Meet Jacob Abrian, the high achieving head of the Arab Fashion Council

Updated 12 April 2018

Meet Jacob Abrian, the high achieving head of the Arab Fashion Council

RIYADH: Jacob Abrian, 26-year-old model, founder and CEO of the Arab Fashion Council (AFC), which organizes Arab Fashion Week (AFW), is optimistic about the future of the Arab fashion industry, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

“There are many Saudi talents,” Abrian told Arab News on the eve of the AFW 2018 in Riyadh. “But they were hidden or exclusive and now we will spread them to the world.”

Abrian has mixed Lebanese-Italian heritage. Both countries have had a major impact on the fashion industry, and Abrian knows that talent alone will not be enough to sustain a successful fashion scene in the GCC.

“I wanted to bring that infrastructure that Italy has in the fashion world to our region,” he explained. “I’m not focusing so much on Arab Fashion Week itself, rather we’re working on that to promote and focus on the infrastructure.

“With the right education and platform anything can happen,” he continued, adding that the AFC plans to set up a fashion university in the Kingdom. “In regard to local designers, our main role is to scout and support them, give them a platform to grow. Currently, local designers just have potential; everything starts from education and work experience. It should all be connecting together and this is the course we want to bring to Saudi.”

Abrian has seen enough to be sure that there is a bright future for young Arab designers. “Three years ago we launched a scholarship for the Arab world,” he said. “A Saudi student won that competition. He was so passionate and I felt that, with the right tools, that student could have a bright future. Two years later, he sent us his portfolio and we were amazed. He’s now a fashion editor at one of the most important magazines in the world.”

Success stories like that motivate Abrian to keep pushing Arab fashion forward, and Arab Fashion Week is the biggest milestone so far in that journey.

“It’s a sign that Saudi is changing,” he said of the event. “I’m proud to say that Saudi is going to surprise everyone around the world in a top-notch manner.

“This is a great start,” he continued. “It’s exciting. We’re building history.”

FASTFACTS

BIO

Jacob Abrian is the founder and CEO of the Arab Fashion Council (AFC), the world’s largest non-profit fashion council. It represents the 22 Arabic countries that are members of the Arab League. He founded the council aged 22, becoming the youngest person ever to found an international extraterritorial authority. Abrian is also a successful model.


The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

Updated 24 August 2019

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

  • How designers in the MENA region are making a different kind of fashion statement
  • The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa

CAIRO: Fashion is about far more than just trendy outfits. The growing demand for ethical clothing is one example of how designers are seeking to leave a legacy beyond the runway.

The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa. Recent initiatives include Talahum by UAE-based designer Aiisha Ramadan, who created coats that transform into sleeping bags for disadvantaged and refugee communities living without proper shelter.

In 2016, Cairo hosted ICanSurvive, an event to commemorate World Cancer Day. As part of the project, 32 cancer survivors were paired with fashion designers to help them create the outfit of
a lifetime.

“I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements,” said Egyptian couturier Ahmed Nabil, 28, one of the volunteers at ICanSurvive. “I still can’t let go of the moment I saw her crying from happiness when she got to wear her outfit at the event.”

Though a transformational experience for Nabil, this was not his first attempt at thought-provoking designs. He was only 23 when he launched his company, Nob Designs, in 2014 to begin a journey of exploration by designing clothes for unconventional causes and experimental concepts.

The company sells a diverse set of fashion pieces with designs that aim to inspire conversation. Nabil’s creations are much like art pieces at a gallery, but instead of being displayed on canvas, they are exhibited on t-shirts, tops, dresses and abayas.

His latest collection combines street fashion inspired by underground culture with Arabic calligraphy. The Halal Project endeavors to blur the lines between conservative and edgy to demonstrate that fashion designs can be accessible to anyone.

“It’s all about the idea of accepting one another regardless of differences,” Nabil said. “My main aim for this project is a call for all people to peacefully coexist.”

Nabil added that the shift towards tolerance is not something that just the general public needs to work on. Fashion designers themselves are sometimes biased in their perceptions.

Many millennial designers, particularly in Egypt, remain wary of exploring modest fashion, despite the trend’s rising popularity. Sometimes it is because they want to avoid defining themselves as conservative instead of being considered modern and trendy.

Fellow Egyptian designer Sara Elemary, who has been running her Sara Elemary Designs label for nearly a decade, agrees.

“Modesty is a big thing in Egypt. I can’t understand why they are neglecting it,” she said. “A woman doesn’t have to be in a headscarf to wear modest clothing. There are so many famous designers for whom modesty plays a big role in
their work.”

Meanwhile, events such as Dubai Modest Fashion Week have been promoting the concept and encouraging budding designers in the region to consider this trending domain.

“I believe that there’s a problem with modest fashion, but over the past two years, that issue has started to diminish as designers have incorporated more modest designs in their collections,” Nabil said.

The next step for him is getting into the couture domain with his long-awaited project, Nob Couture. The look of the new collection is still a mystery, but he seems determined to continue sending messages and starting discussions through his designs, which he said are inspired by his life experiences.

As for designers in the region, the time is ripe for them to start supporting the causes they believe in through their work. Whatever topic or fashion style they decide to pursue, they need to be fearless in triggering conversation in the Arab world with their creations.