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

Updated 12 April 2018
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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.


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.