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Jordanian Designers Gain a New Platform

For a country known for its incredibly stylish women – think Queen Rania, Queen Noor, and also actors Saba Mubarak and new face Rakeen Saad – a Jordanian fashion week was long overdue. Thankfully, all changed in March, when entrepreneur and digital influencer Shirene Rifai rolled up her sleeves and put together the first edition of Jordan fashion week. “Over the past 15 years of my career and my attendance at fashion weeks, I saw upcoming designers from all over the world, but unfortunately not from Jordan,” confides Rifai. “I decided to create Jordan fashion week to encourage Jordanian designers and to highlight their talents. The Jordanian fashion industry hasn’t been promoted widely and therefore, due to this lack of exposure, local creatives are not being utilized, even though they have as much talent as other designers in the Middle East.”

Proving that Jordan is rich with talent, the event counted an open showroom that included more than 30 brands – including jewelry, accessories, modest wear, and evening wear – and the main runway featuring the top names of the country. Roman couturier Sylvio Giardina and Lebanese red carpet ace Jean-Louis Sabaji were the guest designers. Among the 22 presentations, Tatyana Aceeva, Fadi Zumot, Wenin, Trashy Clothing, and Laith Maalouf were some of the standouts of the two days, which were dominated by couture-inspired and grand evening looks. “Jordanians are very open to fashion and always loved regional and international brands,” comments Maalouf, one of the local pioneers, who, after launching his eponymous brand in 2013, dressed Queen Noor for the Emirates National Day celebration. “This fashion week was a fantastic experience, from the organization itself, the casting, and the press coverage. We are very proud of what Shirene put together.”

Originally published in the May 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia

Actress Saba Mubarak, a former Vogue Arabia cover star, agreed from the front row that the time is now for Jordanian fashion – even if she believes that fashion might not be part of the country’s DNA. “I think our rituals and the Bedouin culture we come from is a bit closed and fashion is not our thing. We are also new to cinema and multimedia in general,” she notes. “But it’s about time that we start showing the fashionable face of Amman. We have a lot of stylish people, with great sense of fashion and wit. Engaging with the Arab and international scene was long overdue.”

Although the first Jordan fashion week was overall a success – covered by a great number of media, including 16 TV channels from around the world – Rifai is already plotting a new edition and the next steps to push ahead the Jordanian style industry. “We are a country with limited resources, especially in relation to fashion, but Jordan’s current struggling economy benefited greatly from this exposure,” she concludes. “The biggest challenge we are now facing is the lack of fashion schools, guidance, and mentors. Another challenge is the almost nonexistent textile industry, which makes it difficult for designers to produce their collections. The manpower in terms of tailoring is very weak, but we are working on getting the funding and support to move our designers forward.” We are sure she will succeed.

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