According to a 2013 government mandate, Dubai is set to grow into an international fashion hub by 2020. In five years, it launched Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC), Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation and Dubai Design District (d3), and endorsed Fashion Forward (FFWD).
However, recent studies indicate a slow-down in the global fashion industry driven by disconnects between what consumers want and what the market is offering. Millennials are rejecting mass-produced goods and leaning towards brands driven by narratives. Coupled with the introduction of VAT and oversupply, retailers will have to reassess the way they do business in 2018.
For example, traditional, retailers could collaborate with emerging brands to diversify their offering, while also giving regional brands a sales platform. Key stakeholders should bring the city’s fashion calendar under one timeline. That effort should extend to the region, where organisations join forces to position the Middle East as a global contender, with cities such as Dubai and Beirut leading the pack. With changes promising to take place in Saudi Arabia in 2018, Riyadh or Jeddah could also become important players.
FFWD will evolve by possibly letting go of imported, old formats, such as Fashion Weeks, and instead work on defining its global positioning, as well as integrating technology to innovate. The rise of social media has sent the fashion industry into a complete overhaul, with immediacy and instant gratification becoming the name of the game. According to fashion consultancy Karen Harvey, brands should think more like tech companies, on how consumers want to engage with them. There was a time when people looked to designers and platforms for the latest trends, but this is no longer the case. Today, consumers dictate what they want, and companies respond.
Respectively, FFWD will become consumer-centric, by adopting a B2C approach, evolving into a fully integrated offline and online fashion platform, versus its current physically limited bi-annual event manifestation. It will garner a regional and eventually international community of designers and consumers centred on emerging brands and sustainability, while enabling direct communication and sales channels between the designers and their customers by looking at models such as e-commerce and see-now-buy-now shows.
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