“If I were a young person today, I would definitely move here,” declared Vogue Italia Editor in Chief, Franca Sozzani, to us the morning of her much anticipated Vogue Dubai Fashion Experience. As part of her Vogue Talents program, Sozzani was keen to promote creative young designers. The evening’s festivities began with a runway show at the Dubai Mall.
With a front row that included the event’s co-host, Emaar Chairman, H.E. Mohammed Alabbar, alongside some of fashion’s prominent faces, such as Condé Nast International’s CEO and Chairman, Jonathan Newhouse, Franca Sozzani, Naomi Campbell, Roberto and Eva Cavalli, Riccardo Tisci, and Dean and Dan Caten, the show was undoubtedly the highlight of the designers’ careers thus far.
Eight young talents from around the world—including four designers from the Middle East—were featured.
Wadha Al Hajri from Qatar—the “greenest” designer of them all—first premiered her collection this year at the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Arts in Doha. Highlights from this show were the Mashrabiya patterns used for her voluminous silhouettes, capes, and caplets; the touch of whimsy she implemented with eyes and lips embroidered on the chest line of a dress; and the fine execution of a white chiffon folded crop top and A-line skirt.
Beirut-based Saudi designer, Mohammed Ashi, delivered a confident couture collection. Ashi already has a loyal following in the Middle East and is highly skilled with fabric manipulation. The designer showcased sculptural silhouettes in ecru, cream, and red that gracefully floated down the runway. His play on feather implementations, flower appliqués, and asymmetrical volumes brought him the most applause among the designers.
Razan Alazzouni, an Al Khobar-based designer, has charmed a loyal clientele with her trademark embroideries and feminine eveningwear. Uncharacteristically, this season she traveled a more casual, ethnic-chic road with a collection made of separates in black, gold, and turquoise for an old school ‘60s Asian vibe.
Bahraini designer and Central Saint Martins graduate, Lulwa Al Amin, told us that her “inspiration were the Maharajas, their beautiful jewels, and the opulent lives they led.” She offered a cartoonish and modern interpretation of a sartorial costume in a pretty pastel palette.
Irish designer, Simone Rocha reinterpreted feminine codes with a collection sprinkled with gothic details such as skulls, or pearl-lined garments. And while the styling could have been a little less obvious with the knee-high stockings, a phantom-esque feather weight white dress and coat were one of this show’s stunners.
Meanwhile, Italian designer, Andrea Incontri, showcased his ‘40s swimwear-inspired collection with flower prints, tea dresses, and elongated silhouettes.
Esme Vie’s Julia Voitenko from Russia, revealed looks that had us referencing Givenchy for Audrey Hepburn. The silk numbers with leaf jewelry accents were a delight. There is a certain fragility to her delicate A-line skirts, and the cropped tops and subtle colors were balanced by the strength of the cut.
Ituen Basi from Nigeria offered a joyful collection, with strict silhouettes showcasing cord fringes and highly covetable African prints.
“One of the hardest things for young designers is to find the one thing that they are good at and then affirm that over and over again,” commented Dsquared’s Dean and Dan Caten to us after the show. And, indeed, while Franca Sozzani’s handpicked designers all represented different cultural aesthetics, ambition, and visible talent, they are still searching for their signature styles.