Dubai is one the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. With over 80% of its population being expatriates, it welcomes people from across the globe. This is why Dubai is home to fashion designers of so many nationalities – be they British, Danish, Filipino or Indian.
Acolé is a label founded by Danes Linda Bunn Lacin and Maria Gold in 2018. This Dubai-based slow fashion brand is all about luxury essentials and has a relaxed and seasonless take on fashion. Retail points include e-tailer Ounass. The label manages to blend Scandinavian minimalist style with Middle East maximalism. Says Bunn Lacin: “Our taste is still very much rooted in our Scandinavian heritage, however the maximalist love from the region has of course inspired us, as we love Middle Eastern women’s style. This always comes through in our ‘Cocktails & Dreams’ occasion styles, where ruffles, shine and extravagant fabrics come into play.”
According to her, Dubai’s location makes it a very convenient place for fashion labels to be based: “Its location is literally in the middle of the world. This makes it very easy to be connected to production, clients and international fashion weeks. Other than that, Dubai is filled with talented creatives from all over the world, making it an ideal base.” Acolé products are made in Turkey, the marketing is done in Dubai and they are able to do work with clients from Europe effortlessly.
Andrea Brocca is one the leading young talents from Dubai, having opened his boutique when he was only 16. He graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins last year and holds the Guinness World Record for being the world’s youngest couturier. Raised in Dubai, Andre is of Italian and Sri Lankan heritage, and he feels there could be another reason for Dubai attracting creative talent. “Perhaps they move here because it is tax-free?” he says. Also setting up a business in Dubai is quite easy, if you compare it to most other fashion capitals in the world.
“Dubai is a multicultural city, therefore people from all areas of the world meet,” Brocca adds. “Many of these people come from varied and different cultures themselves, which creates third culture kids, of which I am one. I think being a third culture kid enables you to grow easily in whichever surroundings you find yourself. Ultimately a good creative is a person that is very self-aware, and is able to constantly evolve – hence, multicultural hubs instigate vision.”
Varoin Marwah came to Dubai from India for a job with Emirates Airlines but ended up launching his own fashion label in 2012. “I constantly spoke about my love for fashion and wore my designs at various events before I launched my label, which started to get noticed by the who’s who in the industry,” says Marwah. Being a young city, Dubai has an openness to it, he feels. Only five years after the launch of his label, he was selected to represent Dubai at the coveted International Woolmark Prize. “One of the major things I have learned from living in the UAE is the value of inclusiveness. I love how the lines get blurred here when it comes to every individual as we all have absorbed so much from each other’s cultures.” Marwah describes himself as “an Indian designer who is based in the Middle East,” and while there is a definite reference to his native country is his designs, he says his label’s customers include Arabs and other expats who live here.
Brocca adds that it’s important for those who set up base to understand the culture here and says there is much inspiration to be found in Middle Eastern culture. Women here are discerning – so it pushes Dubai-based designers to produce clothes using the best of fabrics. Of course, nothing is perfect, and he adds that if a designer is looking for funding, then Dubai may not be the ideal place. While women in the UAE like to spend on their fashion, finding corporate backing for fashion brands isn’t easy. But then even paradise is meant to have its own set of challenges.