Distinguishing Features Of Dubai as A Fashion Capital

Fitting in & standing out: Distinguishing Features Of Dubai as A Fashion Capital

Top speakers are standing up to discuss the distinguishing features of Dubai as a fashion capital. Bong Guerrero, chairman founder of Fashion Forward is accompanied by Zayan Ghandour, fashion designer and co-founder of fashion distribution agency Two Scoops, Lindsay Miller, Managing Director of Dubai Design District, and Cyrille Fabre, partner in Bain & Company Middle East. Journalist and fashion expert Ritu Upadhayay is joining this time as a moderator of the discussion.

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Dubai is no doubt the travel, tourist, and shopping capital of the Middle East. But does it have a real chance of becoming a fashion capital? We know 15 years ago, New York wasn’t either on the map of world fashion, but look how big it is today! Lindsay Miller, Managing Director of Dubai Design District says ” We have been waiting for the right time to start developing an eco system and now is the time because the industry is going very strong. It will be ready in 2015.” The ultra-modern Design District will comprise of nine buildings, retail facilities, offices, and of course, design houses. As expected, the interest is huge, “We started licensing a month ago and we see strong interest.”

According to Cyrille, Dubai has a huge potential, “In Paris, during the Fashion week we have 300,000 visitors. In London you have 20-30 fashion schools. So opportunities are plenty.”

Dubai is already a retail capital , but fashion capital is not quite the same. So, what will it take? Zayan Ghandour replies, “Sause celebrate 10th birthday this year. Designers who came with single pieces now have full collections. What it takes is some sort of council or some sort of board to consult young designers that will help them to grow. This is very competitive business and it goes faster and faster year after year . You have to be very competitive to keep up.”

Ritu asks about the education in Dubai. How fashion could evolve here without proper fashion and design schools? Mr.Guerrero replies, “There is a lot of learning to be done. The best way is to go to the experts. We are looking to bring a lot of more experts in education such as Parsons”.

“Education is a big factor”, adds Linsay. “We need to understand where are the gaps and where to put our efforts.”

Cooperation between designers and working to create one unified guild is an important step in developing the industry. “Do you think that designers are willing to bound together?”, Ritu asks. “We have to bound together and present ourselves as a block. Then manufacturers will consider us as a significant market”, replies the founder of Fashion Forward, Bond Guerrero. And what about a fashion design council? Would the government support such an important initiative? “There was an announcement a few months ago saying that the decree for the council is already signed and it will be developed in line with vision Dubai Fashion 2020”, Lindsay says. Zayan explains that they have either little workshops or a big mass production for Gap etc. “Designers will be looking probably for an area with a manufacturing facility that can start with 50 pieces.”

Ritu continues the conversation with one of the most important questions of the event, whether Fashion Forward is successful or not. “The attitude to take things forward is important. We are just starting. We are now looking at each other and selling to each other. Success doesn’t happen overnight. We are not yet at the stage to sell to international department stores but we will eventually get there”, replies Bong.

The government often creates specific funds to support young, local entrepreneurship and businesses, so is a government funding for designers an option? “A cluster of boutiques for regional designers will be very helpful. Somewhere they can gather their boutiques all together and this place will be known for the spot for local designers. Also an incubator to provide mentoring to this designers is very important. Many of them need support to start and talent in business is not enough. SMEs in the region have lots of difficulties to secure credit. Dubai has a way to go in this direction. If you are an Emirati, it is easier. You go to Khalifa Fund for entrepreneurship in Abu Dhabi or similar structure in Dubai, but foreigners are on their own.”

“Fund for emerging talent was announced, but the mechanism is not yet clear – how to approach the fund and apply for the funding.”, adds Lindsay.

As a whole, Dubai is known for providing good environment for starting a business. However, some industries are more popular than others. “What is the market for designers here?”, asks Ritu, “Should designers start here or elsewhere?”

According to Cyrille, there is a huge market for fashion and luxury products in Dubai and the UAE. He expects a growth of at least 8-10%. But “You should have identity”, he says.

“The market is ready for regional designers business. We have sold a lot from regional designers during the past 10 years. Dubai offers plenty of opportunities. Most of the orders for my collections come from GCC – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. But it is important for designers to understand that they have to be fast and flexible. I started by going to Paris, New York and Japan. In Dubai I have shows only with Fashion Forward”, explains Zayan to young, inexperienced designers. You have to be fast and productive, according to him, because there will always be problems in the production process, you have to be prepared for.

So, when will we call Dubai a fashion capital? The speakers are very positive and the prognosis is good, “ In 5 to 7 years.”, replies Lindsay. “I think we should moderate everyone’s expectations. It won’t happen tomorrow. By 2020, we would be there.” Bong and Zayan don’t have definite dates, but they say that they are already working to achieve this and if everyone tries their best, it will happen. “Our guests from Milano and the US are genuinely impressed which gives me hopes that we can do it rather sooner than later” says Bong in confidence. We can only hope these predictions come true soon.

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