Islamic Lifestyle

For Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2019, it’s all about the buyers, says organiser

Photo: Designer Hilal Oguzkan showing her collection at Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017. Photo supplied by Think Fashion

The biggest challenge that still plagues the modest fashion industry is bringing in and dealing with buyers, modest fashion consultants and events organiser Think Fashion told Salaam Gateway.

Self-funded entrepreneurs Franka Soeria and Ozlem Sahin saw so many challenges designers faced with buyers that they took matters into their own hands, coming up with their own solutions to push visibility for all the participants of the modest fashion weeks they organise.

Fresh from Jakarta Modest Fashion Week in July last year, Think Fashion brings back Dubai Modest Fashion Week (DMFW) on March 7-9 for its second outing after the 2017 debut. The highlights, say Franka and Ozlem, are a programme for International Women’s Day on March 8 and a “Fashion for Good” component.

But first, Franka tells us Think Fashion’s plans to help modest fashion brands and designers sell more. 

Salaam Gateway: What are you doing to address what you have identified as “the biggest issue” for the modest fashion industry, the buyers?

Franka Soeria, Think Fashion: We have been knocking on the doors of all buyers but there are so many challenges, still, for the designers. They need to be assisted. So we decided to take on part of the buyer role ourselves.

All participants will directly be part of our own marketplace called Also we started to open offline points: Modest Fashion Weeks Corners in UAE and one big hub called Modest Boulevard will roll this year. This will be a part of our bigger plan this year. 

Other than the e-marketplace, we continue our buyers programme by trying to bring as many buyers as we can.

This is a neutral event just like Jakarta, which means we invite all buyers, including all e-commerce players, boutiques, department stores both local and international.

We also continue our Buyers Talks when the buyers will share valuable tips with designers.

Having said all that, how many buyers can brands and companies look forward to at this year’s event?

Many buyers are coming, both local and international, but most buyers who will come to Dubai are mostly from the region.

The big e-commerce sites will be there, the big department stores will be there, and there will also be boutiques and wholesale buyers.

Still on the important topic of selling, can you give us an indication of how much business or deals changed hands as a result of Dubai Modest Fashion Week 2017, and what are your projections for this year’s event?

In previous events, we didn’t assist the deals and we didn’t control the selling/payments. All of that was totally controlled by the designers. What we did is we bring buyers and the crowd and focus the attention on the event.

This year we will take more control of the selling and we will directly channel them to our buyers programme on ModestCatwalk.

Our Council of Modest Fashion also functions as our Global Buyers Network. They are creating their own projects in the region and in the end, we connect the dots to make bigger distribution channels.

How much, on average, would a typical runway show cost? Parade Shows are for 10 outfits and 10 models and Fashion Shows are for 25 outfits and 20 models. Are these worth the investment for brands and companies?

As the organiser of Modest Fashion Weeks we always try to make the cost as affordable as we can. However, good fashion weeks need good execution and good production, and this means Cost.

For example, we don’t use C-class models, we use A-class models. We also use the best choreographers in town. For Dubai we’re using the choreographer who has done shows for D&G and Michael Cinco.

On our part, we do good production and branding. We want the designer to experience the best, world-class fashion show at affordable prices.

I have been in the fashion industry more than eight years and I have been involved in many fashion events. I usually see fashion events, similar to our standards, cost five times more.

If you know the price of New York Fashion Week, our price is just 10 percent of it. (Salaam Gateway note: Designer Christian Siriano put it at $125,000 - $312,000 for one show at NYFW.)

Profit is not our big aim at all, sometimes we spend for the event way way more than we get back. Basically I and Ozlem as the founders of Modest Fashion Weeks, are pretty much idealists. 

Around 40 brands will be hitting the runway over two days. Can you name some of them?

You’ll see Anotah from Kuwait, Boutallion from the Netherlands, a group of Azerbaijan designers (Hijab Queen, Anaya Zikirli etc), UAE’s My Kaftan, Blu Chocolate presents Dulce by Safiya, Hama Yassen-Jordan, Raidha's from the Maldives, The Hijab Lee - India, Mayada- Canada, College of Fashion Design-UAE, Niswa Fashion from the USA, Adrianna Yariqa from Singapore, Sempre from Turkey, Naj Tags from Lebanon and Mariyan Suleymanova from Russia.

Countries like Indonesia are bringing many designers, including Lina Sukijo, Jawhara Syari, CR by Tika Ramlan, Devi Janeeta and #Markamarie. 

There will also be brands from Singapore and Malaysia. In all, 26 countries are participating in the three-day event, and we’re expecting people from around 35 countries to attend.

What are the categories for this year’s Dubai Modest Fashion Week? Are there any new ones?

Categories of clothes? We’ll have ready to wear, evening wear, office wear, all types. We wanted to open a men's section this year but we had to postpone it due to lack of interest. We may do it for the next modest fashion week.

How is Dubai Modest Fashion Week different from the ones in London, Jakarta and Istanbul? Is there anything that is specifically Dubai-influenced or that is distinctively different BECAUSE it’s Dubai?

Dubai has its own identity. When we do Jakarta, we emphasise on creativity, innovations in designs, out of the box, streetwear-like soul. 

The Dubai identity is glam, luxury, a city where people like to look unique and different. The venue for this year’s DMFW matches this - mIX by Alain Ducasse - Emerald Palace Kempinski Palm Jumeirah.

Influencers and designers who come are different. 100 influencers are expected to come by themselves. You see so many Arab influencers coming, as well as from other regions. 

Last but certainly not least, you mentioned highlights of the three-day event.

Yes, there are two: a programme in conjunction with International Women's Day and “Fashion for Good”.

We chose the date of DMFW with a purpose. On March 8, we will have a special celebration for all women. We will stage a show showcasing different styles and characters of women, as well as have talkshows about Power Women.

Secondly, since DMFW 2017, we made the decision to hold a special programme focusing on Doing Good for all our modest fashion weeks. This will focus on inclusion, diversity and tolerance.

During Jakarta Modest Fashion Week 2018 we decided to start Dream & Design for Disabilities. We asked disabled designers to design, disabled tailors to sew and disabled models to model the collection. It was a beautiful show supported by the Asian Paralympic Games.

Now in Dubai this year, we will continue this project with a designer from Abu Dhabi: Asiya Rafiq. She was inspired by the Jakarta project and decided to make a collection for the disabled. This is what we want, to inspire people to do good things.

There is also a special show by #Markamarie featuring #BenangProject collection made by Refugees and designers from Indonesia & Jordan.

#BenangProject itself is a well-known philantrophic initiative by #Markamarie and UNHCR.

This year we will also highlight companies that manufacture sustainable products for beauty, skincare, hair and many more.

It's time to raise more awareness on keeping the Earth healthy by consuming earth-friendly products.

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