I recently returned from Dubai for the opening of a selection of work from our Art of Dress exhibition. We were also hosting a series of panel discussions with Caspian Arts Foundation as part of the Creative Circle Symposium.
The whole experience was a revelation. In many ways Dubai is a city where there are many preconceived ideas and misconceptions and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was fascinated to go and it didn’t disappoint. Yes, there were the soaring skyscrapers, major freeways, building sites, marble, fast cars and over 70 shopping malls. There was also great hospitality, thoughtfulness and energy. It is a city that like Shanghai is positioning itself to have a major global impact into the rest of the century. Dubai is a major transport hub with a projected 200 million visitors through its airport by 2020. It has the largest retail space of any airport in the world and is a major architectural, business and trading city.
With a history of trading in pearls and gold it is nevertheless focused on creating the infrastructure that will make sure it is a key city on the 21st century Silk Road of major fashion cities.
It has recently established a Dubai Design and Fashion Council and has regional impact and increasing global presence through its Fashion Forward events. This year Chanel has shown its cruise collection and a series of Vogue Fashion talks hosted by Italian Vogues editor Franca Sozzani had taken place just before we arrived.
It is a city hungry to learn about how fashion works and to explore ways it can begin to define its own approach. It was this questioning and exploration that formed the basis of all the discussions from how to nurture and support the emerging designers of the Middle East, to what sort of creative educational system should be established. The panels drew on the expertise of panelists from across the region. Issues about modest fashion, skills, how fashion is crucial at a time of conflict and dispossession, the empowerment of women and the establishment of an approach to Middle Eastern fashion design that recognized and built on its culture, history and global presence it was stimulating visit, and we are already planning our next visit.