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Fashion Forward Dubai invites designers to spring show
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BEIRUT: Fashion Forward Dubai, a regional fashion week that held its first event in April 2013, has opened registration for designers wishing to participate in another round of catwalk shows and industry presentations this April. FFWD’s marketing team, Portsmouth Group, announced that the third season would be held from April 10-13 at the Madinat Jumeirah, the same location as its second season in October that saw the venue transformed to host 11,000 guests, 21 catwalk shows and a large showroom selling around 50 fashion accessory brands.

Registration for accessory designers – many of whom hailed from Lebanon last season – opens in January. At season two, the accessory souk sold more than $200,000 worth of merchandise.

FFWD is part of a larger vision for the fashion design and retail industry in Dubai, which is planning to build a district that will centralize designers, materials, manufacturing and store fronts in the heart of the city. Aiming to become an internationally recognized capital for fashion, Dubai’s fashion movers and shakers got another boost of confidence after the emirate won its bid for the World Expo 2020.

“As we look ahead to 2014, we continue to grow and adapt and strive to provide the finest platform upon which our regional designers can showcase their talents,” Bong Guerrero, founder and chief executive of FFWD, said in a statement announcing the third season. “We hope that the community of designers, buyers, media, students and fashion lovers alike will continue to look to FFWD as the definitive event from which our regional identity and industry can grow.”

FFWD held its first event in spring 2013 as a way to offer regional design talent a platform for exposure. Each season, FFWD has incorporated into its program discussion panels and talks by international industry leaders.

Twenty-eight speakers participated at FFWD’s second season, including commercial innovators like the founder of online fashion space Not Just Another Label and academic thinkers such as Simon Collins, dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City.

FFWD has focused on open seminars as a way promote entrepreneurial and design education in a region where, for the most part, fashion design is still a fledgling industry.

The exception to that is of course Lebanon, which has produced a troop of international design talent now spread between New York and Paris. Many of Lebanon’s leading designers today got their breaks in the Gulf, in such places as Dubai, where pockets were deep while there was civil strife back home.

Today, many Lebanese designers, such as jewelry house Bil Arabi, handbag brand Poupee Couture and clothing designer Aisha Ramadan, are based there. Lebanese designers – from couturiers with a showgirl bent to minimalist ready-to-wear brands – had the biggest presence on the second season’s runways.

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz of Maison Rabih Kayrouz said the first time he heard of Fashion Forward, he was seduced by the idea.

“I would like Fashion Forward to become a reference, and for people to come to it to discover new Arab talent,” he said. “I think it’s important to put our industry on an international platform. It will also push the designers to be more creative.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2013, on page 2.
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