Sorry, Beirut. There’s a new contender to your self-styled “fashion capital of the Middle East” throne: the UAE. Hosts of Arab Fashion Week (11–16 March), where collections from 22 nations attract a 10,000-strong audience, the Emirati fashion industry is now worth $55 billion, its labels worn by everyone from Beyoncé and the Kardashians to cult blog Man Repeller. According to leading UAE designer Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi – a member of the Fujairah royal family – diversifying from purely haute couture gowns (something the Lebanese labels, like Elie Saab and Reem Acra, have always excelled in) was key to winning over a hip, global style set.
“While there’s still an element of occasion present in our collections, there’s a stronger focus on creating tailored, playful separates that can be worn by day or dressed up for night.” Case in point: the flared jumpsuits, sequinned bandeau tops and bell-sleeved blouses of her winter collection in a palette of cream, cocoa and caramel, “a story about the 1970s” with nods to the off-duty, boho looks of models Lauren Hutton and Jerry Hall hitting Studio 54. It’s glam, sure, but far from formal. And who better to claim the Middle East’s fashion crown than a real-life princess?