Dubai has long been a global hub for business and commerce, but it is fast establishing itself as a centre for fashion that is redefining the way the world views Arab couture.
Retail spaces such as the Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Mall have created an unrivalled shopping experience. The Mall of the World, covering the size of roughly 200 football pitches, will raise the bar even further.
Sales of apparel and footwear in the MENA region totalled around $93bn in 2015 and are expected to rise by 49% to $139bn in only four years’ time, according to Euromonitor International. Jorge Martin, the firm’s apparel and footwear manager, described the region as “one of the most dynamic and promising in the world of fashion today”.
However, Dubai is moving beyond simply being a retail centre and developing its own designers and fashion houses. There is the Dubai Design District (d3) which, according to Business of Fashion is “a neighbourhood where fashion firms and institutions can begin to put down roots — and not be quite so overshadowed by the brutal bottom line”. It is a two million square metre complex that cost $1.1 billion.
It is believed that within the next two years Vogue Arabia will be the latest high-profile global glossy in the scene, joining Harper’s Bazaar Arabia and Elle Oriental in the Middle-Eastern magazine market.
Arab Fashion Week, which claims to be a “prestigious landmark in the fashion industry”, takes place in Dubai from 16-19 March. But there are also plans to relaunch Dubai Fashion Week under the auspices of the newly-established Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC). It is a state-funded body chaired by Amina Al-Rustamani, who developed the aforementioned Design District.
The hope is the generation of new designers from the region, following in the footsteps of Lebanon’s Rabih Kayrouz or Rami Al Ali from Syria, will consider Dubai a credible base for their business ambitions rather than hot footing it to the fashion capitals of Europe.
“If we focus on collaboration within the region, we’ll be able to contribute on a much larger scale to the global fashion scene and be recognised for our fashion standards, [and create] a ripple effect that benefits other countries across MENA,” says Nez Gebreel, chief executive of the DDFC.
“The feedback we’re receiving from our counterparts in countries like Saudi and Kuwait is that the success we’re having in Dubai is having a positive impact on these markets as well.”