by Villa 88
  • 8 minute read
  • February 05, 2022
Exclusive: Khadija Al Bastaki On The Scope Of Regional Talent, Nexus Between Fashion And Technology

What’s Dubai’s Design District’s (d3) vision for furthering the presence of regional fashion designers?

At Dubai Design District (d3), our main objective is to seek out new ways to enable our creative community. We aim to provide an ecosystem that allows creatives to experiment, flourish and inspire and to come together to rethink the regular.

It’s imperative to us that we continue optimizing our support for the regional creative scene and one such way is by delivering innovative events that reinforce our district’s, and by extension, talent’s credibility and visibility before a global audience. We look forward to building more exciting partnerships on the local, regional and international levels to demonstrate Dubai’s potential for talent and ground-breaking ingenuity.

d3 is truly unique in that it’s a shared home of global corporations, rapidly growing SMEs, ambitious start-ups and creative entrepreneurs. With such a vibrant tapestry of players in one location, it really opens doors for local and regional creatives to collaborate with international designers and expand their reach, while challenging major players to continually think outside the box. It’s no surprise that such collaborations, events and the imagination of our regional creative ecosystem are cementing Dubai’s position as a global hub for talent and companies in the creative sector.

Michael Cinco

What was the creative concept behind Arab Men’s Fashion Week? What was the criteria behind curation of international and regional designers?

Arab Fashion Week is something we’ve been working on with the Arab Fashion Council for some time now, however, it has largely focused on women’s ready-to-wear collections. The industry for men’s fashion is growing rapidly as male consumers become more conscious of their fashion choices and global clothing trends, and it’s important that our offerings reflect the mood and demands of the audience.

According to figures recently published by Statista, fashion revenues in the UAE are projected to hit $4.8 billion this year – that number reflects the incredible opportunity available in our city as well as the wider region. Many designers in the UAE and MENA region have been focusing more on male consumers, and we’re delighted to spotlight their original collections for another hotly-anticipated edition of Men’s Arab Fashion Week. If the success of our previous iterations is anything to go by, people are keen to discover how creators are experimenting and pushing the dialogue for men’s ready-to-wear.

Technology and digital innovation are nurturing a whole new landscape of design opportunities, and we’re delighted to explore their possibilities further in our district.

We’ve established a robust method for selecting our designers to ensure that the most original and creative individuals earn the chance to showcase on our platform. Designers are shortlisted following a comprehensive online application, which is then reviewed by a jury of industry experts. We identify whether the designers are established or emerging to ensure a fair selection process and measure them across criteria such as their number of years in business, their brand’s creative direction, how the public responds to their collections, and so on. Naturally, this list is updated every year to adapt to the climate of the industry.

Depending on their reach and brand maturity, not all emerging designers can easily meet our criteria. So, to ensure that aspiring creatives also get to amplify their brands and earn that experience, we work with the most promising ones in our shortlist to build a solid business model and spotlight their artistic and creative potential. It’s a very involved and fulfilling experience because it enables us to seek out truly innovative talent, who have all the passion and ingenuity, and simply need a supportive boost. It is part of our founding principles to nurture talent and even the playing field, which is why more and more creative entrepreneurs are choosing Dubai as their destination to experiment, inspire and grow.

Zaid Farouki

What role will Arab Men’s Fashion Week play in promoting locally-made garments and their exports?

It’s a core part of our strategy at d3 to support the homegrown creative community and drive up exports of locally made products, in line with the UAE’s ‘Make it in the Emirates’ initiative. Men’s Arab Fashion Week and other platforms like it play an integral role in raising the visibility of homegrown, locally made brands and boosting opportunities for partnerships and growth.

Amato Couture, Anomalous and a number of other UAE-based designers displayed extraordinary originality, technical skills and trend foresight on the same stage as international heavyweight Asher Levine and Maison du Mec. d3 has worked hard to earn its global audience and reputation as an enabling platform for creative talent, and the participation of such high-caliber designers expands our reach even further. When local designers meet and engage with international players and fashion houses, it enhances their ability to forge lasting relationships and collaborations and allows them to expand the reach of their apparel to other parts of the world.

How can emerging designers benefit from such platforms even beyond the duration of the event?

 We work with our emerging designers and start-ups in d3 to ensure that the momentum they gain during our events carried further. The stamp-of-approval events like Arab Fashion Week and Dubai Design Week help local designers drive their credibility with major retailers and distributors, improving their chances of stocking products at other local and regional boutiques or exporting them to foreign markets.

Our business ecosystem is incredibly diverse and varied, home to global corporations, rapidly growing SMEs and ambitious startups and entrepreneurs. Our goal is to bring this eclectic community together to facilitate fruitful partnerships that fuel mutual growth and success. By investing in our creative community at their varying stages of growth, we reinforce Dubai’s reputation as a global hub for creative talent and design, and contribute directly to the sustainable growth of our nation’s creative economy.

Emergency Room

What were the highlights of the event? What were some of your personal favorite collections and why?

It was truly such a memorable occasion, and just proved that we keep raising the bar for creativity and quality every year. I was particularly delighted to see the latest men’s collections by d3’s own business partners Amato Couture, Michael Cinco and Zaid Farouki. Each of them really delivered thought-provoking shows that pushed the narrative on menswear with their unique visions and creative flair setting them apart.

Another major highlight was the pop-up we did in collaboration with our business partner 1Life, FLTRD, which is a homegrown concept store that features emerging and talented designers. Fashion enthusiasts were able to shop this year’s collections right off the shelf, reimagining the industry’s business model. It was a hit, and I can’t wait to see what designers have in store for the next edition.

Which emerging menswear designers from the region should people keep an eye out for?

 There’s such vast and varied talent that it’s difficult to choose. One individual whose work I find quite fascinating is Ahmed Amer, an emerging designer from Beirut. He incorporates minimalist illustrations into his collections that are very organic and artistically impactful. Ahmed’s whole vision is to explore what it means to be human, and I feel it comes off authentically.

Another designer we’re quite proud to house in our district is Anomalous. The brand isn’t afraid to experiment and push the envelope of daily wear with very contemporary, androgynous aesthetics. Anomalous is definitely one to keep on your radar. Amato Couture obviously needs no introduction. Furne One has distinguished himself with remarkably imaginative luxury collections for women that have caught the eye of Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez and many more, and his foray into menswear has been one marked by equal passion and boldness.

Emergency Room

What are your thoughts about the nexus between fashion and technology, especially in light of NFTs and the emergence of designers like Asher Levine, who was also a participant at Arab Men’s Fashion Week?

Digital is integrating itself into every industry, and fashion is no different. We’re already seeing the use of advanced technologies to develop more sustainable ways of manufacturing apparel and help establish more efficient production processes overall.

Technology and digital innovation are nurturing a whole new landscape of design opportunities, and we’re delighted to explore their possibilities further in our district. It’s why Asher Levin’s show was such a huge draw. His eponymous label, AL, radically challenges the paradigms of contemporary fashion by integrating cutting-edge techniques in fashion and science, including 3D-printing devices and illumination technologies. He even indulged viewers with the NFT reality, one that’s quickly gaining traction around the world.

Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Burberry have already started experimenting with NFTs and virtual collections, and it’s only a matter of time we see more and more brands explore its possibilities. It’s our prerogative at d3 to create a fertile ground for creativity and innovation, and we look forward to enabling our own designers to explore and experiment with the digital realm even more.

Asher Levine

What projects does d3 currently have in the pipeline to promote its community of fashion designers?

The women’s edition of Arab Fashion Week is going to return this year, which we’ll be hosting once again in strategic partnership with the Arab Fashion Council. Fashion enthusiasts around the world can see a new collection of forward-thinking and experimental designers reimagine the dialogue on women’s ready-to-wear collections. d3 is well known for its ‘Rethink’ campaign series, which takes place throughout the year and spotlights the different disciplines of design.

I was particularly delighted to see the latest men’s collections by d3’s own business partners Amato Couture, Michael Cinco and Zaid Farouki.

We’ll definitely use those series to continue elevating our community of fashion designers, while also hosting a year-long calendar of live performances, brand activations and cultural events that drive footfall to our district and enhance the exposure of our various fashion brands and retailers.

Along with fashion, d3 is the leading hub for design, architecture, art and retail, so you can definitely expect a lot of events and activity spotlighting those fields. Our high-profile Dubai Design Week, which we host in strategic partnership with the Art Dubai Group, is poised to come back in 2022 to explore the complete design landscape in the region, alongside the equally popular Downtown Design. There’s plenty in the pipeline, so you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Images courtesy: @d3dubai @arabfashionweek

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