That’s the feeling that Dalia El Ali’s London Fashion Week collection inspired. You could feel the energy in the room when the models sashayed down the catwalk at Fashion Scout held in the imposing art deco setting of the Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden.
El Ali’s collection was presented by Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC) in partnership with FAD Institute of Luxury, Fashion & Style Dubai (FAD Dubai). The DDFC X FAD Dubai fashion initiative sponsors the participation of Emirati and UAE-based designers to showcase at London Fashion Scout, the leading independent platform at London Fashion Week. The initiative is offered exclusively to DDFC members and combines the Council’s efforts to foster the development of a sustainable fashion industry in the UAE and MENA region.
Arab News went backstage to talk to El Ali as she counted down the minutes to her first ever showing at LFW. She said she felt both nervous and excited but she looked as though she was really enjoying the atmosphere.
You get the impression that she is a person with a strong core identity who knows what she wants and has the talent and confidence to make it happen. Curiously, her background was not fashion at the outset, but finance.
“I studied finance at American University of Beirut, worked in investment banking for six years, and then left my job to spend time with my two lovely boys. I began dabbling as a stylist for shoots for local magazines and websites but despite all that, I still felt that I had not reached where I wanted to be, so I took things to the next level. I studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion and I finally did it! I started my own line of clothes in 2013.”
Her line is all about fun, playful pieces with a twist reflecting her own personality and style. You can detect influences of the 1960s and 1970s in her designs and the AW 18 collection features her own print for the first time.
“This collection is inspired by astronomy, positive energy and women’s empowerment. I’ve included references to the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Time’s Up’ hashtags to raise awareness of these issues,” she said.
El Ali was impressed by the high level of organization at Fashion Scout. Certainly everything seemed to run like a well oiled machine with models being put through their paces as they rehearsed before each show and an army of make-up artists and stylists working to create the special “look” for each collection. It’s an intense, creative whirlpool behind the scenes but once the lights go down it’s a polished, seamless performance.
“All the people here are so experienced and know exactly what they are doing. Fashion Scout is very professional and gives designers a great platform and it’s really enjoyable because it’s so diverse,” said El Ali.
Asked about her fashion influences, she said: “From the Arab world — Queen Rania of Jordan. She is so elegant – even when she goes for a funky look she pulls it off in an elegant way. She is very classy. Also, I love Sarah Jessica Parker – she’s a real favorite.”
Asked about her views of the fashion industry within the GCC, she said: “Within the Gulf region, the fashion scene is evolving very fast. Lately, modest fashion is enjoying a high profile and it’s nice to see everyone taking an interest in the fashion of the GCC. Tastes are changing and there is an openness to new designers. Having the Design District in Dubai is also really helpful as it draws all the fashion and talent to one spot.
“DDFC are based in the Design District which is how we met. They have been extremely helpful – they do a lot for designers, from running courses to opening up opportunities with buyers.”
Thomaz Domingues, Senior Manager for Strategy and Industry Development for the DDFC, spoke to Arab News in the run-up to the show.
“We are very excited to have Dalia here. This is our third season bringing our DDFC members here to showcase at Fashion Scout. We have a very well organized and structured selection process and as more and more people become aware of what we are doing, this event is gaining traction.
“The designers who have participated here in London have been able to get some very positive results in terms of new business opportunities and media coverage.
“They all come back to us and give us their feedback and share their experience with other members. It’s a very positive engagement.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of new designers who are keen to participate. We also have a lot of back up and support from the industry which is also very important – from big international brands who help us to build and run the platforms to local companies and other government stakeholders who back us up.”
Shivang Dhruva, founder at FAD Dubai, said: “This year we’ve had a fantastic response from the media and fashion enthusiasts for the Dee by Dalia showcase. We’ve worked closely with her in evolving her collections and we are making a big collective effort to support the talents from the region.
“This year we have had 54 students flying in from FAD Dubai to support the show in London. They are working backstage, assisting with PR and social media. The idea is to give emerging talent hands on experience in the fashion week. At the end of the day we are not just supporting the designers but the whole community of fashion enthusiasts from the region.”