Abu Dhabi Fashion Expo Arabia, between tradition and modernity

From the 26th to the 28th of October Abu Dhabi welcomed more than 550 fashion brands that came “to do business” with fashion industry players in the region. The trade show presented an overview of the orientations of the emirate as a whole, a blend of tradition and modernity.

Fashion Expo Arabia
Abu Dhabi

Founded by the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, Shamma Bint Zayed Al Nahyan, this first fashion event mixed clothing, shoes – represented for the main part by Italian brands following the establishment of a partnership with the Italian Shoe Federation – leather, accessories and glasses. The trade show was held in the centre of a vibrant new space, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, which was spacious, luxurious and modern and was appreciated by both exhibitors and visitors alike. More than 1,000 visitors came to the show, including multi-brand and department store buyers.

It was in off-the-peg clothing that the majority of exhibitors could be found, particularly brands based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which represented some 60% of the total number of labels present. Some of these were attending a trade show for the first time, in the hopes of expanding their range and offerings. Even if sales were not as high as can be seen at trade shows elsewhere, every brand seemed to have made some new contacts, notably with buyers from Dubai department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Saks, and had some interesting meetings which should see them return in the future.

Fashion Expo Arabia
Catwalk at Fashion Expo Arabia

Concerning clothes, the abaya, the traditional long black robe worn by Muslim girls and women, was prominent. Whilst some brands kept the sobriety of the outfit, changing on the fabrics of the piece, others pushed back the boundaries a bit; redesigned, sometimes with gemstone additions to the sleeves and collar, the abaya became an object of stylistic experimentation for some. This could be seen at Neon Edge by Mona Fares, where the pink coloured hair of the designer could be seen pairing black fabric with pearls, morcels of coloured plexiglass and more. These designs were an attempt to bridge tradition and modernity, an effort that the young buyers from Dubai multi-brands appreciated.

Fashion Expo Arabia
A mosque in Abu Dhabi

The New Delhi based designer Ekta Singh, who also participated in the first Dubai Fashion Week, had also made the trip to Abu Dhabi, a last minute decision that she did not regret. “Like the big brands we really want to do business,” she explained, “and sell our designs on the big stage, in terms of collections as well as in terms of points of sale. We therefore needed a place to meet buyers that had come from the United Arab Emirates or further afield. And after three days at the stand, Fashion Arabia did not disappoint. I think that this could become a big commercial trade show, like we really need.” Ekta Singh’s sentiment was shared by the majority of brands present it seemed.

With an estimated growth of 12.7%, fashion retail labels have good prospects. Without stealing the limelight from Dubai, which has so far led the way in terms of commercial infrastructure and shopping malls, Abu Dhabi aims to become the “platform of the Gulf” in the next five years – a task that is already underway with the launch of some large building projects.

By Jonathan Fulwell (Source: Emilie-Alice Fabrizi)

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