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DUBAI — Roberto Cavalli jumped onstage to dance with singer Ciara as she belted out her rendition of Diana Ross’ “Upside Down” at a glittering charity gala in the shadow of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, here on Friday night.

“This place is full of life and energy,” he said, while celebrating la dolce vita with Dubai’s fashionable VIPs. The gala was part of The Vogue Fashion Dubai Experience, a three-day festival hosted by Vogue Italia editor in chief Franca Sozzani and Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Properties and developer of The Dubai Mall.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Designers at the event included Philipp Plein, Alberta Ferretti, Kean Etro, Peter Dundas, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, alongside Cavalli. They were there to show support for a new generation of designers in a part of the world always known for its obsession with big luxury brands.

“We need new blood in fashion. We need to support a young generation,” said Sozzani. “Dubai is a retail hub. It is very commercially strong, but it is very important to encourage creativity here, as well.”

Vogue Italia’s senior fashion editor, Sara Maino, scouted out 28 designers from around the world to showcase in Dubai over the weekend. “To have my work seen by some of the industry’s most important people is any designer’s dream,” said Dubai-based Madiyah Al Sharqi, whose pieces were selected to be part of a runway show in Dubai Mall.

The festival also included talks with Plein, Ferretti and Cavalli, who shared their experiences in building successful global brands. Plein, who flew in straight from Los Angeles after opening his 60th store, on Rodeo Drive, candidly shared his experience.

“My father is a doctor; I don’t come from a fashion family. I didn’t have family money. So the only reason I am here today is that I actually had to perform as a company,” he said.

Alabbar said partnering with Vogue Italia for the annual event helps develop a new level of fashion credibility in the emirate, which has already cemented its position as one of the world’s largest retailing hubs.

The black-tie gala dinner raised money for the World Food Program, for which Sozzani is a global ambassador. As a show of support, Janet Jackson made a public appearance with her husband, Wissam Al Mana, director of the Almana Group’s retail division. Dressed in a traditional Arabic black cloak, or abaya, Jackson kept a low profile, holding hands and quietly chatting with Al Mana and other guests, including models Karolina Kurkova and Liya Kebede.

Kebede also attended the talks, sharing her experiences creating the socially conscious fashion line Lemlem in Ethiopia. She exchanged ideas with Pakistan-based Inaaya designer Naushaba Brohi on how to collaborate with artisans in rural places.

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