The MENA region’s most anticipated night of fashion is a day away. While nerves are jangling, the feeling of hope and optimism amongst the finalists is the light at the end of the tunnel many have longed for.

To some, the FTA Prize is a glamorous event that happens once a year, to others it represents twelve months of all-nighters, meetings, calls and constant anxiety. Ahead of the FTA Prize event, Sophie Safi, Creative Director at FTA, says, “planning the event [was] hectic, there are a lot of small details you just forget (cutlery, the carpet etc.), you feel like they “are just there” but no, you have to make those decisions,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the gala dinner, to see it all come to life. Even if I feel it will all just be a split second, [but also] sleeping in my bed after all this is over.”

Dana Nassour Khairallah, Social Media Strategist at FTA, shares the same sentiment. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s work we love doing. I’m excited to see the finalists present their work in front of the incredible lineup of judges we have this year, and for me to be able to share those intimate moments with them as they prepare for the biggest night of their life.”

Life changing moments

As the celebrity guests, designers and judges make their way to Doha for the FTA Prize, to be held at the Qatar Museum this year, one can’t help but give credit to the woman behind it all, Tania Fares, a pioneer in the MENA fashion scene and co-chair of FTA. Reflecting on the past two installments of the Prize, Fares says “there is more interest in discovering young MENA fashion designers now”. Planning a larger than life event as the world continues to wrestle with a virus that has dominated our lives has not been easy; however, “we worked to make it happen, taking into consideration all Covid measures and precautions,” she says.

A life changing moment awaits the 5 of the finalists shortlisted this year — one winner from each category will be announced in just a couple of hours. So, how are the finalists coping?

Mohammed Benchellal, a finalist in the Evening Wear category says, “I’m very excited. It’s a surreal feeling. I wouldn’t be able to live without fashion. This is very emotional for me.” Benchellal, who is excited to meet her Royal Highness Sheikha Moza, an inspiration behind a lot of his work, adds, “Setting everything on site, and seeing it come together on the mannequins, makes me very proud. Choosing the planet over profit has been very difficult at times, but it feels right and an amazing opportunity could be in front of me, changing my career and life, so I’m feeling very humbled, honored and excited.”

Cynthia Merhej, the Creative Director and Founder of Renaissance Renaissance, a finalist in the Ready-to-Wear category, is looking forward to FTA being open to the public after it was held via Zoom last year. “This is an incredible moment for me, a huge moment, to be reunited with other incredible Arab designers. Just five years ago we could have never imagined that this would be possible, it’s so meaningful to be in the same room with the other amazing talents,” she shares.

As we approach the finish line for this year’s FTA Prize, applications are now open for the 2022 edition. “It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the experience, and all designers should apply because they have nothing to lose, but instead they will only gain the opportunity of being discovered,” says Fares.

Pulse wishes all the finalists the best of luck — the best is yet to come!