New opportunities are on the way for Middle Eastern fashion designers, thanks to the just-launched Style.com/Arabia-Dubai Design & Fashion Council Fashion Prize. It is similar to other regional fashion prizes: It will be awarded to a womenswear designer with between one to seven years of experience who is working in the Middle East. The winner will receive a financial award, the chance to produce a capsule collection for Farfetch, a one-year mentorship, an ad campaign, and media coverage—a package the organization values at more than $250,000.
“The Arab world’s ascent into the fashion industry’s collective consciousness is perhaps most often associated with its tremendous purchasing power. And although our fashion landscape is still nascent, in a region rich with traditions and a culture of its own, there’s a lot more to the story,” said Style.com/Arabia CEO and publisher Shashi Menon of the impetus to create the prize. Style.com/Arabia editor Sofia Guellaty echoed Menon’s sentiment, adding, “In terms of fashion, the Arab market is rich and wide and oscillates between Western-inspired development and a desire to find its own creative voice. Today we are accompanying a new generation of designers who are reinventing a fashion language inspired by its own culture. I’m very excited to see contemporary Arab fashion take shape—just like American sportswear, la Parisienne, or the “Italian style”—created by torch-bearing designers who are emerging from the Middle East and ready to contribute to the global fashion conversation.”
Applications are now being accepted, and the competition is open to designers in 22 Middle Eastern countries. Judging the entrants is an expert panel including our own Tim Blanks; designers Peter Dundas and Zuhair Murad; Farfetch chief marketing officer Stephanie Horton; Dubai Design & Fashion Council CEO Nez Gebreel; Style.com/Arabia’s Menon and Guellaty; Chalhoub Group CEO Patrick Chalhoub, and model Afef Jnifen. The winner will also get the opportunity to be mentored by a group including Farfetch CEO José Neves and Meredith Melling, among others.
“It’s beginning to look like design competitions are the latest global growth industry, but I think that’s a sign of the fashion industry’s new and increasingly urgent appreciation of the need to invest in its own future by supporting and promoting young talent,” explained Blanks. “And it’s inspiring to see the breadth and depth of that talent firsthand, as we will be doing in Dubai and the Arab world at large with this initiative.”