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Dubai Fashion Week goes under fire

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It’s interesting to see how UAE-based designer Aiisha Ramadan’s one-year-old blog post is resurfacing, around the time the seventh installment of the Dubai Fashion Week is going full steam ahead, in the form of a critical news item on online business title Arabian Business.

Dubai Fashion Week

UPDATE: Since this article was published in April 2010, the Dubai Fashion Week brand has been passed on from Concept Group to Capital Marketing. Read our exclusive interview with Manoj Bhojwani, their chairman, on what to expect in the coming seasons of Dubai Fashion Week.

As you may have already guessed, we’re not here to talk about the designers and the clothes and the whole elaborate masquerade on the catwalk that apparently is only serving the interest of nobody but the enterprising organisers (Concept Events) of Dubai’s own take on Fashion week.

Last year, Ramadan criticised how the event was marketed to designers – an advertising campaign on a budget – and how this was not exactly what a budding designer would be looking for.

Aiisha Ramadan at Dubai Fashion WeekDesigners are at DFW to do business. They want buyers. And DFW’s ability to scoot these important people over to the event venue, which ideally should be guaranteed considering the AED35,000 fee to participate, is questionable at best.

At least, that’s how we see it if organisers don’t reveal which buyers are attending the event. That’s according to the Arabian Business story published yesterday.

Fine, maybe there are buyers, but they’re not there to do their job. The buyers present treat DFW as some kind of social event where they can mingle and pose for photos which will appear in Hello! or some other sleazy print title that thinks people are braindead enough to pay attention to society pages.

Designers are there for business, while buyers are there for mindnumbing pleasure. So you can see now how the differing motivations of designers and buyers can make ensuring the event’s success just a little bit problematic.

We don’t want to get into the details of the selection process, but if a first-pay-first-served policy is subliminally implemented and is somehow determinative of which talents are shown during the event, then really, what hope is left for DFW to solicit the slightest smidgen of legitimacy?

A couple of suggestions to make Dubai Fashion Week even worth people’s time:

1.) Find a title sponsor for the event. Mercedes Benz Fashion Week isn’t as catchy, but at least the event organisers don’t have to rely on participation fees to generate income. If the Dubai Fashion Week name must be retained, the Government of Dubai should be considered the title sponsor. This way organisers won’t have to complain about being forced to cut corners, or do something shady, to make a profit.

2.) Internationally renowned fashion houses, please. When we asked if there was going to be a show by an international fashion house at this season’s DFW, we were told, “Yes, blah blah blah and bleh bleh bleh are going to be there!” Listen, we don’t know who blah blah blah and bleh bleh bleh are, and chances are the average Dubai resident doesn’t either. We need their attention, too!

Interest in events as big as Fashion Week NEEDS to trickle down to mass consciousness because this is the only way developments in fashion can have any kind of influence on regular people. One word: Transcendence. So we’re going to have to go with Aiisha on this one – International is Dior, Prada, Gucci!

That’s all.

Aiisha Ramadan photo courtesy of


  1. henri

    April 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    i completely agree with the article… long way to go DFW…

    • La Moda Dubai

      April 11, 2010 at 9:12 am

      This is one of the few times I’m going to say we need government intervention to shape up Dubai Fashion Week!

  2. Stephanie

    April 12, 2010 at 3:58 am

    I don’t really feel government intervention is necessary. If they get involved there will be a “fee” bigger than the DFW entry cost.

    DFW needs to let the designers find sponsors on their own to finance their shows. Concept Groups job is to connect buyers with the designers, but let’s face it…there aren’t that may buyers in the UAE fashion market yet to compare to the number of buyers in New York, London and Paris. Big name department stores are just making their mark in Dubai, and the smaller boutiques only cater to the elite. The middle of the retail spectrum, such as stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Macy’s, has yet to arrive.

    Also, someone needs to let your readers know that there are very talented fashion designers in this country, but they do not have the money to participate in events like DFW. With that said, I would like to reiterate that designers need to find their own sponsor to help them build their brand. This may be easier said than done, but how else are they going to make a name for themselves? I’m sure Marc Jacob and Alexander Wang weren’t born rich, so someone had to help finance their first show…right?

    On a more positive note, I felt that this year’s fashion week was better than the last. That might not be saying much to most, but Troy Costa did a wonderful job as the creative director of this DFW season and Strawberry PR Company would have done a better job if “people” knew what PR companies do and allowed them to do it! So, what was missing from the overall organization of DFW…a project manager!

    I enjoyed the runway shows. Participants were allowed more creative freedom this season, and the clothes were fabulous. I am looking forward to next season because it can only get better with time!

    PS: No one knew who Aiisha was until she participated in DFW! I know..I was there!

  3. La Moda Dubai

    April 12, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Hi Stephanie! Thanks for leaving a very insightful comment. On some level, I do agree that government support will cost the DFW more than its participation fee of AED 35,000.

    Interesting suggestion about the sponsors. However, don’t you think that if a designer already has sponsor, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to stage their own fashion show? That way they won’t have to make do with what little time they have, shared with so many others at Fashion Week?

    I also agree that we need to cast more light on the independent talent pool here in the UAE. Perhaps the fashion media could initiate a series of indie talent showcases, kind of like search and rescue missions, to help them cross over to the mainstream? I believe the coverage of fashion designers now is nearly limited to when DFW comes, or when a company sponsors a design contest with a fashion magazine to recognise budding talent in the country. I’ll have a talk with fellow bloggers. We need to up the ante.

  4. Stephanie

    April 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    In Response to:

    “However, don’t you think that if a designer already has sponsor, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to stage their own fashion show? That way they won’t have to make do with what little time they have, shared with so many others at Fashion Week?”

    The answer to your question is yes and no. Let’s start with “No”…If the organizers at DFW would establish themselves as the hub for “buyer meets designer” on a grander scale, then it is better for the designer to join forces with the conglomerate. The media is usually part of this participating package, which in turn educates and promotes the designers brand to the general public. It would be quite difficult for a fashion designer to put together all of that on his own, even with a substantial financier.

    Further, instead of trying to make a quick profit on entry fees, Concept Group really needs to do their homework and study the more successful Fashion Week organizations. If they were smart, they would understand that endorsements are the only profit to gain in the long run. A participation fee of AED 35,000 only gives them a small part of what they need to produce a respected and successful show. I hope they are learning that now (after seven seasons) because someone could along and take it all away from them in a heart beat!

    Now for the “yes” answer: If HSY brand, for example, becomes as big as let’s say D&G, then he can definitely stage his own successful show and the masses will come. However, as big of a name as D&G may be in the fashion world, they understand the process of fame and continue participate in one of the biggest fashion show on earth…MILAN FASHION WEEK!

    One other thing please…Some local bloggers are defending the DFW organizers, which they should, but with a different argument, other than stating that Dubai is a new country and it will take time to reach the level of New York Fashion Week. Listen, I really do appreciate what Concept Group is attempting to do with DFW, but please people…the UAE has the money, the talent and the complete ability to put DFW designers on the map! Just look at what Brazil has done with their Fashion Week! I am tired of the excuses. Let’s just do it right and stop trying to reinvent the wheel!

    PS: Check out Dubai’s It Girl blog. She gave her readers great coverage on DFW, and made it look fabulous to have been there.

    • La Moda Dubai

      April 12, 2010 at 4:13 pm

      I see. Fashion Week for convenience and for those not big enough to draw crowds to their shows. Got it.

      The whole “Dubai is still quite young” argument is soooo tired, really. I don’t know why people still use it. It’s like it’s the go-to excuse when somebody screws up. We’re not putting DFW down, but if it is to grow, it must accept criticism. I think the guy who took over the event this season welcomes comments on how things are run at the event and how people would like to see things improve. I’m sure he doesn’t mind all the negativity and is able to channel it into something that will further develop what DFW has been able to build over the last seven seasons. So I don’t why people need to get all defensive.

      RE: Dubai’s It Girl – I know! I’ve been visiting her site for months and I kept track of her DFW coverage! :)

  5. Stephanie

    April 12, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    In response to:

    “I see. Fashion Week for convenience and for those not big enough to draw crowds to their shows. Got it.”

    Don’t twist my words please! Fashion Week is for designers who are ready to take it to the next level. Convenient it is not, but it does take a lot of hard work to get there…and money. lol Just being honest.

    Even though a designer may not be a house hold name, does not mean that he or she should skip trying to present at fashion week. If they are ready and really have something fabulous to show (subjective), then they should be a part of the event. At Fashion Week, the crowds are already there, whether the on lookers are familiar with the designer or not. It is a venue to grow the fashion brand, and a good one, if I might add!

    I see. You like to be controversial. Got it.

    Now let’s move on and up the anti. I’m ready!

  6. La Moda Dubai

    April 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Noooooooooo! Didn’t mean to twist your words sorry! Only basing on your previous comment, Fashion Week does have the machinery in place to make it just a little bit easier for designers to show their collections, thus making it more convenient, even if just a tad, than staging the show independently. Saves them some effort on the event management aspect so they can focus on fashion.

    LOL @ controversial. Just trying to add a little bit of personal perspective is all. :)

    Thanks for the wonderfully insightful comments!

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  8. Alter Ego

    May 24, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I registered for the first time as a ‘Buyer’ to go see DFW as I wanted to scout for local based emerging talent to add to my boutique brand’s collection. I previously lived in London, and have attended London Fashion Week when I was a student at LCF, and later when my employer showed in it I got to be a part of the event for 2 seasons.

    So after my exposure to an “international” Fashion Week I must say I was appalled with the that way myself and the very few other bonafide Buyers (amongst them Boutique 1’s team!) attending DFW were treated, especially when it was time to go in and be seated before each show.

    Days 1 and 2 were pretty uneventful and many rumors said the event had been heavily under-subscribed hence why it was so quiet, but it was at least evident that most attendees then were in the business of Fashion.

    Day 3 something changed. It was almost as if someone had gone into various malls here and just handed out dozens of entry passes to Tom, Dick and Harry, inviting them to the shows. I recall one gentlemen who was sleeping in two of the three shows he attended, as he somehow managed to beat me to an end seat in the buyer’s section, and so I had to forcibly get the ushers to create a seat for me next to him for all three.

    By Day 4 a modicum of dread started creeping in when each show was announced, because it had started getting a bit rowdy at the doors the day before.

    Day 5 I was ready to elbow anyone who came within a 10 cm radius of me because I couldn’t hep but perceive it as a threat to my person.

    I got pushed, elbowed, pinched, grabbed, shoved, re-seated, stood in the sidelines, etc all because the entrance and section that was reserved for ‘Buyers’ was treated as a joke. ‘Media’ across us was an even bigger circus. By then, it was glaringly apparent that anybody and their dog could get into the shows on a media/buyer pass.

    What this has done to my previously high opinion of DFW, is make it into that of disdain: yet another ‘event’ for people to come see models in scanty clothing, and be seen at something that will poss be the most glamorous event they will get to attend (which whilst I agree will always be a big part of the event, shouldn’t be it’s main and ONLY purpose?!)

    And don’t even get me started on the awards…

    I have serious reservations about going through the hassle of even registering for DFW next time around. Granted out of all the ‘fashion’ events that take place here in Dubai, its the only one with SOME street cred, but they really need to UP the ante if they want to be taken seriously on an international level…

  9. Ollianta

    May 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I think we need TV show something like “Project Runway” to boost creativity and competition between designers, and real interest of buyers and media.
    Have you notice none of the local magazines gives full coverage of DFW? Out of all collections they pick only colorful pictures to copy-paste in the article without close shot details. And all the articles in any publications are the same: event, date, time, celebrity attended…like dry news.

  10. FrontRowMode

    May 26, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Stay updated we will be making a HUGE COVERAGE ON DUBAI FASHION WEEK SOON



    .-= FrontRowMode´s last blog ..Sex and the City 2 Premiere!!! =-.

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  14. Chrisia Noulas

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