DOHA, QATAR - MARCH 28: (L to R) Pierpaolo Piccioli, Diane von Furstenberg, Naomi Campbell and Victoria Beckham attend the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize awards ceremony on March 28, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Fashion Trust Arabia)

NEW FRONTIERS: Pursuing its mission of supporting young design talent from the Middle East and North Africa, Fashion Trust Arabia is planning a digital designer showcase and awards ceremony for 2021.

FTA is also broadening its regional scope and inviting Colombia to be part of the initiative as part of a partnership that will celebrate the country’s design talent.

The online designer showcase and awards, which will take place in the form of a 3-D virtual reality experience, will replace the physical ceremony the nonprofit organization had hosted in 2019.

It is gathering industry figures from across the world to participate as judges or meet the local talent. This year’s physical ceremony was canceled due to lockdown from COVID-19.

In 2021, a series of smaller-scale physical events will still be held globally, prior to the final winners’ announcement.

“We are looking forward to presenting an inspiring, state-of-the-art third edition of the Fashion Trust Arabia prize in 2021. Even though we are living in uncertain times, we are more committed than ever to supporting talent from the MENA region,” said Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the organization’s co-chair.

Ahead of the 2021 showcase, an advisory board has been named to select 24 finalists from a wide range of applications received from across the MENA region.

It includes the likes of Natalie Kingham,’s fashion buying director; designers Gabriela Hearst and Johanna Ortiz; investor Carmen Busquets, and Dazed Media’s Jefferson Hack.

The selected candidates will present their work to a yet-to-be-announced jury for a chance to participate in the final awards ceremony and win in one of five categories, including eveningwear, ready-to-wear, accessories and jewelry.

A winner will also be chosen for the Franca Sozzani debut talent award.

An additional accolade, the Unique Edition Award, will be handed to a Colombian fashion designer as part of the partnership between the FTA and ProColombia, a government agency in charge of promoting Colombian nontraditional exports.

The aim of the tie-in is to further the organization’s commitment to support designers in emerging markets, as well as create a creative exchange between talent from the two regions.

“The interest shown by Fashion Trust Arabia in exploring and enhancing the talent our designers has been very valuable. Thanks to this, it will be possible to continue strengthening cultural and creative ties between our countries,” said Maria Juliana Ruiz Sandoval, Colombia’s first lady.

Applications, which are open from now until Nov. 30, will be accessible for designers with MENA heritage or brands that have parts of their business based in the region. Designers applying for the Unique Edition Award will have to be based in Colombia.

Due to lockdown, the 2020 judging committee, which included everyone from Olivier Rousteing to Alber Elbaz, Christian Louboutin and Yoon Ambush, met over Zoom and revealed the winners without hosting a ceremony.

Sudanese designer Omer Asim, jeweler Ammanii, footwear designer Andrea Wazen, eveningwear label Yousef Akbar, and up-and-comer Zeid Hijazi all received awards and financial support of up to $200,000, as part of the initiative.

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