In photos: 8 Arab designers who ruled the runway at Fashion Forward Dubai

One of the Middle East’s biggest fashion events, Fashion Forward, has just come to a close with its latest season

Rachel McArthur

Published: Updated:

One of the Middle East’s biggest fashion events, Fashion Forward, has just come to a close with its latest season, and it’s possibly its best one yet.

Season eight of Dubai’s answer to international Fashion Weeks featured 12 runway shows and 18 presentations by some of the region’s most prominent and promising designers.

Of course, we had our eyes firmly on the Spring-Summer 2017 (SS17) showcases by Arab designers, and they didn’t disappoint.

Here are our top picks from the three-day event:

1) Dima Ayad

We’re big fans of Dima Ayad. One – because she creates fun fashion that you can wear anywhere. And two – because she’s one of the few Middle Eastern fashion designers out there at the moment who is creating looks suitable for every body type.

We love the fact that for her SS17 collection, she chose a number of Dubai-based personalities – such as presenter Shereen Mitwalli, fashion consultant Natalia Shustova and lifestyle blogger Kat Lebrasse – to showcase her looks, proving that not only professional models looks great in her pieces.

2) Zena Presley

Zena Presley’s SS17 collection is oh-so-pretty. Perfect for the girly girl who loves to play dress-up, the Syrian-born, Dubai-based designer’s latest showcase is colorful, romantic and whimsical.

Discussing the inspiration behind the looks, Zena said: “It was inspired by birds and the certain traits that they carry.

“Birds represent freedom, love and family. They are also a symbol for new opportunities and possibilities, and so this collection demonstrates how I drew inspiration from birds’ beauty and movement.”

3) House of Nomad

Co-founded by Ahmed el-Sayed and Saleh al-Banna, UAE label House of Nomad is perfect for those constantly on the go.

For SS17, the brand reverted to its “sports-luxe” core, experimenting with fabrics, silhouettes and lots of color.

4) Amal al-Raisi

Omani designer Amal al-Raisi’s SS17 collection featured a signature print inspired by the Omani region of Dhofar.

“My collection has a touch of couture and is a tribute to women that are feminine but not delicate. I admire today’s ‘power woman’ who prioritizes family but also pursues their career dreams,” she said. “[The brand] is designed to honor Arab traditions, but my goal is for the pieces to be worn far beyond the borders of Oman.”

5) Zareena

Emirati designer Zareen Yousif’s presentations never disappoint, and this season it was no different.
Fusing exotic and ethnic embroidery techniques with international fabrics, Zareena’s dresses are all about looking and feeling fabulous.

“The world is fast-changing, and trends come and go. But there is one thing that every woman should not lose, and that’s femininity,” she said.

6) Said Mahrouf

Moroccan-born Said Mahrouf’s work has been showcased around the world, including the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, so it was such a treat to catch his latest show in Dubai.

“The base of this collection lays within the idea of using a broad strip set and turning it into panels draped around the body in order to create a new dimension of shapes,” he said. “My mission was to redefine rectangular, vertical and horizontal forms by approaching these lines with an out of the box perception.”

7) Madiyah al-Sharqi

Sheikha Madiyah al-Sharqi, daughter of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed al-Sharqi, the Ruler of Fujairah, is an Emirati designer to watch.

Graduating from the prestigious fashion school Esmod, al-Sharqi already has a number of accolades to her name, including being recognized as a Vogue Italia “Vogue Talent” and being awarded “Best Fashion Designer” at the 2013 Arab Woman Awards. She was also honored as a finalist at the 2013 Woolmark Prize.

For SS17, Al Sharqi combines flowy silhouettes with textured fabrics against neutral tones, perfect for the upcoming season.

8) Hussein Bazaza

Fresh off launching his first couture collection at Altaroma Fashion Week in Italy, Hussein Bazaza presented, in our opinion, the best show of Fashion Forward – Season 8.

The Lebanese designer – who has trained under the likes of Elie Saab and Rabih Kayrouz – has steered away from his signature bright hues for SS17.

He explained: “The morale of the collection is all about the dark side of love and its sad endings.

“For the first time, we are not going for the bright feels as we did in our last collection; our primary color is in fact pitch-black. We actually used men’s fabrics, such as poplin and suit fabrics, with different patterns from men’s shirts like stripes, to create our dresses and women’s pieces.”

Hussein Bazaza is definitely one to watch. Click here to read our exclusive interview with the designer.