The third season of Fashion Forward (FFWD) came to a close with the colours of the rainbow on the catwalk set to the beats of Bollywood songs. The dramatic show, courtesy of Filipino designer Furne One and his Amato label, was a fitting end to the three-day twice-yearly fashion week-style event which ended on Sunday night at the Madinat Arena in Dubai.
Of the 18 catwalk shows, six were by FFWD debutants, including established UAE names such as Emirati designer Zareena Yousuf who also brought her Zareena label on the final day.
“I’ve always been doing my own shows but this is my way to prove a point that there are Emiratis out there who can stand amongst all other talented designers,” she said following her 53-piece show.
The last day also saw Lebanese designer Zayan Ghandour take on Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman in a flirty yet slightly darker turn for her Zayan The Label, while Kuwaiti/Indian designer and FFWD fixture Tahir Sultan stuck to his limited palette of greys and blacks for his eponymous label.
Kicking off on Friday, FFWD’s international guests this season included Fern Mallis, credited as the founder of New York Fashion Week, and Filipino blogger-turned-fashion-A-lister Bryan Yambao, more popularly known as Bryanboy. The two, along with experts from the London College of Fashion, design institute Domus Academy from Italy and New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, took part in talks and workshops during the event.
Flirty and girly, Lebanese designer Zayan Ghandour’s take on Pretty Woman referenced Julia Roberts’ outfits in the 1990 classic. Bringing back her use of playful motifs printed across her dresses, this time it’s the recurring use of Roberts’ famous line in the film: “I want the fairy tale.”
“But it’s about creating your own fairy tale. Your own story,” she said after her show.
Taking a slightly dark turn for her autumn-winter collection, Ghandour played with sheer panelling again, along with embroidered lace and, very effectively, neoprene, which gave some of the skirts the structured look. There were also beautiful use of embroidered lace and a few fake furs. If last season it was lips, this season it’s toile prints with fairy tale motifs that were on the skirts, the dresses, the shirts and the caps. A FFWD fixture, Ghandour’s consistency with her label, season after season, is rivalled only by her consistently fun presentations.
One of the first Emirati designers to start her own label in the nineties, Zareena Yousuf’s experience showed in her massive 53-piece abstract collection. Inspired by nature and using an almost unlimited range of colours, Zareena channelled everything from exotic flowers to droplets of water with her collection. And they came in such a variety of shapes and cuts: there were some inspired by drapes off a sari, some poncho-like and some of the designer’s creative take on the jalabiyas.
Preferring to do her own shows over the years, Zareena said she made her FFWD debut to prove a point about how the UAE was not short of creative Emirati fashion designers.
She said she starts her collections by creating dresses she wants to be seen in.
“I always put myself in each of the pieces and think if I want to wear them. That’s always been how my collections come together and it’s worked well all these years,” she said.
Another FFWD regular, Kuwaiti/Indian designer Tahir Sultan was at his irreverent best this season. With jersey being his predominant fabric, the lines were skewed, yet effective, sometimes making you strain your neck if you followed them too closely. Sticking to greys, whites and black, Sultan, said his androgynous collection was all about comfort and luxury.
“I just want you to feel good when you wear them yet look glamorous,” he said. “I like my limited colours and I don’t really have to answer anyone saying they want variety. I create what I like and that’s how I have always been.”
Aesthetically invoking designer Philip Stephens of cult British brand Unconditional, Sultan and his eponymous label prefer to use “avant garde” to describe his looks. It wasn’t quite that, but this young designer has proven again why he’s always a force to reckoned with.
Having just returned from a show at New York Fashion Week, Filipino designer Furne One proved himself quite the traveller with his autumn-winter collection, gathering inspiration from the travels of Alexander the Great through Persia, Egypt and India.
Set to the tune of Bollywood songs — Dola Re from the film Devdas was one — One did not shy away from colours in his lush collection, suited for the stature of his inspiration. There were bright reds, emeralds, shades of blue and stark yellow. While sticking to fabrics he’s come to be known for, from French lace to tulle and satin to organza, the 36 pieces came embellished in sequins and crystals and lots and lots of flowers. Like all of his shows, the accessories were stand-outs — namely giant earrings — and his resplendent take on Indian headwear elicited cheers from the packed hall.
FFWD attendees, it seemed, can easily forgive One for his almost hour-long delay. For once the models came out assembled in sets of colours as if forming a rainbow, it looked like only a standing ovation would suffice for one of the UAE’s most gifted designers.