On Thursday evening, Arwa Al Banawi, Fahad and Shouq Al Marzouq, and Lama Jouni, who helm three of the Middle East’s most promising labels, appeared on the Vogue Loves Fashion Avenue main stage at The Dubai Mall to discuss myriad topics. Moderated by Vogue Arabia’s Fashion Director Katie Trotter, the panel walked their way through eight words that make up the fundamentals of design today (including “emotion”, “magic”, and “technology”,) and shared their best piece of advice for up-and-coming regional talent hoping to make it in the industry. Read on for the five main takeaways from Thursday’s panel.
#1. Fahad and Shouq Marzook’s first celebrity client
“The first big celebrity to carry one of our bags — which was the ideal Marzook client — was Amal Clooney,” recalls Fahad. “She bought it, it wasn’t an endorsement or anything. We were sitting at our factory, and we get a photo message asking ‘Is this your bag?'” Shouq chimes in, “I actually convinced Fahad that it wasn’t. Then my husband sends me a close-up of it zoomed, and says ‘It is yours’.” The siblings go on to reveal that Clooney’s endorsement of the label had a direct hit on the sales. “She bought it herself,” says Fahad. “That’s what made it even more special.”
#2. Arwa Al Banawi built her The Suitable Women brand around her first job as a banker.
“My father was very against me starting a fashion brand right after graduation so I actually started in finance because we made a deal with each other,” recalls the Saudi womenswear designer. “I studied finance and I took fashion design courses after. I started my brand after working in banking. So in a way, the suits — modern, day-to-day, and day-to-night — inspired me a lot when I worked in the banking industry. I got inspired because I used to wear a suit to work every day. So it’s really part of my inspiration for my brand today.” Later on in the discussion, she added, “Studying finance has helped me a lot. When you start a fashion brand it’s a business, just like any other business.”
#3. Lama Jouni raises awareness about the potential perils of social media.
“I believe social media is important. It has its pros and cons, but it is overly saturated,” shares the Lebanese designer. “You’ll find a lot of brands that are selling copies of different brands, even regional brands. There are a lot of scammers. Though social media helps a lot of designers reach global markets, I feel like there needs to be a certain control over it. People are just selling an image that is not real to consumers on Instagram, and I feel like it’s not very honest sometimes.”
#4. Al Banawi opens up about how the changes in her home country affected her designs.
“In Saudi what happened this year, and I’m really happy about this change, is we’re not wearing abayas anymore,” she says speaking about Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s recent stipulation that women in Saudi Arabia no longer need to wear an abaya as long as their attire is decent and respectful. “Since the beginning of my brand I was very persistent about not having abayas. I used to have an equivalent of an abaya, which was a long blazer. Now, a lot of abaya designers in Saudi aren’t making them any more because women have the choice to not wear abayas. Now I’m creating designs for women leaving the gym, these long hoodies and long blazers, because you still have to look conservative. So this change is amazing, especially on a fashion note.”
#5. The Al Marzook siblings explain how technology improves their designs and cuts cost.
Technology has played a huge part in the development and expansion of the Kuwaiti accessories label. “When it comes to creating a bag, we sketch it first and then it goes to rendering. When it goes to rendering, they do it on the computer and we get the actual image and we get it exactly as it appears, so we can edit it and change without going to production, without having to pay for it,” explains Fahad. Echoing on his statement, his sister adds: “Especially with retailers, once we have an exclusive piece, they’d rather see the drawing and the rendering before going into production. Now, there’s 4D printing, and this is something that we’re excited about because you can have a product without having a mould. Anyone who has a brand knows that most expensive part of it is having a mold.”