By Salma Awwad
The world-renowned 80s model, Yasmin Le Bon, commented as part of FFWD’s season four industry talks
Dubai is not taken seriously as a fashion hub outside the region, top model Yasmin Le Bon said while visiting the emirate earlier this month.
When asked by The National newspaper if the city's ambitions to become a fashion hub were taken seriously on a global level, the iconic 80s model responded: “Probably not, actually, if I’m being honest and I might as well be. But there’s room for improvement and I think there’s a sea change of feeling. Instead of people chasing after new and emerging markets, maybe they are really starting to think about cultural differences and embrace them. I think that’s when a difference really will be made instead of us constantly chasing after different markets.”
In the emirate to speak at the recent Fashion Forward (FFWD) event, the 49-year old British-Iranian beauty found the Emperor 1688 and the House of Roland to be the highlight of the fashion showcase.
Dubbed as the “Face of the Eighties, Le Bon credits her mixed Middle Eastern and British heritage for her timeless looks which have graced catwalks and front covers the world over in a career spanning three decades.
During her legendary career Le Bon has worked with nearly every top photographer from Peter Lindbergh to Horst P to Steven Meisel and Mario Testino; she has graced both covers of the first ever American and British Elle magazines, as well as the covers of Italian, British, French, and German Vogue.
Over the past few decades, Yasmin has been a mainstay presence on the international runway scene, and was the face of campaigns of labels such as Yves Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, Missoni, Lagerfeld and Ralph Lauren and Dior.
Away from the catwalk, Yasmin is a mum-of-three and a firm supporter of new fashion talent on both sides of the lens, championing young designers at fashion weeks and supporting emerging photographers. She has also created her own clothing line for British high street retailer Wallis “YLB for Wallis”.
Earlier this year, a new global study found New York had overtaken Paris and London as the world’s most fashionable city, while Dubai slipped out of the top 30 and Abu Dhabi tumbled 11 places to 51st.
Over the course of three years, the US-based Global Language Monitor tracked over 250,000 blogs, print outlets, and social media channels, looking for buzzwords associated with haute couture, ready-to-wear, and fashion.
“New York City has, indeed, earned its Top Global Fashion Capital ranking through its disciplined, methodical yet creative approach to its fashion industry,” said Bekka Payack, New York-based Fashion Director for The Global Language Monitor.
”Paris, with the Top Haute Couture ranking, of course has a centuries-long heritage, having invented the very concept, also scored highly in the pret-a-porter category. This year’s rankings also demonstrate the creative energy that is emerging worldwide in terms of fashion as a jobs, income and wealth generator, not to mention the prestige associated with exporting your fashion sense to the world,” she added.
In the Middle East, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were the top ranking cities but trailed towards the bottom end of the rankings.
Dubai was ranked 31st, slipping three places since last year’s list and placing it outside of the top 30. “A burgeoning global presence and the No.1 fashion capital in the Middle East,” the report said of the city.
Rival UAE city Abu Dhabi performed worse and ranked 51st, having fallen a total of 11 places since last year, behind cities such as Mumbai and Caracas.
“There are more vibrant outposts of fashion that are contending to replace Abu Dhabi on this list,” the report concluded.
Despite Dubai’s performance, many of those in the local fashion industry, which Arabian Business has interviewed recently, lauded the city and said it has a lot of potential.
“Couture ateliers in Dubai are like mushrooms that are sprouting every single day and in a few months these same outlets close shop,” Dubai-based designer Ezra Santos said.
The couture industry in Dubai is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only 25 years ago, both well-heeled locals and average housewives were accustomed to going to the souq, buying their own fabrics and getting their dresses made at a local dress shop. There were no malls in which to go shopping, and there were no brands, per se, available.
Local design house House of Arushi opened in 2004 and is now a globally recognised local couturier, currently running a million-dollar business with a team of 65 staff.
The celebrated designers of Dubai can command a hefty price for their creations, with an average price tag of $11,000. The most basic evening dresses start at $5,500 and custom-made wedding dresses have been sold for north of $70,000 to local clientele. A well-known fact in the industry is that the true home of couture buyers is right here in the Middle East.
“Couture in Paris is dead, but not in Dubai,” Santos claimed. “In the Middle East a lot of ladies want something that is really special. Some of the richest people can go and order Haute Couture, and I must say what’s keeping Haute Couture in Paris is that most of their clients are Middle Eastern.”
There is no doubt that Dubai is the “in” place to be right now in the world of couture. The business is evolving, demand is soaring, and with government support through projects such as D3 (Dubai’s upcoming Design District), the industry is rising to a whole new level.
Even local-based modeling scouts are raving about Dubai as a fashionable city. “Although you get paid higher wages in Europe, models like coming here because they get more jobs and they start working right away. Overall, it is much easier here in Dubai and there is a growing market for it,” Gosia Golda, managing director and founder of MMG Events, told Arabian Business.
“I think Dubai is a totally different market that gives a chance to everyone, regardless of your age and height. Here, even at 30-32, you can still be a catwalk or photoshoot model, which is a great thing since I’m 32 and I still get to do some work,” added Dubai-based French model Vanessa Geens.fashion trends from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.