Back in April, Style.com/Arabia and the Dubai Design & Fashion Council (DDFC) launched a search for the Middle East’s next great womenswear design star in partnership with Farfetch. After sorting through 200 applications by designers from 15 countries across the Arab world, the selection committee (made up of industry experts like Style.com/Arabia CEO and publisher Shashi Menon, Style.com’s Tim Blanks, designer Zuhair Murad, and more) narrowed it down to 10 finalists, announced today.
The finalists, who hail from six different countries throughout the Middle East, are: The Emperor 1688 (UAE), Zayan the Label (UAE), Hussein Bazaza (Lebanon), Matar (Bahrain), Nafsika Skourti (Jordan), Amine Bendriouich (Morocco), Taller Marmo (UAE), Reemami (UAE), Rami Kadi (Lebanon), and Aziz Humaid (Saudi Arabia).
“In general, we have about 150 designers on our radar and they all applied,” says Menon. “But the coolest thing was being exposed to the designers we had never heard of before, including one who ended up becoming a finalist.”
While some of the labels already have several major credentials—The Emperor 1688 brother trio landed in the finalist circle for the 2014/2015 International Woolmark Prize competition, in addition to dressing everyone from members of the Saudi Arabia royal family to Timbaland—some of the other brands in the running have remained pretty under the radar (until this point).
“For so long, this region that has been so misunderstood,” says Menon. “Fashion can really be a storytelling vehicle. There are such big differences between the fashion trends and preferences of people geographically, and you see that through the clothes.”
When the winner is announced this fall, they’ll claim a financial grant (valued at over $250,000), the opportunity to create a capsule line to be sold on Farfetch.com, a year of mentorship, an advertising campaign, and, of course, some major bragging rights. But first, each of the designers has been asked to produce a five-piece capsule collection to be presented in Dubai this November which we cannot wait to see what this special group will bring to the table.