This October, over 120 fashion industry insiders entered the hull of a giant dhow (the world’s largest) docked on the shores of Kuwait City to attend a day-long high-end fashion conference. Organized by the EU-GCC Trade and Business Cooperation Facility, the conference featured speakers including HE Sheikha Intisar Salem al-Ali al-Sabah and Chairman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council, Alia Khan; along with speakers from Louis Vuitton, WGSN, and various regional designers like Maya Abdul Rasheed of Bambah and influencers such as Mariah Idrissi, H&M’s first hijab-wearing model. The conference was moderated by Vogue Arabia Features Director Caterina Minthe.
Funded by the European Commission, the conference’s aim is to support trade and dialogue between the two regions along with highlighting Arab countries’ burgeoning fashion industry, which sees an annual regional spend of over US $240 billion on clothing with EU imports accounting for US $1.75 billion each year. “The GCC region has great potential within fashion design and this high-end fashion conference highlights regional upcoming designers and entrepreneurs because they are crucial to develop the local fashion industry. Strengthening this sector, that employs many women and young people, can furthermore be a solution to some of the challenges like unemployment and economic diversification in the region,” says HE Ambassador, Delegation of the European Union to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, Michele Cervone d’Urso.
The following day, 40 people took part in a masterclass that highlighted sustainable fashion initiatives. Sustainable fashion is a novel topic in the GCC and one that the regional design schools aim to explore further. In cooperation with Design School Kolding, a Danish design school established in 1967, which has developed a supply chain tool for sustainable thinking, Kopenhagen Fur, and Materialise, the masterclass furthered its international network with design students and designers from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Kuwait.