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Fashion Forward 2014 kicks off

There was minimalism, opulence and something in between to be found on the first day of Fashion Forward 2014 in Dubai on Friday.

The bi-annual extravaganza, which concludes this Sunday, saw designers and guests put their best foot forward. tabloid! gives you the highlights from day one.

The Emperor 1688 presented by Saks Fifth Avenue

The brothers behind The Emperor 1688 collection taught us a thing or two about power dressing and minimalism with their fall/winter collection on Friday evening. Men in sharply-tailored suits, armless capes with fur detailing and women in shorts paired with crisp white shirts with a bow tie made it to the ramp.

While they embraced traditional fabrics such as Scottish wools, tweeds and tartans, their clothes shrugged off conservative, stern cuts. Blue tapered trousers paired with fitted grey blazer, slim ties and structured coats that hid the arm screamed “too cool for school”. There were no slumpy suits in sight and its tailoring was perfect for lean, lithe body types.

“Our collection was inspired by royalty and the relationship between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria…we wanted to translate their dynamic into the clothes,” said Babak Golkar in an interview backstage. But don’t be thrown off by the royalty connect. It wasn’t about opulent dressing and was an ode to simple, sophisticated clean cuts. But the colour palette comprising mostly blue, white, grey and black were old school.

“Being a royalty these days in a modern age doesn’t mean wearing Swarovski crystals. It’s about feeling confident in your clothes. Even if you are having a bad morning, you wake up and put on a crisp shirt, shiny shoes — you just feel good.”

They had a point. Looking at the model in a white short dress with a leather belt cinched at the waist and a white long cape attachment instantly made work exciting. Check their collection stocked at Saks Fifth Avenue.

If you are looking for mother nature on the ramp, then designer Jean Louis Sabaji is your man. He opened his collection with coats and short jump suits that had insects stuck to them and then moved on to dresses with giant flowers on the hips.

“I was trying to recreate all aspects of nature — insects, plants, flowers — in my collection. I wanted to show the balance that they have achieved with mother nature for centuries, but man has not been able to do the same…just like nature, there was an explosion of colours in my clothes,” said Sabaji after the show. Models in gowns with trains that were braided to resemble the branches of the tree and dresses with shrub-like detailing on the top were in abundance. While short yellow jumpsuits with insects stuck to them or bees on white shiny jackets may not be every woman’s go-to embellishment, the grand finale piece — a billowing gown with roses all over it — held more appeal.

“When I am designing for the runway, I go crazy but when I design for a client I will simplify the elements from this collection and adapt to their tastes and body types,” Sabaji said.

Who said women couldn’t be feminine and masculine at the same time? Saudi designer Lamia Asudari proved that beyond a doubt with her sporty take on women’s clothes. Models with platinum bobs and white socks, showed us how to work a biker dress and cropped tops with short skirts. Here the credit has to go to Asudari for bridging perceived gender gaps in fashion.

“The Asudari women is a strong individual that doesn’t shy away from being bold in her appearance and is not afraid to voice her opinion,” said Asudari after the show.

Her white and blue maxi dress with a hexagonal geometric pattern is undoubtedly feminine, but a jolt of masculinity was inserted seamlessly with an indigo bomber jacket. Her collection was edgy and wearable. Dresses with inherently masculine collared shirts were tailored to a female form and prints that drew from artillery and explosions were juxtaposed with ease on long dresses — making it fun and androgynous. My favourite was the tailored shorts with a bomber jacket.

It was snowing on the runway. Trust designer Ezra Santos to inject some drama into Fashion Forward 2014. Inspired by Marrakech’s botanical garden Jardin Majorelle (the place where celebrated designer Yves St Laurent chose to have his ashes scattered), Santos transplanted that blue and white architecture onto the runway and created a couture collection that bordered on the ethereal.

Chiffon gowns in largely blue and white tones, mimicking the beauty of the garden, were rolled out. Sheer sleeves and backs with tiny buttons and voluminous trains with shiny cut-out coats were the mainstay. While the gowns were steadfastly feminine, the accessories told another story. Shiny metallic neck gear and bracelets that covered half your arm offset the dreamy quality of the gowns.

Fashion Forward regular Santos, who is known for his Swarovski crystal-studded creations, didn’t disappoint. The gowns were awash with crystals but its strategic placing didn’t overwhelm his designs. Like always, he wrapped up his enchanting journey with a string of demure, billowing white gowns.