Following the UAE’s triumph in winning the World Expo 2020 bid, Dubai is gearing up to overtake Paris and Milan as a global fashion capital within 5-7 years, in time for Expo 2020. Dubai’s fashion industry is currently riding a wave of massive growth, with top luxury outlets recording a 41% sales growth in just 12 months. The industry is projected to grow to a staggering Dhs150bn within the next two years, according to Bain & Company’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study and BMI.
In more encouraging news for the industry, a new generation of supremely talented fashion designers has recently graduated from Mirna El-Hage Fashions & Professional Training, Dubai’s elite fashion institute. As a hub for the region’s most creative and style-savvy designers, the institute grooms home-grown talents so they can start their own iconic brands in readymade wear, evening wear, bridal wear and much more. A new semester is now underway, teaching aspiring fashion designers the latest skills on Fashion Design, Master Cutting and more.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony, the institute’s founder, Mirna El-Hage explained: “For many decades our region has been under-represented on the global fashion scene, and our aspiring designers or supermodels had virtually no role models to look up to. But when I was working in France with global icons like Christian Lacroix, Pierre Balmain and Letz Martin, I realised that the biggest barrier that’s stopping us from overtaking Europe and the US is the presence of a number of people in the industry who differ on the foundations and proper techniques, treating the craft more of a trade, which pushes us to educate new batches of highly trained and talented professionals, setting them on the right track. These graduates will make all the difference in pushing to be the best, and I personally hope that we can establish a committee that sets the conditions, foundations, and rules for those who wish to launch their labels, in order to emphasise and push for the highest standards, giving our talent the competitive edge they need. Some people say Dubai can be ‘the Paris of the Middle East’. But why not aim higher? By the time Expo 2020 arrives, we want people to say Paris is ‘the Dubai of Europe’!”
As one of the Arab world’s most elegant designers, Mirna El-Hage’s collections have been highly sought after by Arab celebrities, ever since she launched her glamorous brand in 2003 and her institute in 2009. However, she emphasises that her goal is not simply to expand her own brand but to empower ambitious young designers who can compete on the world stage.
Mirna El-Hage elaborated: “It’s not that the people in our region are less fashionable than the rest of the world. If anything, the exact opposite is true: our clients are extremely fashion-sensitive and will spend whatever it takes because they know that true perfection is priceless. That’s why Dubai has attracted global movers and shakers like Prada, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren. Now we are polishing our young diamonds so they can sparkle on the world stage, and reclaim our place as the trendsetter in luxury lifestyles.”
In a sign of the fashion’s industry’s renaissance, more Arab models are coming into the spotlight – such as Hanaa Ben Abdesslem (Lancome). This is expected to eventually change the mindset of many modelling agencies who prefer to use “fake Arab” models who are actually Latin American or Mediterranean European. Dubai’s robust industry has been further boosted by the Dubai Council for Design and Fashion, which was recently established by decree of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai. In addition, the Dubai Design District (D3) and boom in fashion-oriented SME’s will attract more international fashion shows and ‘fashion tourists’ – particularly since Dubai is less than 8 hours travel from 90% of the world’s countries.
Dubai can take great inspiration from New York, which only two decades ago was nowhere near being a fashion capital, but has rapidly blossomed to rival Milan and Paris.