DUBAI — The Dubai Design and Fashion Council and Vogue Arabia awarded three designers from the region the Fashion Prize earlier this week, an annual award going to the top talent from the Middle East. The designers represent three different categories: ready-to-wear, fine jewelry and accessories. The winners were chosen by a panel that included designer Reem Acra, Aquazzura creative director Edgardo Osorio, DDFC chief executive officer Jazia Aldanhani and Vogue Arabia editor in chief Manuel Arnaut.
“It’s wonderful to discover such promising new talent in the region,” said Osorio. Accra, who is on the board of the council, said: “The DDFC Vogue Fashion Prize is so important for the region. It empowers the new generation of designers.”
This year’s winners were:
Faissal El-Malak, Ready-to-Wear
Palestinian designer Faissal El-Malak grew up between Montreal and Qatar and studied in Paris before settling in Dubai. His work is rooted in his search for identity. “Both sides of my family are Palestinian refugees,” he said. “My identity was only based on ideas and memories of my grandparents. I didn’t have anything tangible until I discovered traditionally hand embroidered cushions and dresses that my mother had. That was the first time I had something that related to my identity.”
El-Malak incorporates traditional handwoven textiles from Yemen and Tunis and jacquards from Egypt in his work. “I use these fabrics and put them into a context of modern fashion and luxury,” he said. “It’s not something too ethnic or to be seen as a souvenir. I feel it’s important for me because the idea of craft and how it relates to identity is essential not only to support craftspeople in their work and how I view textile and what it means.
The spring collection, “Echoic Memory” which he presented to the jury, was his idea of a time capsule of memories and images from his childhood, from Nineties pop music to visits to museums. “It’s about how sometimes we register things in our mind, but process them at a later stage.”
Nadine Ghosn, Fine Jewelry
The Stanford-educated jewelry designer, who studied economics and art, launched her brand two years ago after starting her career at BCG and Hermès, which she said gave her a strategic perspective on the luxury industry. Her pieces have caught the eye of several high-profile clients including Karl Lagerfeld and Beyoncé. She said her aim is “to make ordinary objects extraordinary. That’s my message in gold.” Lagerfeld’s favorite is the headphone necklace in gold and diamonds and Beyoncé wore the “shut up” earrings on her birthday. The designer, who is originally Lebanese, grew up between the U.S., France, Japan and Hong Kong, and returned to her native Lebanon at 25. There she discovered many jewelers who were losing work because fewer people were investing in handcrafted jewelry. “Having been at Hermès, I learned that craftsmanship is something you protect and preserve. I wanted to create with a sense of purpose. When the jeweler told me he was willing to take you me in and teach me, I jumped in.” Ghosn went on to get a GIA degree as well before launching her collection two years ago.
Food is a foundation in her creations. The designer’s most recognizable piece is the hamburger ring, a series of stacked colorful gemstone rings that together form a burger. The self-described “sushi addict” lived in Japan for seven years and hence sushi also has a starring role in her work. “It’s a novel topic for the jewelry space,” she said. “Glamour can be in something you don’t look at twice but everyone can relate to. The food pieces are relatable, fun, plays with color and light.
“The biggest pivotal thing for my brand was Collette. They took me after two months of me launching.” She also retails in Bon Marché, Bergdorf Goodman and The Webster and will be launching a trunk show on Moda Operandi.
Joanna Constantine, Accessories
Constanine studied fashion design at Parsons and her line of fashion jewelry is heavily influenced by ready to wear trends. “Trends change and it’s important for me to keep it exciting for buyers. They should think about what they are wearing and how the jewelry will compliment that. Accessories should complete an outfit, match the trend.” Her spring collection, which she presented to the jury for the prize, consists of three stories. The first, she said, is inspired by streetwear and has an “urban chic edge. I took things like the color of a T-shirt, grommets of laces and transformed that into jewelry pieces.” Her second story, titled “Why Knot?”, reflects the shapes and movements of knitted wires. The last chapter of her story, “Tribale,” is a take on the word tribal and takes inspiration from native shapes and form.
Constantine’s collection will soon be available at Moda Operandi, Bergdorf’s and Intermix.