Barbie won an award, Palestinian style took the spotlight, and a sustainable Lebanese brand brought down the house.
Arab Fashion Week (AFW) kicked off Sunday night in Dubai with the second-ever Fashion Icon Awards. Held in the Dubai Design District, also known as D3, the ceremony featured a pink carpet for influencers and celebrities like Lebanese singer Maya Diab, who sang one of her hits.
Physical shows and events were put on hold the past few seasons, but with the pandemic slowing down, Emirati authorities gave the Council the go-ahead to host fashion week at limited capacity. Leading brands like Dior, Giorgio Armani, Aquazzura, and the British Fashion Council held events in Dubai over the course of the week, and Chanel will be hosting its 2021/22 Cruise show there next week. Regional designers flocked to the event, too, with brands like Ihab Jiryis, Yara Bin Shakar, Emergency Room Beirut, Autonomie, and Zeena Zaki representing Middle East talent. And smaller non-local labels were there as well: Polish designer Gosia Baczynska stunned with her long shimmering gowns, while Dorota Goldpoint brought bold floral patterns and hits of red.
The event was the culmination of months of planning on the part of the Arab Fashion Council, led by founder and CEO Jacob Abrian and chief strategy officer Mohammed Aqra. The Arab Fashion Council is the largest non-profit fashion council and international non-government organization for the Arab world, representing 22 members of the Arab League. It endorses the Fashion Icon Awards, Arab Fashion Week, and Men’s Arab Fashion Week — and with global interest in the Middle Eastern fashion market on the rise, its influence is only going to grow.
Read on for our top five highlights from the past few days.
Barbie and Jeremy Scott — Two Fashion Icons — Both Received Honors
At the Fashion Icon Awards, Barbie ruled the night. As guests entered the venue, the iconic dolls from various decades dating back to the 1950s lined the entryway. A panel of over 500 industry members had voted anonymously on who would be the winner for 2021, and the classic doll took home the prize. (Well, technically Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of Global Barbie Design for Mattel, received the prize.)
Jeremy Scott, creative director for Moschino, was given the Medal of Honor by the Arab Fashion Council. Dressed in a blush pink tuxedo with tails, the designer thanked the Council and showcased his Barbie collection — which he pulled from the house archives — to the sounds of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.”
“The Fashion Icon Awards is an important ceremony that celebrates the legacy of icons, which has inspired the industry, being a role model, a success story or an agent of change, and we are very proud to claim this title on a global level from Dubai,” Abrian told Bazaar.com. “Every year one person is named the Fashion Icon, and Barbie has definitely set the bar high.”
A Teen Performer Stole the Show
Also at the awards, 13-year old Jordanian-American opera singer Emanne Beasha sang Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro.” Beasha was the winner of season 5 of Arabs Got Talent and season 14 of America’s Got Talent. Her performance was so powerful, it electrified the room full of influencers, journalists, and industry insiders.
Palestinian Couture Made a Big Impact
Ihab Jiryis is an Arab Palestinian evening wear and bridal gown designer. He launched his namesake brand 12 years ago after getting his fashion degree at Shenkar College. This was his first physical show during Arab Fashion Week — he showed a collection digitally in March — and it resonated strongly with the region. The catwalk was filled with sequins, with long and short gowns in a palette of forest greens, nudes, grays, and light blues.
“I decided to start playing with the collection and trust that everything would turn out well,” Jiryis explained to BAZAAR. “I was like a child without a care in the world, designing freely with no control. I started from nothing, doing outfit by outfit, and I had 26 gowns in the collection…I’m very proud to be here because it was a great opportunity to show my collection all over the world, to speak not so much with words but with my clothes.”
Emirati Designer Yara Bin Shakar Showed a Woman-Focused Collectiom
Yara bin Shakar — a true Emerati-grown designer —opened AWF day three with her eponymous label’s comfortable pieces, which work for both day and evening wear. Bin Shaker is a proponent of empowering women by creating practical pieces that suit their individual style.
She threw a curveball with her AFW SS22 show as she shifted from modest wear to sleeveless pieces. The fabrics and prints were light, and she stayed true to her typical pastel feminine palette.
The show also marked a milestone for her business: With the help of AFW’s fashion week partners GoDaddy, she was able to launch an online store that reaches international markets.
A Lebanese Brand Told a Story of Resilience
Launched six years ago by Eric Mathieu Ritter, Emergency Room Beirut is a truly sustainable brand. The pieces are assembled in Lebanon from dead-stock fabrics and other second-hand materials sourced from Tripoli souks.
The SS22 AFW collection took the form of a narrative. No music played as models walked the runway — just Ritter’s voice detailing his inspiration for the collection. He described the current challenges Lebanon is facing as well as the meaning of the textiles he used, like the Labense comforters and sheets that he turned into shirts and pants, done in a style that would be instantly recognizable to anyone from his homeland.
As looks emerged from backstage, Ritter opened up about how so many young Lebanese have left the country. But those like himself, who chose to stay and, as he put it, “water the grass that they have in Lebanon,” are somehow finding ways to thrive. Earning a loud round of applause, Emergency Room Beirut’s collection was one of the most meaningful shows of the night.