Bong Guerrero, Co-Founder and CEO of Fashion Forward, is walking around the Dubai Design District (d3) with his signature relaxed assurance in a t-shirt that reads “old school.” While Guerrero—who launched his fashion footprint when he arrived in Dubai in the early 1990s—might be accustomed to producing top tier fashion events in Dubai (among his clients are Tiffany & Co., YSL Beauty, and Kenzo), Fashion Forward has always been his “baby.” Pushing past resistance and critique, the brainchild behind the Arab world’s most prolific regional fashion showcase, has worked tirelessly to create a fashion week for burgeoning, regional talent. After launching Fashion Forward in the halls of the Madinat Jumeirah, he then transferred the showcase in and around the containers of Hai d3, until moving it to the center of the Dubai Design District for its tenth season.
Season ten debuted the typically expansive program: presentations, shows, talks, workshops, a “garden” to shop accessories, pop ups, and evening entertainment. “It really looks great this year,” remarked guests. Guerrero knows all to well, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but only now has the design district developed the setting that Guerrero always aspired for to showcase Fashion Forward’s regional designers. Showing this tenth season, British-based brands Nabil Nayal and Eudon Choi, London Fashion Week regulars, sung praises for the slickness of operation and uniqueness of the fashion week that “doesn’t pretend to imitate anything else, and is proud of what it stands for,” remarked El-Nayal, as he observed the thousands of people milling in and out of buildings and lining up for shows (footfall numbers added up to almost 20 000). “People are genuinely interested to see what others have to offer creatively here,” he added.
Along with a new venue, Guerrero had another surprise in store. The debut of “Fashion Future,” a showcase that filled the ground floor of d3’s Building 6 to feature the work of over 20 of the most promising and award-winning international fashion students from some of the world’s leading fashion schools, including Creative Space Beirut, Domus Academy, ESMOD Dubai French Fashion Institute, FAD International, and Lebanese American University, among others, and showcased talent from the UK, Italy, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, China, Japan, Thailand, India, and Switzerland. Fashion Future was created in collaboration with Graduate Fashion Week (GFW), the world’s largest event for fashion talent, held every late spring in London. “We’ve shown at a few fashion showcases here, but Fashion Forward is the number one regional platform for us,” remarked Ryan Pacioles, creative director of couture house Atelier Zuhra, launched by Omani Mrs. Mousa Al Awfi. “It’s the one that we can trust and rely on, and it’s where we want and need to be. ”