It’s been a while, I know. And though I missed writing new stuff on my blog, I must say it has been nice to take a break and return full of ideas. While I haven’t been posting here, I have written a lot of articles for the Saudi Gazette, the Saudi newspaper I work for. And, the cherry on the cake these last few weeks was a trip to Dubai, where I was invited to cover the Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience, a joint initiative by Vogue Italia and Emaar, the city’s largest real estate company that owns the entire area of Downtown Dubai.
Fashion is not something I regularly write about, but I must admit the whole experience was quite unique. In the few days I was there I learned more about fashion design and the industry than I had in the 28 years of my life! While there is more to tell than I can in one blog, let me share with you three highlights of the trip.
The hotel we stayed at was nothing less than The Address Downtown. Those familiar in the city may know that this is a luxurious hotel chain established by Emaar (the same real estate company that owns The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower) and with currently 5 properties throughout the city. The hotel was right next to the enormous mall and overlooked Burj Khalifa and the dancing fountain. The service was immaculate, and breakfast (the only meal I have eaten there) was a feast with plenty of options for people from all over the world, from American pancakes to French pastries and from Indian curry with rice to English bacon and beans. The swimming pool area was gorgeous as well, though I haven’t had the time to try it, just like the spa. What I did use is the state-of-the-art gym, which was located on the top floor and overlooked the Burj and fountain.
2. Meeting fashion designers
The three-day event’s highlight was the fashion show on the first evening, for which eight designers had been selected by Vogue Italia to show their Spring/Summer 2015 collection on the catwalk in The Dubai Mall, including someone from Saudi Arabia and two Emirati fashion labels. For me personally, however, meeting the designers was much more fun. Just like art, clothes appeal to me only after I get to meet the artist and understand the message behind it. Of the eight, I talked to Saudi designer Lamia Asudari, Italians Stella Jean and Piccione.Piccione, and Emirati labels No.3 Design and Madiyah Al Sharqi. Apart from the eight labels, 20 emerging designers had been selected to showcase their work at the Armani Hotel, located inside the Burj Khalifa. I interviewed several of them, among them Reem Al-Kanhal, a Saudi designer based in Riyadh. I wrote an article about Lamia and Reem, the two participating Saudi designers, who received a lot of appreciation and admiration from famous people in the fashion world, including Vogue Italia’s Franca Sozzani and British top model Lily Cole.
3. Franca Sozzani picking up my phone
Ok, perhaps not really a highlight, but I thought I should tell you this anecdote. For those not that familiar with the fashion world, Franca Sozzani is the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia and has been for over 25 years. Though controversial, she must be doing a good job! The first day some of the regional journalists had the chance to chat with her for 10 minutes or so, and I was dying to ask her why she had been in the same job for over 25 years if she is always stressing on the necessity of young blood and finding new talents. I didn’t get the chance to ask her that (and I’m not sure she would’ve appreciated the question) but I did ask her something else. She talked about designers from different (i.e. non-Western) cultures and how she likes them to keep their roots and culture in their designs, but they have to make some adjustments to make it wearable everywhere. Although beautiful, you wouldn’t walk in the metro in London wearing a sarong, she gave as an example. My question: “Doesn’t that show a lack of respect for different cultures and reaffirms the Western dominance, where everyone needs to adjust to us? After all, would anyone tell Chanel or Cavalli, ‘Look, your dresses are gorgeous, but they cannot be worn by women in the Middle East”?’ Sozzani misinterpreted my question or did not want to answer it, and I thought that was a pity.
The next day I was attending the lectures by various famous people in the fashion industry (including Alberta Ferretti and Roberto Cavalli) and guess who was sitting next to me? Ms. Sozzani. At one point, my phone fell from the chair. To my great surprise, Sozzani bowed and got it for me from the floor. I thought that was quite amazing, and immediately regretted the negative impression I got of her the day before. Of course, these are just three things I enjoyed during the trip. There were many more, such as the 28-km run I did with the Dubai Creek Striders. Perhaps I can tell about that in a next post. For now, I will leave with you with some impressions of the eight designers that showed their work on the catwalk in The Dubai Mall.