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Mideast designers wow Paris on the fringes of fashion week

Designer Amira Haroon has just shown her latest collection in London. DDFC: Amira Haroon Catwalk Show imagery
DUBAI: Designers from the Middle East are taking Paris by storm as Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD) — a fashion platform that showcases regional designers — sets up shop on the fringes of Paris Fashion Week.
Running from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, FFWD is showcasing a curated collection of clothing and accessories by Middle East-based designers at a showroom in the Hotel InterContinental Paris Le Grand.
The exclusive preview includes SS18 ready-to-wear items, accessories and jewelry collections by the region’s favorite up-and-coming designers, including Anaya, Amira Haroon, Amine Bandriouch, Asya Krasnaya, By Sadeem, Cheyma, Geodie Handbags, Hessa Falasi, Kage, Rula Galayani, Soltana, Tania George and UTRUJ.
The Paris pop-up is part of EPIC, FFWD’s Empowerment Program through Industry Collaboration. The program seeks to empower regional fashion talent via a series of initiatives designed to provide business development opportunities to the labels.
The designers showcased their creations in a rigorous application process in which they were judged on their readiness for the global stage by the FFWD team and international buying consultant, Muriel Piaser.
Jeddah-based design house UTRUJ is one of only two Saudi Arabia-based brands to make it to Paris and its collection of women’s outerwear, which is contemporary and conservative, is turning heads.
“The collection, ‘Authentic Structures,’ depicts stories that flirt between everyday life and those that live only in one’s imagination. It is a visual interpretation of our current social construct, from gender roles to the qualities that mirror our inner selves,” Laila Abduljawad, partner and the creative director of UTRUJ, told Arab News.
“We wanted to send a message that the abaya is not a limitation, rather, a liberation that allows women to feel confident and comfortable,” she added in reference to the new collection.
Saudi designer Sadeem Al-Shehail’s pret-a-couture fashion brand Sadeem also made it on to the rails of the high-end event. Her SS18 collection is a paragon of timeless, versatile attire and was inspired by sailor suits, seashell shapes and a yachting lifestyle. An advocate of sustainable design, the brand embraces ethical practices, collaborating with companies that share the same principles.
“Paris Fashion Week is the most important (fashion) week to attend and participate in as it happens to be in the city that birthed haute couture creations and houses the most influential fashion designers in the world,” Al-Shehail told Arab News.
“Paris is also the last stop on the official fashion calendar after New York, London and Milan. International designers, buyers and retailers are guaranteed to be there because when it comes to fashion, the city has always maintained the appeal of having saved the best for last,” she added.
Co-regionalist Hessa Falasi is also making waves in Paris with her edgy, quirky collection. The Emirati designer and couture seamstress is known to have left her mark on the traditional abaya and employs a range of fashionable techniques to make her offerings stand out.
She formally launched her label in 2011 and her UAE-based flagship store in 2016 and is now showcasing her designs in the city of fashion itself.
Meanwhile, designer Amira Haroon, who was was brought up in Saudi Arabia but currently lives in Dubai, is also part of the showcase. Fresh off a well-received show on the sidelines of London Fashion Week, Haroon is a firm believer in the benefits of the EPIC program.
“I’m very excited to be a part of FFWD’s Paris Showroom once again. My brand has showcased with FFWD from the beginning and as a result our exposure to the global fashion industry has grown every season as the international interest in the brands from the Middle East has increased. I look forward to becoming bigger and better with FFWD’s empowerment program EPIC and meeting more international buyers this season,” Haroon said, according to organizers.
She attended the Parsons School of Design and launched “The Amira Haroon RTW label” in 2011. The brand’s signature style fuses modernity with cultural influences and versatility and her latest collection, on show in Paris, draws inspiration from US pop culture and late celebrity icon Whitney Houston.
Another notable label featured in the showcase is Jordanian brand Tania George, with its traditional craftmanship and prints created by underprivileged local women and refugees who inherited their craft of tailoring and embroidery from their mothers and grandmothers. The cartoonish prints and sleek cuts are perfect for the 20-something fashionista who wants to look different without pushing the envelope into unchartered territory.
Since its launch in April 2013, Fashion Forward Dubai has delivered nine events, twice per year, and has gained wide-spread recognition for showcasing the best design talent from across the Middle East.