Since its inception in 2015, the Vogue Fashion Prize has catapulted some of the most promising regional designers to stardom. The program has seen hundreds of designers from 20 countries across the Arab world apply for a chance to win the top prizes in ready-to-wear, accessories, and high jewelry categories. Previous winners, including Hussein Bazaza, Reemami, and Ralph Masri, have gone on to achieve international acclaim. The Vogue Fashion Prize is an event that can change a designer’s career and this month, powered by NEOM, the Vogue Fashion Prize makes a return – and it’s going to be bigger than ever before.
As we prepare for the return of the pioneering initiative, let’s take a look at the careers of some of the previous winners.
Reema Al Banna, Reemami
The Vogue Fashion Prize 2016 saw Reema Al Banna and her clothing brand Reemami emerge victorious in the ready-to-wear category. Ever since, the UAE-based label has taken the region, and the rest of the world, by storm. Al Banna’s vivid designs have captured the attention of international style icons including Queen Rania of Jordan, Bella Hadid and Kelly Rowland.
Prior to founding her award-winning label in 2009, Al Banna studied as a graphic designer. However, the Palestinian designer found herself seeking another source of expression, eventually turning her head to her longtime passion, fashion.
In the decade since its inception, Reemami has become one of the go-to ready-to-wear brands in the region, recognized for its flattering, standout pieces. Al Banna’s experimental cut and architectural designs have seen her redefine playful style for women across the Middle East.
Describing the Fashion Prize as one of the major “milestones” in her life and “best moment of my career,” Al Banna, admits the opportunity allowed her to “recognize my strengths as a brand” and expand. Al Banna will soon be launching Reemami Home to complement her fashion label.
Perhaps the quirkiest and most distinctive designer to win the Vogue Fashion Prize, 2017 winner Nadine Ghosn has always loved jewelry. The stackable Hamburger ring, complete with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies resembling ketchup, is just one of the high jewelry designer’s striking creations that has garnered international attention, with Beyoncé and the late, great Karl Lagerfeld favoring her designs.
Lebanese-Brazilian designer Ghosn was born and raised in the US, where she studied economics and arts at Stanford University. However, during a trip to Beirut in 2015, where Ghosn was shopping for jewelry, she saw how craftsmanship had been neglected over the years. Realizing her creative side, Ghosn approached a manufacturer with an offer to collaborate. Then the 25-year-old propelled herself into learning everything about the jewelry-making process, later launching her eponymous label in 2016.
Ghosn’s fine jewelry line features some of the boldest, most recognizable pieces elevated by high-quality gemstones. Her designs are known to stand out in a crowd, allowing the designer to build a strong online presence.
Winning the Vogue Fashion Prize gave Ghosn much more than international brand exposure. It helped her see her talent better, building her confidence as a result. “For a long time, I couldn’t even recognize myself as a designer as I was my own worst critic. Being validated, seen by peers, and recognized gave me the confidence and also more resources to actualize my vision,” she says.
Despite the challenges of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ghosn is preparing to launch a new collection. “Unfortunately, it has taken a little longer due to the current state of affairs, but I love the inspiration behind it and the work is more technical, so it has been an interesting experience and journey,” she says.
The inaugural Fashion Prize winner in 2015, Hussein Bazaza, is one of the biggest regional names in ready-to-wear fashion. The Lebanese designer has become synonymous with cutting-edge, creative fashion. Known for his masterful fabric manipulation and emotive touches, the 30-year-old often draws inspiration from powerful women for his breathtaking designs. Since his Fashion Prize victory, Bazaza’s creations have garnered a celebrity following, with Naomi Campbell and Queen Rania of Jordan included among his A-list clientele.
Born in Beirut in 1990, Bazaza realized his passion for designing at an early age. After graduating from ESMOD Beirut with a degree in fashion design and pattern making in 2011, Bazaza went on to learn from the greats, working at acclaimed maisons Rabih Kayrouz and Elie Saab. By 2012, his artistic flair and fierce vision saw him establish his eponymous label with help from the Starch Foundation. He opened his first atelier in Beirut when he was just 23.
Bazaza’s career has seen him collect many prestigious awards, including best emerging designer at the Middle East Fashion Awards in 2015, but it was the inaugural Fashion Prize that saw Bazaza achieve his career-defining award as the first-ever winner.
In the five years since his victory, the designer has gone from strength to strength, most recently showing his SS21 collection at Milan Fashion Week.
Bazaza’s credits the Fashion Prize for showcasing his brand on an international level, noting how the award helped him grow both in his career and personally. “The Fashion Prize shaped me as a person, on an emotional level,” said Bazaza. “It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that I will cherish forever.”
Since winning the high jewelry category at the 2016 Vogue Fashion Prize, Ralph Masri has seen nothing but success. The Lebanese master craftsman has seen his collections adored by celebrities, influencers, and royalty across the world and is a favorite of Queen Rania of Jordan, Céline Dion, Gigi Hadid, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Beirut-born Masri started out as one of the region’s most promising designers, and with his meticulous construction and stunning creations, he has established himself as one of the top names in the competitive world of contemporary fine jewelry. Prior to his success with the Vogue Fashion Prize in 2016, Masri had already begun to make a name for himself on the jewelry scene. When he was 18, he won the Swarovski Award, which saw him work for the crystal giant for a year. At 20, he became the youngest student ever to be nominated for the UK Jewelry Award, while a student at the world-renowned Central Saint Martin’s design college. It was this recognition that pushed him to establish his eponymous label in 2014 and later apply for the Vogue Fashion Prize in 2016.
“Having a name like Vogue Arabia and the Fashion Prize backing you helps elevate your brand to a new level,” Masri told Vogue Arabia, when reflecting on his award-winning success. Although winning the Vogue Fashion Prize was not Masri’s first taste of victory, it was a defining moment in his career, and one that saw his confidence soar. “It gave me much more confidence, much more credibility; it made me trust my instinct a lot more,” he explains.
His exquisite creations are somewhat of an art form, with his finesse of fine jewelry becoming a must-have for women all over the world. One of his most loyal customers is Queen Rania of Jordan, who is often seen wearing Masri’s stunning pieces. “Ever since Her Majesty wore my jewelry for the occasion of Jordan’s anniversary of independence, I have had people come to my store asking for the Queen Rania pieces,” Masri told Vogue Arabia.
Hundreds of designers from nearly 20 countries across the Arab world have already applied to the Vogue Fashion Prize. Don’t miss out! Applications for the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize are open now at fashionprize.com.