Arab designers have 'arrogant' attitude towards own market: fashion council CEO

Arab Fashion Council CEO Jacob Abrian urged designers and consumers to stop looking at international brands and 'look at the talent that we have'
Jacob Abrian, CEO of non-profit organisation Arab Fashion Council (AFC).
By Lubna Hamdan
Mon 14 May 2018 09:00 AM

‘Arrogant attitude’ from established Arab designers and fashion businesses is one of the biggest issues hindering the growth of the Middle Eastern fashion scene, according to Jacob Abrian, CEO of non-profit organisation Arab Fashion Council (AFC).

Speaking to Arabian Business, Abrian said Arab fashion designers and businesses do not offer enough support for up and coming regional brands, especially when compared to the backing new designers receive in fashion capitals such as Milan.

“The Arab talent, and sometimes businesses, they have arrogant attitudes when looking at what is home grown. [They] support what is imported from outside, but there is not much attention on supporting what is home grown,” he said.

Abrian referenced global designers such as Giorgio Armani, who lends a theatre he owns to emerging talent free of charge, to enable them to run their first fashion shows.

“Italian designers are proud to teach the next generation. It’s not only about protecting yourself,” he said, urging Arab designers to learn to give and share their expertise with the next generation.

He further added that it is the attitude of ‘loving what is foreign’ that is keeping the region’s industry behind that of fashion capitals such as Paris and Milan, with Middle East fashion exports accounting for a small percentage of overall distribution.

“Compared to other fashion industries in France, Italy, UK and US, [the Arab fashion industry] doesn’t stand for more than 3% [of worldwide fashion exports], which is really embarrassing because it’s the most important, powerful spender market… And if Arab brands are exported, they are exported under the ‘Made in Paris’ label,” he said, urging the region’s fashion industry to stop focusing solely on international designers.

“We have Arab designers producing high quality collections, but no one looks at them. Many times, I wear Arab brands, and people tell me, ‘Oh, I love your Yves Saint Laurent (YSL) shorts or jeans or jacket.’ But it wouldn’t be YSL. It would be an Arab brand. So stop looking at the brands. Look at the product. Look at the talent that we have,” he said.

The UAE alone has one of the highest fashion clothing sales per capita per year in the developing world, while the overall Islamic clothing market is projected to be worth almost $370 billion by 2021.

A recent partnership with AFC and Dubai-based investment firm MBM Holding is expected to boost ‘Made in UAE’ labels and local manufacturing, as well as attract foreign investment into the UAE fashion sector.

AFC is a non-profit fashion organisation which represents 22 Arab countries. It acts as a support platform for regional designers, offering emerging talent with mentorship programs and more.

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