Dubai Moves to Become New Fashion Capital

At midnight on Friday, February 9, The Dubai Mall staged an hour-long fashion show, featuring the latest creations of Hugo Boss, Ralph Lauren, Sonia Rykiel, Christian Lacroix, Missoni, Diesel, Reiss, and Agnes B, among others. Both male and female models walked The Dubai Mall Catwalk, which showed daytime wear, eveningwear, and “classic chic,” according to The Gulf Today.

The event was just the latest offering from the Persian Gulf state that wants to be seen as an ultra-modern, chic, sophisticated country and a fast-emerging fashion capital.

dubai_fashion_industryIn April this year, Dubai will host Fashion Forward, a four-day-long event that will showcase the work of more than a dozen ready-to-wear, couture, menswear and bridal designers from Dubai, Kuwait, Muscat and Riyadh.

But this event will not be the major fashion or fashion-related event for Dubai this year.

In November 2012, fashion and lifestyle publishers Conde Nast (whose publications include GQ, Vanity Fair, and Vogue) announced that it was planning to open Vogue Café and GQ Bar in Dubai this year.

The “bar,” which will not serve alcohol, will be located inside the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper and home to Hotel Armani Dubai, the world’s only hotel developed by American fashion designer Giorgio Armani.

Stuart Nielsen, director of Conde Nast‘s restaurant division has reportedly described Vogue Cafe Dubai as “our first step into the Middle East market,” and as “an integral part of Conde Nast International’s strategy to expand its celebrated media brands into restaurants and bars around the world.”

Vogue café will have its home inside Level Shoe District, a 96,000 sq ft luxury retail space, and the world’s largest shoe shop.

Only last week, however, it was announced that Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, has been working with The Dubai Mall to launch a platform for local fashion designers. According to industry website Fiber2Fashion, the “Vogue Fashion Experience” platform “aims to revamp the Middle Eastern fashion retail industry” and “is expected to open new distribution channels and exporting avenues for the young and talented designers of the region.”

The launch is scheduled for October 2013., and like last Friday’s catwalk, will be held at The Dubai Mall, which describes itself as “the world’s largest shopping and entertainment destination.”

Sozzani will mentor 12 local designers, evaluating their work, and giving her insight on trends in fashion, reports Al Arabiya.

“Dubai has the potential but is not regarded as a fashion capital in the world,” Al Arabiya reports Sozzani  as saying, “yet it is heartening to see designers here not copying the work of others but rather displaying their creativity and tradition.”

Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief says that she wants the event to be “very grand,” and is planning on bringing supermodels and top designers such as Karl Lagerfeld to Dubai’s Vogue Fashion Experience.

The Persian Gulf state is no stranger to high fashion events. The Dubai Fashion Week – which, according to the event website, “showcases a mix of traditional Arabian culture, modern couture and international ready to wear designer collections” – has been held every year since 2006. Dubai is also home to ESMOD (l’Ecole Supérieure des Arts et techniques de la Mode), the United Arab Emirates’ only fashion college.

Nevertheless, with the entrance of Conde Nast and Vogue into its fashion and retail industry, is clear that Dubai is stepping up its game and fast becoming one of the world’s fashion capitals, alongside London, Paris, Milan, and New York.

Angel_headshot_smallAngel Millar is an author, blogger, and the editor of People of Shambhala.