The design industry is busy preparing for Dubai Design Week and another edition of Fashion Forward (FFWD); two exciting, key dates in Dubai’s fashion calendar.
As we head into the eighth season of FFWD – the second that Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC) has endorsed – Nez Gebreel, CEO of DDFC, reflects on where the industry is right now, and, more importantly, what can be done to take it to new heights.
The MENA Region Is Trailblazing
As testament to the region’s potential, the recent ground-breaking MENA Design Outlook report (released by DDFC in collaboration with d3) revealed that the MENA fashion market has outpaced global industry growth by over 4.7 times since 2010.
The UAE in particular has been ultra-proactive in the advancement of its fashion industry, with Dubai now competing with London and Tokyo in terms of fashion sales. And whilst the growth has been driven in a large part by retail imports, we’ve seen a significant uplift in the amount of local and regional designers who are active in the industry.
Local Designers Are Flourishing
Thanks to the visionary outlook of the Dubai Government, the establishment of d3 as a dedicated home for design was a major milestone for the community, as well as the launch of key creative hubs such as Alserkal and Tashkeel. As such, there’s a hugely increased interest in fashion produced regionally, and with the emergence of platforms like Fashion Forward, as well as Emaar’s Design 971 and Dubai Collections, Middle Eastern designers now have far more avenues to showcase their work. Of course, as the CEO of DDFC, I hope to see more and more regional designers flourish, enjoy international exposure, and ultimately achieve great commercial success.
There’s Still Room For Progress
As we move along this journey, there are still some challenges we need to address to ensure sustainable growth. Another key report we conducted uncovered that there are design skill gaps in MENA which can act as a barrier to this. We found that there is a need for dedicated design education facilities, specialised training and mentorship opportunities, as well as new retail platforms for emerging designers.
As the governmental entity dedicated to developing Dubai as a destination for design and fashion, DDFC is collaborating with our industry stakeholders to address these issues. For example, one of our most recent initiatives is a strategic partnership with Chalhoub Group, as part of which they will offer expertise to designers in a wide array of topics.
In 2015, we launched the DDFC Fashion Prize, which offers a financial grant and the opportunity for the winner to introduce their collection to a global audience on farfetch.com. The talented Lebanese designer, Hussein Bazaza, emerged as the winner in the inaugural edition, and as part of the prize, he showcased his collection at the March 2016 edition of Fashion Forward with great success. Hind Matar, a very promising designer hailing from Bahrain, won the Cadillac Design Challenge as part of the first Fashion Prize. And last year, the regional finals of the renowned International Woolmark Prize took place in Dubai for the very first time, and we were thrilled to see Dubai-based brand Taller Marmo win in womenswear.
The Future Is Bright, The Future Is Stylish
As we look forward, our vision to develop the design and fashion industry in Dubai will be achieved by collaborating and working together to support our designers. There is so much talent and potential here, and it’s about helping it be realised by introducing new initiatives uniquely attuned to the needs of the market. As consumers, we can support the industry by taking more interest in regional brands – this benefits us all as we get to enjoy pieces that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, while we support and showcase our local talent by wearing their designs with pride!