DOHA, QATAR - MARCH 28:  Olivier Rousteing and Victoria Beckham attend the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize Judging Day on March 28, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fashion Trust Arabia)

LONDON — Fashion Trust Arabia is building momentum, with the second edition of the awards set for March 25 at the newly opened National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel.

The philanthropic initiative, which aims to scout, fund and nurture design talent across the Middle East and North Africa, was founded by Tania Fares on the back of Fashion Trust U.K.

The 2020 program will see the addition of an advisory board, which will create a shortlist of talent from open applications. Advisory board members will include Julie Gilhart, Sarah Andelman, Jefferson Hack, Natalie Kingham, Gianluca Longo, Sara Maino, Sofia Guellaty, Roger Moukarzel, Sarah Mower, Fabio Piras, Tim Blanks and Carmen Busquets.

Judges for 2020 have yet to be revealed. Applications for the 2020 fund are open to designers in women’s wear categories including eveningwear, ready-to-wear, accessories (shoes/bags) and jewelry (fine and fashion).

There is an additional award for 2020, the Franca Sozzani Debut Talent Award, which aims to focus attention on recent graduates with outstanding design talent and potential to kickstart their career and business. The award recognizes Sozzani, who died in 2016, for her commitment and support of talent in the region.

Similar to last year, the fund plans to showcase the 25 finalists in an exhibition.

Fares said in an interview that while Fashion Trust Arabia was inspired by the success of the BFC Fashion Trust, FTA operates on a much bigger scale. FTA co-chair is Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and the organization is under the patronage of honorable chair Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.

“We’re covering the entire MENA region, so ultimately we have more designers applying to the prize. With the addition of the new Debut Talent category, we’re looking at around — hopefully — 450 applications from the Arab world. We awarded six winners this year from FTA and they are all receiving an in-depth personalized mentorship program,” she said.

“What also makes this initiative different from the BFC is, though our region is bursting with creativity, designers have a difficulty breaking into the Western market. Designers in the U.K. may not face this issue, being in a central city in Europe. FTA is the key to unlock opportunities for designers on a global, bigger scale to give them the recognition that they deserve.”

Applications for all the categories are open to designers based in the Middle East and North Africa only. Submissions are through the Fashion Trust Arabia’s official web site and close at midnight local time on Nov. 30.

The 2019 winners included Salim Azzam; Roni Helou; Mukhi Sisters; Krikor Jabotian; Zyne, and Sabry Marouf.

Winners receive up to $200,000 in financial grants alongside business, operational and strategic support from FTA partners.

That includes a yearlong buying mentorship with Matchesfashion.com. The 2019 winners were stocked on-site from spring 2020 and supported through social and editorial content. The FTA mentorship program has also provided the winning designers with opportunities to travel globally.

Over the summer, they flew to New York for a four-day mentorship workshop with Maison de Mode, aimed at learning new ways to implement sustainable business practices into their brand. They also had one-on-one sessions with designers such as Gabriela Hearst and Zac Posen.

Jabotian will be stocked in Harrods, and is also participating in a mentorship program with the Harrods team in London.

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