DUBAI: Franca Sozzani, the editor-in-chief of one of the world’s most influential fashion magazines, Vogue Italia, has a piece of advice for fashion designers: “Don’t compromise to the market.”
The veteran journalist and style expert dubbed the fashion market “unfaithful” during a chat with The Daily Star on the sidelines of last week’s “Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience,” an international fashion exhibition and show held at the Dubai Mall.
Sozzani was categorical when discussing the best means way for a designer to strike a balance between creativity and the taste of the clientele: “If you start to compromise with the market you’ll lose your creativity.”
Sozzani, who has been championing young talent in the fashion world for several years now, decided to apply her expertise and know-how in Dubai by introducing eight emerging designers to the industry as part of VFDE. Planners hope it will become a yearly event that will promote Dubai as one of the world’s fashion capitals.
Organized by global property developer Emaar Properties and Vogue Italia, the VFDE, held on Oct. 10, was a celebration of international fashion that culminated in a catwalk show to promote the work of the eight emerging designers.
Of the eight emerging designers, four were Arab: Mohammad Ashi and Razzan Alazzouni from Saudi Arabia, Wadha al-Hajri from Qatar and Lulwa al-Amin from Bahrain. All showed collections that carried inspiration from their countries of origin without overlooking modern-day global trends.
The festivities also included a retrospective photography exhibition featuring 50 of the most iconic covers of Vogue Italia and – the highlight of the event – a VIP gala dinner that raised more than $1.3 million for Dubai Cares, the charity founded by UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, to promote the primary education of children in underprivileged communities across the world.
Sozzani pointed out that Dubai, “with all its diversity and potentials” it has to offer, should not strive to become another fashion city but should rather turn into a fashion hub.”
“The so-called ‘fashion cities’ are numerous, and the legitimacy of some is actually questioned,” she said. “ Dubai is capable of making the extra step to move beyond [such cliches] and become a concept city.”
Sozzani, a fervent defender of and mentor for several new talents, maintained that the fashion world was badly in need of a new generation of designers, adding that it was the responsibility of established designers to help newcomers.
At Sozzani and Emaar’s invitation, there were numerous high-profile guests in attendance at the VFDE, including Donatella Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Silvia Fendi, Givenchy’s creative director Riccardo Tisci, and Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2.
Illustrious supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Karolina Kurkova, Eva Riccobono and Afef Jnifen were also present.
For Sozzani, promoting up-and-coming talent was a “huge responsibility” because while giving them the opportunity to build a career was a positive step, she said, new designers were often “disillusioned.”
“The fashion world is tough and continuity is at stake,” said the stylish editor, famed for her signature ashy-blonde locks. “New designers ought to be alerted from the beginning to avoid illusions and disappointments.”
Sozzani, said the four Arab designers – Ashi, Alazzouni, Hajri and Amin – understood the spirit of what she dubbed “real new fashion.”
“Showing everything should not be the norm,” she said. “Respecting the mentality and the spirit of the place you’re going is the key principle for any fashionable or stylish behavior.”
MOHAMMAD ASHIThe prodigious student of renowned Lebanese designer Elie Saab, Saudi designer Ashi’s main inspiration for his voluminous and dramatic designs is literature.
“Movies and books guide my designs,” he told The Daily Star.
Ashi who also interned at Givenchy, moved to Beirut in 2007 where he established his fashion line AshiStudio. He said the seasons and his mood also played a big role in determining the palette for his collections.
His designs are characterized by simple elegance and shifting volume. He also pays particular attention to fine cuts that give originality and precision to his creations.
RAZAN ALAZZOUNIAl-Khobar-based Alazzouni’s strikes the perfect balance between coquettish and timeless elegance, and ultrafeminine cuts and sparkly oversized earrings defined the collection she showcased at VFDE.
Alazzouni – one of the Arab Gulf region’s most beloved young talents – closely follows Givenchy’s Tisci and is against “insanely sexy” designs.
She loves contrasts: playful yet conservative cuts alongside glittery embroidery on cotton fabrics were a dominant trait of her clothes.
Travel, art and the weather are Alazzouni’s main sources of inspiration. Her team also plays an integral role in figuring out how the end products will look.
“We’re not rigid and we are fans of experimentation,” she said.
WADHA AL-HAJRIQatari designer Wadha al-Hajri’s designs are simple yet powerful, and black and white dominated her elegant minimalist collection at VFDE.
Her creations are a modern mirror to the elegant silky black abayas she sports. Cristobal Balenciaga being her idol, Hajri is an advocate of spartan yet punchy statement pieces.
For her, elegance and femininity are both defined by the character and the confidence that emanates from everyday women.
“It’s my own way of thinking and ideas that make my designs different,” Hajri confided. “I know exactly what I want and know that there are some who will appreciate it and want to wear statement pieces that reflect their strong personality.”