UAE-based designer platform Fashion Forward has been taking part in Paris Fashion Week in a bid to put regional emerging talent on the global map. But co-founder Ramzi Nakad says there is no reason Dubai cannot become the next Paris, and eventually host its own fashion week
Why is it important for Fashion Forward to participate in Paris Fashion Week?
Paris is the hub of fashion, and it has nurtured some of our greatest talent, including Elie Saab and Rabih Kayrouz. Our participation in Paris helps the next generation of designers by making the process slightly easier for them. The older generation had a lot of hurdles to overcome on an individual level, but with institutions such as Fashion Forward, Dubai Design District (d3), Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC) and emerging brands all working together, it is now a collective effort. Everyone is coming together to support these designers. It’s encouraging and we’ve noticed that it’s enabled progress for them and for the industry.
How does your presence in Paris help emerging designers in Dubai?
Fashion Forward was giving designers great visibility, a lot of media coverage and a lot of social output, but the missing link was the buying element. When we were talking to buyers and asking them why they were attending but not buying in Dubai, we noticed that we were outside the buying cycle. Paris is the last of the four fashion weeks [after New York, London and Milan] so by the time it happens, all the budgets have been spent – and Fashion Forward happens two weeks after Paris. We wanted to be where the buyers are at during the fashion season and make sure our designers get that opportunity to be bought.
Why did you choose to participate in Paris as opposed to New York, London or Milan?
The thing with New York is it’s very American, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) is very much involved in looking after American brands. Milan is the same – and it only made its comeback three seasons ago – but it’s also very much about Italian manufacturing and ‘Made in Italy’ brands. London is trying to find its position in the world. It used to be known for being the avant-garde, next-generation city, but it’s having a lot of problems from a buying point of view to meet that expectation. So Paris is the hub where everyone comes to meet. You have the biggest trade fairs, all the showrooms and all the shows. It’s that window in the week where everything comes together.
What is the biggest challenge Dubai faces when it comes to hosting a fashion week?
Funding is the main issue. Every fashion capital became a fashion capital because the city itself, either the mayor or the municipality, supported that platform. Dubai has already made leaps versus other countries in the region, but for it to become a global player competing against emerging cities such as Shanghai, Tokyo, Berlin and Turkey, it has to make a big investment, and I think that’s being studied at the moment. Once the funding is secured from the government, we will see a lot of momentum. It’s also the big fashion houses who contribute to the growth of the cities and the fashion weeks they host. The challenge in Dubai is you don’t have a lot of big home-grown brands who are on that level to fund. For example, Cadillac funds the men’s fashion week in New York.
What advantage does Dubai have compared to other fashion cities?
Dubai’s focus is on championing emerging talent who get lost in established cities; especially seeing as it has a small local population where the majority are expats. The main focus in Paris is on the big brands; the Chanels and the Louis Vuittons. So emerging talent ends up being treated as second class fashion citizens, whereas Dubai will champion them, first in the region and then globally.
Is Dubai’s fashion industry moving fast?
The global economic climate has slowed things down, because we’re not immune to what is happening internationally, but there is definitely a lot of progress with the formation of things like d3 and Fashion Forward – and all in just five years. That’s not bad at all, but because Dubai is so dynamic and a bit impatient, it feels the need to be there tomorrow, yet things take time. It took New York 20 years to become a fashion capital. Dubai is on the right path.