy drink (C4 in particular) – I like the cherry limeade flavour, it’s nice in the mornings. Look through emails, answer any urgent requests. Check the social media calendar to make sure that it’s all running accordingly on all platforms. I head to the gym for about an hour, then head to the office and attend partners meetings.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

Be creative, think outside the box, be active and do all the research necessary before moving forward with an idea. Most importantly find an environment with like-minded people that would motivate and advise you; working in a team is key. Most importantly follow your gut feelings and when you find your route and best idea considering that many other people might be thinking the same way.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Be patient, all things come at the right time and for the best. Things come together faster than you’d imagine only if you believe in it. Attract it, work for it and see it happening.

And what is the worst?

“Go with the flow”– now that’s a red flag for me.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

COVID 19 was the biggest challenge, although it was for everyone. However, working for a nonprofit, that had employees to take care of, a set vision to achieve and platforms to keep running is a bit tough. I think that building risk management plans and routes that was not anticipated was the biggest challenge, mentally! However, we did it and I could not be more proud.

What are your goals for 2021?

This is a great question. My biggest goal is to make sure that there is always a ladder to climb for everyone I work with, my partners, my colleagues, and my ambitions. In regard to the Council, our goal is to strategize an unforgettable come back to physical activity this upcoming October, to coordinate a true celebration for everyone in the industry.

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Images: Supplied by AFC