Made in MENA

The FTA puts middle eastern designers on the map

FTA MENA design price middle east

Due to the current state of the world, tides are turning in the fashion industry. With conventional fashion houses having a difficult time responding to the demands and needs of consumers, new emerging designers rise to the occasion – a phenomenon the Fashion Trust Arabia (FTA) is eagerly building on. FTA co-founder and co-chair and British Fashion Council trust co-chair Tania Fares talked to Achtung from Beirut on rebuilding the city as a fashion hub, the commonalities between the MENA region and Colombia and new opportunities despite a global pandemic.

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Texture mix-and-match: Leather meets sequin in the F/W 20 collection by FTA ready-to-wear finalist Maram Aboul Enein from Egypt.

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FTA ready-to-wear finalist Cynthia Merhej from Lebanon focuses on architectural construction and feminine textures.

What’s Beirut like? What’s the spirit of the city?

I am originally from Lebanon, but left due to the uncertainty and instability back in the 80’s. But I am very proud of coming from Lebanon. The spirit of Beirut is currently low due to the ongoing instability due to COVID-19 and the banking situation and so on. But I believe that things will get better soon.

How would you describe the fashion landscape of Beirut?

It’s growing a lot. We are in a pivot moment due to the pandemic. The world ist changing. People want to learn and discover new designers. Everyone is looking for young emerging designers from different countries across the world.

The FTA announced its finalists for this year. Who is your favorite designer?

We have a lot of amazing designers. The looks are very strong this year design-wise. I love the theme of mixing and matching that the designers presented this year. They are all very talented, so I can’t just choose one.

Apart from the Fashion Trust Arabia I am also co-chair of the BFC Fashion Trust. Personally, I like to mix middle eastern and British designers. So I wear everything from Molly Goddard, Roksanda and Ashish to previous FTA designers like Omer Asim and Youssef Akbar.

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Light and airy dress by FTA ready-to-wear finalist Zaid Affas born in Kuwait to Iraqi parents.

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Natural fibers are a commonality between Colombia and the MENA region, like in this design by Colombian Juanita Garcia.

What are the strengths of this year’s designers?

Each one has a very strong personal identity. This is the feeling I have this year. We have very creative finalists.

You invited Colombia as a guest country. Why Colombia? What do the designers have in common?

We felt we had to shed some light on upcoming designers from countries that shared similar values to the MENA region. Colombian designers focus on sustainability and craftsmanship such as embroidery. Our vision was for the MENA designers to collaborate. It’s great that we can incorporate their influence to the region. If the situation with COVID-19 improves, the designers can travel to Colombia or the other way around. They are learning from each other, create new experiences and collaborations.

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Voluminous trench coat style dress made of air mesh by FTA eveningwear finalist Mohamed Benchellal from Morocco.

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Strong identity and construction: Evening gown by FTA eveningwear finalist Laith Maalouf from Jordan.

Why is it important to focus on regional designers? How can fashion rebuild Beirut as a city?

Especially Lebanon is going through hard times. Fashion and art can absolutely help rebuild a city. It makes people emotional. If you see a beautiful dress or an amazing art piece it makes you react. I think it’s a way to inspire people to new ideas. There are amazing designers to rebuild Beirut into a fashion hub such as Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Georges Hobeika, Zuhair Murad and Sarah Beydoun (Sarah’s Bag).

We hope to change the fashion industry and support all those amazing designers and build recognition for designers from the middle east.

Title image: Fashion Trust Arabia co-founder and co-chair and British Fashion Council Fashion Trust co-chair Tania Fares.