An EPIC journey to strengthen MENA fashion’s eco system

Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD), a fashion platform showcasing Middle Eastern talent at its inaugural fashion week, has launched a programme to support home grown designers

FFWD’s Empowerment Programme through Industry Collaboration (EPIC) aims to smooth the path for local designers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through a three-month series of events, workshops and scholarships.

“The MENA fashion market has significantly outpaced global industry growth in recent years by nearly five times since 2010,” said Nez Gebreel, CEO, Dubai Design and Fashion Council. “[Yet] although the [fashion] industry holds tremendous potential, our markets across the region are still predominantly import-oriented.

“Some 80 per cent of demand in the MENA region is satisfied through imports instead of local production.”

Fashion Forward Dubai 2
The EPIC programme aims to support local designers through a range of initiatives

The MENA fashion industry – covering the key markets of the UAE, Qatar, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait – is worth an estimated $72bn, according to a study by the Dubai Design and Fashion Council. The Middle East’s design industry is predicted to grow more than 6 per cent by 2017 and 7.5 per cent by 2019, she added.

Still, the local design sector needs to add at least 30,000 design graduates – a nine-fold increase – by 2019 to achieve sustainable growth of the sector, the study said.

Nez Gebreel, CEO, Dubai Design and Fashion Council
Nez Gebreel, CEO, Dubai Design and Fashion Council

The EPIC programme hopes to reduce some of the challenges emerging local designers face, such as manufacturing and production capacity, education, skill development, affordable retail space for new brands, and mentoring.

“EPIC aims to answer the challenges faced by regional designers when entering the fashion and retail landscape,” said Ramzi Nakad, COO and cofounder of FFWD.

The eighth edition of Fashion Forward Dubai will take place between October, 24-25 in the Dubai Design District (d3).

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The eighth edition takes place between October, 24-25

Starting from September, the EPIC programme aims to support local designers through a range of initiatives, including a scholarship at the Domus Academy in Milan, Italy; showroom space for up to 15 designers during Paris Fashion Week hosted by FFWD; and workshops for designers to hone skills in sales strategy and using social media, for example. EPIC will also pair up emerging designers with mentors to help guide them through the business of fashion.

“EPIC, and the aim of strengthening the ecosystem, is really important,” said Maitha Al Suwaidi, director, Dubai Design District, which hosts FFWD. “[It] is very much in line with the leadership’s mandate of making Dubai a creative hub.”