The art of dressing

London's up-and-coming fashionistas descended on Dubai for an exhibition exploring the evolution of dress in November. The three-day symposium included an exploration of the UAE's burgeoning role in the international fashion world. 

Dubai's first Art of Dress Exhibition, held earlier this week at the A4 space in Alserkal Avenue convened a vibrant mix of fashion aficionados, writers, design enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and the sartorial elite. Held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the London College of Fashion (LCF) in partnership with the Caspian Arts Foundation (CAF) and supported by the British Council,  the three day fashion, art and design event celebrated the evolution of the dress and provided a new and invigorating platform for debate and discourse on issues facing the local and regional fashion industry.

The Creative Circle Symposium on day two served as the highlight of the three day convention, boasting a series of thought-provoking panel discussions hosted by the Head of London College of Fashion, Professor Frances Corner OBE, Caspian Arts Founder Nina Mahdavi and LCF’s Professor of Cultural Studies Reina Lewis who were joined by local and international fashion designers, commentators and thought leaders.

Art of Dress seminar
The symposium explored the potential for Dubai to become an influential fashion capitalImage: Karl Edwards Motion Pictures

Distinguished panelists included Nez Gebreel, CEO of Dubai Design and Fashion Council; Tala Hajjar, Co-founder of STARCH Foundation; Mohamed Khafagi, Director of Cairo’s SAWA Fashion School; Ayesha Mustafa, Founder of ethical fashion portal Fashion ComPassion; Soniya Kirpalani, Cultural Activist and Film Director of DoBuy; Ritu Upadhyay, Middle East Correspondent for Women’s Wear Daily and Effa Al Dabbagh, Founder and Designer of Effa Fashion; among others.

In her opening address, Professor Corner emphasised: “The pillars for a rich and evolving fashion industry are a buoyant, robust economy; dynamic cultural expression through various art forms and a critical mass of educated people; all of which Dubai has in abundance, thus ensuring that this city will become one to watch on the global fashion circuit.”

Over the course of the symposium, the speakers candidly delved into the potential for Dubai to become one of the influential fashion capitals of the world, much like New York and Paris. Asil Attar, CEO of Lead Associates and Founder of EST2014 shared her view that attaining global attention requires more local investment and infrastructure to cultivate and promote regional design talent. “Upcoming designers in the UAE very rarely have a platform to make their mark in the region and choose to leave for better opportunities abroad, so local talent retention is a big issue. Through EST2014, I scout and shape promising regional designers into individuals who can shape the future of the fashion industry and compete with the best international brands out there.”

Over the course of the day, the symposium explored the fashion world, its relation to the economy and to faith in the region. In addition, it shed light on the role of women within the sector the necessity for further development of creative education, including some of the challenges faced by Middle Eastern institutions.

Several speakers agreed that the annual Fashion Forward event and the development of the Dubai Design District are excellent elements that will be integral in shaping a supportive environment for local talent. Bong Guerrero, Founder and CEO of Fashion Forward asserted: “With every year, the quality of the fashion presented and the critique generated gets even better. I think that’s a fantastic sign of the evolution of fashion and design consciousness in the region and will only elevate the recognition and investment in emerging designers.”

Post its short sojourn in Dubai, the exhibition travels to Shanghai, China and then Florence, Italy in 2015.