Fashion Forward's very first season was a hit and I can't wait for the next season. It brought so many interesting people together, not to mention some amazing fashion shows and talks. I wanted to share with you the ten lessons learned from Fashion Forward, which I personally found very interesting.
1. Let me start off by saying a platform such as Fashion Forward is crucial in the Middle East, as we don't see such quality of events very often. They don't just act as a support system, but also take the industry in the Middle East to the next level and encourage more creative talents, especially fashion designers, to have faith in their work and strive for perfection. A platform that I also love is Starch foundation based in Lebanon by Rabih Kayrouz and Tala Hajjar, who came in and showcased their work at Fashion Forward. We really need more of Starch in other countries as well. I met the amazing and super talented designers with Starch foundation and was really impressed by the quality of their work and creativity; Celine Der Torossian, Hussein Bazaza, Bashar Assaf and Sevag Dilsizian.
2. My favorite fashion shows weren't necessarily the ones with the best collections, but rather the ones I stepped out of with a big smile on my face. Why? Because they simply put me in a great mood and you could feel they tell a story. Whether it's the music, the beautiful pieces, the attitude of the models and more importantly the fashion show with a strong theme. Example? Zayan, Michael Cinco, Amato Couture, Rami Kadi, Essa and Ezra.
3. I can't remember which show this incident happened at to be honest, maybe I wasn't paying much attention or maybe I was grabbing a bite, but I heard lots of gossip about it. What exactly? Apparently there was a mistake in the seating order and two people in the front row ended up having the same seating number. Usually that could be easily solved, however when such an incident happens between an A-lister socialite and a drag queen (so I have heard) arguing about the seating, then it might cause some drama in the place. I would say, pick your fights, after all it's a social event we should just enjoy, don't you agree?
4. I liked the Pop-up Shop at Fashion Forward, though I think it should have gotten more attention and perhaps a bigger spot instead of just a corner. When I first went to check it out, I was impressed by some of the pieces but didn't notice others as it was a bit cluttered. After the first day and meeting some of the designers who showcased their work at Fashion Forward's Pop-up Shop, I got to learn more about their inspiration and the whole story behind each piece. I have to admit this gave me a whole new perspective when looking at the pieces displayed there, suddenly I wanted a whole lot more of what's displayed. See the problem here is most of the people attending might have not gotten the chance to speak to those designers and hear about their inspiration, so for me it made a whole lot of sense that the designers themselves should be the ones exhibiting their pieces. Who would be able to give out their unique pitch about the pieces displayed other than the designers themselves?
5. I've always been a firm believer in the saying: Don't preach what you don't practice. During one of the talks (forums) at Fashion Forward, which involved several buyers and of course young designers attending, the key talkers kept on emphasizing that designers won't be able to make it if they only sell through their own boutique or workshop. Of course if the designers had another option, I'm sure they would have jumped for it, but having most of the boutiques here in the Middle East take the designer's pieces on consignment doesn't really help them grow. Okay, I understand that if a boutique is testing how their clients would respond to a certain designer selling for the first time at their place they could take it on consignment. But if the pieces start selling well and the boutique takes a second and a third order, doesn't it make sense for the boutique to actually start buying those pieces from the designers? You would rarely find those boutiques working on consignment with designers based in Europe or the US, so why treat Middle Eastern fashion designers differently and expect them to actually take positive steps towards their growth? This is the way I see it and how most of the designers out there do as well, but it doesn't seem like boutique owners get that point and that's the main problem. So please, don't preach what you don't practice, as it really doesn't make sense to tell those designers to expand and explore more options, when no one is supporting them in reality.
6. I've seen the Black Eyed Peas, Ladygagas, a bag that has the word "slut" written on it in Arabic, daring haircuts, massive color explosions, in other words super fashion savvy people and of course there were the fashion victims. But you know what? No one cares! That's what I loved about the diversity of styles and the way people attended expressed themselves. This is where real fashion happens and this is exactly (from my humble point of view) what encourages creativity a lot! Be true to your style and always dress to impress...
7. My favorite part about any event is the networking, whether fashion or business, or even both. It's really important to talk to different people, especially for the young talents out there who'd like to start building a name for themselves. So my advice would be as follow: Networking is the key, don't be too shy and please get out of your comfort zone.
8. I couldn't help but notice how great the Fashion Forward team has worked together to set remarkable standards in the Middle Eastern fashion industry. Let's just put it that way, you are only as strong as the weakest member of your team. I couldn't identify who's in charge of the whole team, and that's actually a good thing. I could feel the plan was carefully discussed among them and everyone knew exactly what needed to be done from their side to produce such an event. So hats off, you guys did an outstanding job!
9. Shocking the system is always a great way to grab people's attention, and I noticed that in a couple of shows. An example that instantly comes to mind is Emperor 1688, where they sent a couple of shirtless male models down the runway in between the looks. Not sure if this was part of the strategy or just the collection, but it was a brilliant move. I really loved the details they've put into the collection as well!
10. At the end of the day it's really just quality and creativity what matters. Stay true to what you do and put some extra effort in producing pieces with outstanding quality, because that's eventually what people pick on once all the buzz has faded.
Last but certainly not least, I've picked my favorite design/look from each show.