Meet the designers who are taking Mideast fashion forward

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Utruj is a Jeddah-based design house.
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Utruj wowed crowds with its latest collection.
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Sadeem Al-Shehail’s collection has a nautical theme.
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Saudi designer Sadeem Al-Shehail showed off her latest collection at the event.
Updated 26 October 2017
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Meet the designers who are taking Mideast fashion forward

Dubai Design District is hosting the 10th annual Fashion Forward (FFWD) showcase in the emirate, a celebration featuring runway shows, presentations, exhibitions, talks, shopping, music and film. Previously invite-only, the event — which runs Oct. 26 to 28 — is now open to all fashion lovers in the region.
One designer who will be showcasing his collection is Beirut-based Hussein Bazaza, who felt a desire for artistic expression from an early age. Having studied in Paris and with Elie Saab in Lebanon, Bazaza created his first collection in 2012. Through his designs, and with “every cut,” he works to reflect “a different story, a personal emotion that creates a one-of-a-kind experience. (It is) fashion with a soul.”
The story behind Bazaza’s SS18 collection revolves around “the battle between all five personas that make up one’s ultimate character, and in the end, the winner dominates it.” Composed of 40 looks in total, each of our five characters walk the runway in eight looks. The primary color is pink, but there are touches of different hues obvious in every character.
The collection is meant to be a journey. As Bazaza explains: “You can spot shimmering silvers at first, light pinks appear next, striking reds follow, then strong blacks make an entrance and, finally, vibrant golds end the show.”
Saudi designer Sadeem Al-Shehail is also at FFWD with SADEEM, a pret-a-couture brand. Designed for a woman “who is confident, elegant and sophisticated, a woman who is looking for timeless, well-made and versatile attire,” Al-Shehail’s collection is based on sustainable design and ethical practices. To that end, she only collaborates with companies that share the same principles.
Al-Shehail’s collection “NAUTICAL by Sadeem” cultivates a “luxury wardrobe that caters for a contemporary woman on a summer holiday.” Inspired by sailor suits, seashell shapes and the glamorous yachting lifestyle, the collection offers timeless silhouettes, from daytime chic to sophisticated soiree looks.
When asked what makes this collection disruptive, Al-Shehail said: “I’m proud that my company produces a sustainable and eco-friendly line, and all fabrics used are certified non-toxic materials made in Japan. Also, the garments were ethically constructed in Dubai’s very own Design District.”
Utruj, led by creative director Laila Abduljawad, is a design house based in Jeddah. The brand is named after a type of citrus fruit that is both bitter and sweet. Utruj espouses a new vision of contemporary modest wear that women today can truly identify with, and with Abduljawad at the helm, the brand can look forward to many more years of redefining design.
Utruj’s collection is called “Authentic Structure,” and it “depicts stories that merge imagination with reality. Each piece in the collection is a visual representation of a social construct — the structures reflect our societies and reflect ourselves as Middle Eastern.”
The collection’s focus is on the intricate shapes of traditional forms of art and architecture that “embellish the rural region of Saudi Arabia. It signifies a confident woman who values her traditions, but who wants to work practically and look modern.”
Showcasing their collections at FFWD is important to all designers as it is an international platform situated at the intersection of East and West. “Dubai has become the fashion capital of the Middle East, and FFWD is always great exposure,” said Bazaza.
“After showcasing many seasons… the FFWD family are dear to my heart. It’s now like a second home to me. They’re very well organized and incredibly professional with the entire process, from the very beginning until even after it ends.”
Al-Shehail said: “I’ve had the privilege of showcasing some of my previous collections in New York and Paris, and I was very happy about the positive feedback I received. But showing my collection in Dubai has had more of an impact. In my experience, emerging designers showing in Europe and the US always struggle to find the perfect agency that can properly represent them, as not many are enthused as the competition is very high. FFWD is the best platform in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s a joy to be part of it.”
The event allows designers to cater to the modern international visionary consumer, and Dubai provides just that platform. “We aim to universalize the abaya, and we want to bridge the gap between the Gulf and the rest of the world — we know that Dubai is a perfect place to push that,” said Abduljawad.
“It’s in the Middle East but has international and Western exposure. We’ve seen that Middle Eastern designers are afraid of the abaya, that it may not be well received. But we’re not afraid, we’re proud, and now — after showing this collection in Paris and Europe and receiving such strong, positive feedback — we can bring this collection back to Dubai.”


Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

Updated 17 April 2019
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Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

  • Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city
  • “Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” a sponsor of the legislation said

NEW YORK: A burgeoning movement to outlaw fur is seeking to make its biggest statement yet in the fashion mecca of New York City.
Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city where such garments were once common and style-setters including Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joe Namath and Sean “Diddy” Combs have all rocked furs over the years.
A similar measure in the state Capitol in Albany would impose a statewide ban on the sale of any items made with farmed fur and ban the manufacture of products made from trapped fur.
Whether this is good or bad depends on which side of the pelt you’re on. Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.
“Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” said state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan, who is sponsoring the state legislation. “Fur relies on violence to innocent animals. That should be no one’s business.”
The fate of the proposals could be decided in the coming months, though supporters acknowledge New York City’s measure has a better chance of passage than the state legislation.
The fur trade is considered so important to New York’s development that two beavers adorn the city’s official seal, a reference to early Dutch and English settlers who traded in beaver pelts.
At the height of the fur business in the last century, New York City manufactured 80% of the fur coats made in the U.S, according to FUR NYC, a group representing 130 retailers and manufacturers in the city. The group says New York City remains the largest market for fur products in the country, with real fur still frequently used as trim on coats, jackets and other items.
If passed, New York would become the third major American city with such a ban, following San Francisco, where a ban takes effect this year, and Los Angeles, where a ban passed this year will take effect in 2021.
Elsewhere, Sao Paulo, Brazil, began its ban on the import and sale of fur in 2015. Fur farming was banned in the United Kingdom nearly 20 years ago, and last year London fashion week became the first major fashion event to go entirely fur-free.
Fur industry leaders warn that if the ban passes in New York, emboldened animal rights activists will want more.
“Everyone is watching this,” said Nancy Daigneault, vice president at the International Fur Federation, an industry group based in London. “If it starts here with fur, it’s going to go to wool, to leather, to meat.”
When asked what a fur ban would mean for him, Nick Pologeorgis was blunt: “I’m out of business.”
Pologeorgis’ father, who emigrated from Greece, started the fur design and sales business in the city’s “Fur District” nearly 60 years ago.
“My employees are nervous,” he said. “If you’re 55 or 50 and all you’ve trained to do is be a fur worker, what are you going to do?“
Supporters of the ban contend those employees could find jobs that don’t involve animal fur, noting that an increasing number of fashion designers and retailers now refuse to sell animal fur and that synthetic substitutes are every bit as convincing as the real thing.
They also argue that fur retailers and manufacturers represent just a small fraction of an estimated 180,000 people who work in the city’s fashion industry and that their skills can readily be transferred.
“There is a lot of room for job growth developing ethically and environmentally friendly materials,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced the city measure.
New Yorkers asked about the ban this week came down on both sides, with some questioning if a law was really needed.
“It is a matter of personal choice. I don’t think it’s something that needs to be legislated,” said 44-year-old Janet Thompson. “There are lots of people wearing leather and suede and other animal hides out there. To pick on fur seems a little one-sided.”
Joshua Katcher, a Manhattan designer and author who has taught at the Parsons School of Design, says he believes the proposed bans reflect an increased desire to know where our products come from and for them to be ethical and sustainable.
“Fur is a relic,” he said.