“We are like a sifter,” said Bong Guerrero, the founder and CEO of Fashion Forward, a Dubai fashion week showcasing regional talent. “Filtering out the best designers and giving them a place to present their work. I see this as a new fashion ecosystem and we all have roles to play,” added the fashion entrepreneur.
Guerrero has come up with a smart strategy for his fledging fashion platform that is only in its fourth season. Over the three day event earlier this month, he broke up half a dozen fashion shows each day with keynote speeches from industry leaders and panel discussions on hot-button topics like “Modest Fashion in Modern Times” and “State of the Industry.” Full disclosure: I was one of the speakers at the event. Guerrero also created a venue for accessories, jewelry and niche designer labels to set up stands to promote their startup brands.
Fashion Forward is doing something that other nascent fashion weeks should take note of. Through the blending of shows, speeches and panels, the organization is not diluting its platform by presenting a plethora of designers in a catwalk setting before they have the maturity to take on such a high profile environment. Rather, this mélange of fashion-focused events was concentrated on industry education, facilitating the discovery by international buyers and journalists of local designer diamonds in the rough. While at the same time teaching those same budding talents about the issues and needs of the global market.
“When we launched it, we were very careful not to call it a fashion week,” said Ramzi Nakad, a partner and the COO of Fashion Forward. “With the name comes expectations and we wanted to be realistic about the state of the industry and where it is at.”
Currently there is about a 70% turnover each season of new designers showing at Fashion Forward, as so many of the brands are still quite small. But there are key indicators that the grass roots industry is starting to truly burrow in deep and take hold below the sands of Dubai.