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How Dubai Design District And The Arab Fashion Council Are Shaking Up Fashion In The Middle East – Forbes

DUBAI, UAE- Dubai Design District (d3) and the Arab Fashion Council (AFC) are working together to … [+] get regional couture, ready-to-wear, and streetwear talent noticed. Pictured: d3 Executive Director Khadija Al Bastaki (right) with The Arab Fashion Council: Jacob Abrian (CEO) center and Mohammed Aqra (Chief Strategy Officer) left.
The Middle East has been a hub for some of the region’s best design talent for years, it’s nothing new, though the rest of the world is taking more and more notice every year. We’re all familiar with top designers like Elie Saab from Lebanon, or Azzi and Osta also from the same small Levantine nation. But in addition to these designers, there are other ecosystems in the region seeking to provide a platform to put Arab designers on the Middle East and international designer stages. Dubai Design District (d3) and the Arab Fashion Council (AFC) are working together to get regional couture, ready-to-wear, and streetwear talent noticed.
d3
Set in its own unique corner of Dubai is d3, positioned in a series of uniquely designed buildings from offices, studios, designers, forty retailers, showrooms, and restaurants all intertwined. Some of the top United Arab Emirates fashion shows have happened in d3, as it has set itself up as an international creative ecosystem dedicated to fashion, design, architecture, art and retail.
Leading d3 is Executive Director Khadija Al Bastaki.In terms of fashion, d3 is truly like no other fashion hub in the world,” she shares. “Here, international companies, homegrown brands and valiant entrepreneurs share a common address and collective platform where they help build each other up by combining talents, challenge each other to innovate and share the ride to the frontline of the global fashion landscape.”
DUBAI, UAE- Ariel view of Dubai Design District (d3) filled with offices, studios, designers, forty … [+] retailers, showrooms, and restaurants all intertwined.
The fashion ecosystem in the Middle East has been laid out for years with north Africa being known for its cotton, the Levant being famous for production, and the Gulf countries like the UAE being strong in retail and marketing. The UAE continues to be a regional powerhouse for Middle East fashion. “According to figures recently published by Statista, fashion revenues in the UAE are projected to hit $2.42 billion this year,” Al Bastaki continues. “Since our inception we have helped nurture talent and encourage collaboration. We have entered into many partnerships and initiatives that have led to growth in the fashion community across the region. Our most recent strategic partnership with the Arab Fashion Council, which we announced this summer, is a very exciting one and will further contribute towards the sustainable growth of our region’s fashion industry – and its ever-increasing visibility on the global stage. We also empower and enable the sectors that are closely related to fashion such as materials, fabrics, 3d printing and others.”
Giving creators the tools to drive innovation, Dubai has been named UNESCOs Creative City of Design. Al Bastaki and her team are constantly on the lookout for emerging homegrown talent. “We want to give them a common address to engage, collaborate, inspire, and pave the way for some of the most ingenious work in the region to be created. And we aim to be a community that constantly challenges people to rethink the regular.”
Working and housing international brands from Dior, Burberry, Zaha Hadid Architects and Foster + Partners, d3 is supporting Dubai’s vision to increase the number of creative companies operating in the emirate from 8,300 to 15,000, doubling its number of creators from 70,000 to 140,000, Al Bastaki points out.
DUBAI, UAE- d3 is Executive Director Khadija Al Bastaki and her team are constantly on the lookout … [+] for new creative talent in the Arab world.
Recently Arab Fashion Week (AFW) was an accomplishment between d3 and The Arab Fashion Council. The spring-summer 2022 shows featured designers from the UAE, France, the US, Switzerland, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine, the Philippines, Colombia, and Poland. “Amato, Euphoria, Ihab Jiryis, Emergency Room, Ester Manas, Zeena Zaki, and Michael Cinco are some names that presented. It was just wonderful to see the return of physical shows and the community back together in person,” she notes.
“I really enjoyed seeing Jeremy Scott’s Barbie-inspired collection for Moschino on the runway. It was great seeing dolls dating back to the 1950s at the show as well. Barbie is such an iconic figure, known to millions of girls and women around the world. Speaking of girls, it would be remiss of me not to mention Emanne Beasha’s performance of Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro. But back on the runway, I was also very impressed by Yara bin Shakar’s new embrace of sleeveless outfits. The Emirati designer has made her name with comfortable, stylish and practical modest wear, so it was great to see her expanding her horizons to reach even more women.”
“Such partnerships with the Arab Fashion Council, Dubai Design Week, and Art Dubai etc help reinforce our position as a creative hub. They enable international brands and aspiring artisans to connect, collaborate, create and inspire and ultimately nurture an impactful creative community for us here in Dubai, the UAE and region,” she notes.
The Arab Fashion Council
The Arab Fashion Council was started by Jacob Abrian, it’s CEO. In its eighteenth season, Abrian shares the reason why he started the council, which was “to promote the region through a world-class platform and infrastructure enabling talent to penetrate the international market without the need to be based somewhere outside the Arab world. I had the urge to create a support system equivalent to what is available in other fashion capitals.”
Six years and eighteen seasons in Abrian has seen growth. “The support of Dubai and the world-class infrastructure the city provides, along with international law and connectivity with the rest of the world as a global city are contributors to this growth. In a short time, the Arab Fashion Week has become one of the world’s most important fashion events attended by thousands of fashion connoisseurs, media, buyers, celebrities and designers from around the world, receiving over 1.4 billion impressions every year. AFW has become a landmark attraction in the fashion industry,” he states.
It was a no brainer for Abrian and his team to strategically partner with d3. This partnership is more than the set up that d3 provides. “It goes beyond the creative space that gives talent a powerful presence in the region, it also attracts international brands to setup their businesses and presence in the Middle East, to presenting our talent abroad at global and world-class platforms,” Abrian continues.
DUBAI, UAE- Arab Fashion Week’s spring-summer 2022 season showcased last month in Dubai.
“The vision of the Arab Fashion Council and the mandate of Dubai Design District align in supporting the talents and foster the growth of the creative economy,” he says. “Through the strategic partnership, d3 has been named the official home of the Arab Fashion Week, where we just hosted 18 brands for SS22, with over 7000 guests.” 
The council’s Chief Strategy Officer Mohammed Aqra joined the council a few years ago and has spearheaded relationships with brands like Mattel’s Barbie. “It’s not about how many fashion weeks we have in the region that will foster the growth of our talent and benefit the region; but it is about the creative community being united under one umbrella that serves the same vision and mission,” he points out. “Strategic partnership ensures that the platform is supported by a sound and solid network of multinational companies and brands that not only help in promoting and funding the platform but also enabling our designers to collaborate with our partners in cross marketing through creating capsule collections and exclusive initiatives. It is the partnership program that strategically serve a robust alliance and synergy amongst the various sector of the fashion industry’s value chain.” 
The uniqueness of Arab fashion designers
The Middle East’s fashion talent is remarkable, known around the world to women who desire to be dressed by regional designers. “There is a long and strong history of interest in and passion for beautiful couture – as well as the arts and creative industries more generally,” says Al Bastaki. “The region has a very strong and informed consumer base for fashion as well with spending on fashion in some GCC countries among the highest on a per capita basis globally.”
“The Middle East is increasingly a more significant exporter of fashion trends than ever before. It is featuring more and more in the global fashion narrative and there is so much potential and opportunity here. Among the regional fashion design powerhouses are Elie Saab and Rabih Kayrouz. Saab’s work has been spotted on Hollywood A-listers walking the red carpet for a couple of decades now.”
“In addition to this, UAE labels Bouguessa, Nathalie Trad, SemSem and Rami Al Ali have dressed a diverse range of celebrity musicians and actors, including Rihanna, Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain and Beyonce. Kuwaiti designer Yousef Aljasmi produced matching Swarovski-encrusted outfits for Kylie Jenner and her baby at the Kardashian-­Jenner Christmas Eve party. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Death by Dolls has adorned the likes of Britney Spears and Rita Ora. We are proud to host many of these labels at d3 and provide them an ecosystem to continue their growth journey. It is exciting times for the fashion industry in our region.”
The Goal
The goal for d3 and AFC is simple but robust: to continue supporting Arab designers. “Our goal for AFW is to continue growing the platform, elevating its international presence, and to keep attracting international media and buyers to explore what the region’s creative scene has to offer to the international market. We also want to support and strengthen the creative economy in the Middle East,” says Abrian. 
“Design and the creative industries matter more than ever before, in a world that is changing so quickly and so profoundly,” muses Al Bastaki. “Going forward, I am excited to bring on board and work alongside even more creative entrepreneurs in our creative hub, while continuing to add value to the ones who already call d3 home.”

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