Style statement: Dubai-Berlin Festival

Emerging European and Middle Eastern fashion designers joined forces to deliver a new take on the abaya as part of the second Dubai-Berlin Festival. Katie Boucher highlights the aims of this unique project and reflects on the fashion show's offerings

The abaya was recently given an east-meets-west spin by a consortium of young fashion designers from Dubai and Berlin as part of last year’s Dubai-Berlin Festival.

The festival, staged in October/November 2011 by Germany’s Goethe-Institut, saw the launch of The Young Designers Fashion Exchange Project, an initiative designed to present the young and energetic developments in the German capital and the unique cultural influences on modern Dubai fashion.

Eight emerging designers were given the opportunity to spend time in each of the two cities late last year and the eclectic final collection, entitled Dubai-Berlin Fashion Fusion, was showcased at a fashion show held in Dubai on 23 January.

Their designs, which wove an intriguingly punky twist into the traditional Arab garment, were a clear indication of the links forged between the two countries’ creative and fashion industries. In place of the abaya’s usual simple silhouette, the fashion show included several highly conceptual interpretations, including one inspired by a varsity jacket and another which morphed into a leather biker jacket.

“I was very proud to see the abaya coming out of a city not normally associated with it,” said Khulood Thani, one of the participants and founder of the UAE fashion label Bint Thani. “It was a great cross-cultural experience.”