Founder and CEO of Fashion Forward (FFWD), Bong Guerrero, takes time out to fill us in on what we can expect from FFWD season two…
For anyone who missed out on FFWD season one, can you offer a brief overview to what the event is about?
FFWD is a platform for emerging and established designers from, or based in, the Middle East. The event comprises of catwalk presentations from the finest couture and ready-to-wear designers from around the region over four days. We had an incredibly successful inaugural season in April of this year where we showcased 18 catwalk presentations from 21 designers, and held talks and panel discussions with some of the most important and influential designers, editors and buyers from this region. We also had the pleasure of hosting Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, for his first trip to the Middle East. He was our keynote speaker, addressing our guests and designers on the benefits of a trade body to regulate and nurture the fashion industry, just as the CFDA does in America.
Season Two runs from October 15-18th and is an official event for Eid In Dubai, so we encourage all who missed out in April, and of course all of those who did join us, to return this Eid Al Adha to help celebrate and support our regional designers.
How was FFWD conceptualised?
We believe that, considering the talent available, this region hasn’t had the recognition it deserves on the global fashion stage. We spent a lot of time to considering the best and most sustainable way to change this, so FFWD had been a few years in the making. We felt that April this year was the right time to launch, as all the ‘ingredients’ for success were just right. This has been further highlighted in recent months with the announcement of the Dubai Design District (d3) who are strongly supporting Fashion Forward with the ‘d3 Fashion Talks’.
The event is very much regionally focused with designers from Lebanon, Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the wider UAE – whilst also having an international outlook, attracting members of the global fashion community here to Dubai to see what we have to offer.
Large scale fashion events have been largely unsuccessful to date in the UAE. Why do you think that is?
It is not for me to comment on past events. What we wanted to ensure when launching FFWD was that the timing was right and judging from the success of season one and the phenomenal interest from buyers, designers and media for season two and beyond, we hope that we have found the correct formula for FFWD.
What elements have you incorporated into FFWD to ensure the event stays popular season in, season out?
First and foremost we choose the right mix of designers. We want to represent the region effectively, but we also need to make sure we choose designers who are ready to participate and show a full collection twice a year every year. We have various criteria for our designers to meet, but of course we always start with talent. We aim to make stars of our designers here in the region, by giving them a unifying platform. From there, we will have a strong and sustainable base as our industry grows, and we can make the Middle East a credible destination for the international community to consider on their calendar each season.
But we are realistic in our plans and know that you can’t grow an industry overnight. So, with the correct foundations, and including a strong roster of industry discussions and talks to foster debate, we can grow and adapt every season, learning from the successes of the other fashion capitals, and ensure we are keeping our own regional identity.
What would you consider as your biggest achievement in FFWD season one?
There were so many successes to come from season one, notably attendance, with over 12,000 visitors enjoying the event. We also had over 300 press outlets attending and covering us from around the world across various media. Also in attendance were over 40 regional buyers, representing some of the most successful stores across the GCC, this translated directly to our designers receiving substantial orders and considerably boosted their commercial success.
This invaluable international and regional exposure also means over 85 per cent of season one designers are returning to show at season two.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what is new and exciting for season two?
New for this season, and building on our series of talks in the inaugural season, we have the d3 Fashion talks – supported by Dubai Design District. Fostering discussion and nurturing the growing regional fashion industry is an integral part of FFWD’s vision and so as part of the d3 Fashion Talks, influential industry leaders will speak on a range of topics throughout the event.
Also new is The Garden – a dedicated space for regional accessories designers to showcase their jewellery, handbag, t-shirt and homeware collections to guests and buyers throughout the event. We had a hugely successful pop-up store in season one, and so from that we have expanded greatly to accommodate over 50 designers who will set up booths in The Garden where people can shop for unique pieces of Middle Eastern design.
How can brands get involved in FFWD?
For designers looking to get involved, please visit our website www.fashionforward.ae. All the information on the event itself and season two is there plus our contact details and we would love to hear from regional designers who are interested in FFWD.
Who can attend FFWD?
Fashion forward is predominantly a trade event, and we want to encourage the regional fashion community to join us in supporting and celebrating our regional talent. Our catwalk presentations are reserved for industry professionals but we encourage all interested in the event to register for tickets at www.fashionforward.ae. With the d3 Fashion Talks, The Garden and our hugely popular Fashion Gallery and Fashion Cafes, there is plenty for all guests to enjoy throughout the four days.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to grow steadily each season, learning and adapting as we go, in keeping with our designers and the regional landscape. So immediately we are concentrating on making season two a great success and then before we know it season three will be upon us!