Since 2019, here at Pulse we’ve been proud to be part of one of the most anticipated nights on the Arab fashion calendar. We’re, of course, talking about the announcement of the 24 finalists for the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize. Today, July 18th, the hearts of more than 900 Arab fashion designers surely skipped a beat or two; 24 of them are extremely happy, and the others will console themselves with the knowledge that they can apply again next year for what is now seen as one of the most efficient financial support, guidance and mentorship programs in the MENA region.
The FTA Advisory Board have voted. Sarah Andelman, Imruh Asha, Adam Baidawi, Wayman Bannerman and Micah McDonald, Bryan Boy, Carmen Busquets, Piergiorgio Del Moro, Alex Fury, Nina Garcia, Tiffany Godoy, Sofia Guellaty, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Saif Mahdi, Sara Maino, Mary Alice Malone, Erdem Moragliou, Pierre M’Pele, Edgardo Osorio, Fabio Piras, Gaia Repossi, Olivier Theyskens, Elizabeth Von Der Goltz, and Patti Wilson had the very difficult task of selecting 24 talents from among the hundreds of applications that came in through FTA’s website this year. The least we can say is that they lived up to this heavy responsibility: The 24 designers who make up our Advisory Board look a lot like a dream team.
It’s already a fact, plain and simple, when we read their bios, and browse their lookbooks and their websites: The 24 selected artists have embraced fashion as a cause, they’re here, not only to produce beautiful pieces and sell them, but also to help people, to preserve their heritage, and to be faithful to their roots. They are in tune with their time, concerned about sustainability, ethics and inclusivity; they want to bring cultures together, to defy the norms, be bigger than life, change mentalities and allow everyone in the MENA region to be themselves.
And, most of all, they want to empower women, to help every woman be unique and sublime, this year more than any other. We say this year more than ever, because something has made us very proud and happy: 80% of the FTA Prize finalists in 2022 are women, when last year they made up only 50%. As symbolic as this number is, it means a lot in a region and an industry still dominated by men.
Over the next few days and weeks, you will get to know each one of the 24 members of our 2022 dream team, who hail from ten different countries: Morocco (five finalists), Lebanon (four finalists), Egypt (three finalists, one of them born and raised in Qatar), Sudan (2 finalists), Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen, Syria and Kuwait (1 finalist each). But for now, let’s start by seeing who they are and how they envision fashion.
This category will finally crown a woman, after Roni Helou and Salim Azzam (2019), Omer Asim (2020) and Zaid Affas (2021). Will it be Renwa Yassine, Rym Beydoun, Siham and Sarah Albinali or Yousra Elsadig?
Renwa Yassine (Renwa) and Rym Beydoun (Super Yaya) have a lot in common. Both Lebanese, raised in West Africa, in the Ivory Coast to be more precise, they carry within them a double culture and double heritage which can only enrich their work and strengthen their determination to build bridges between West Africa and the Arab world. “Cultures have no barriers,” says Yassine; “I want to create a forward-thinking line that locals would feel proud to wear,” said Beydoun.
With them, the Saudi Arabian sisters Siham and Sarah Albinali and the Sudanese Yousra Elsadig want to dress a bold, unique woman who doesn’t need anyone’s permission to wear what she will. The Albinali sisters “aim to embolden the meaning of what it is to be a woman in today’s world by championing a fearless feminine viewpoint through timeless pieces”, while Elsadig’s message is “to inspire women from all walks of life to pursue their dreams, regardless of how unconventional or unrealistic they may seem to those around them”.
Two women and two men are competing in this category that counts Krikor Jabotian (2019), Yousef Akbar (2020) and Mohamed Benchellal (2021) as past winners.
The Kuwaiti Amna Alsalem and the Egyptian-Qatari born and raised Yasmin Mansour are both gifted with a great ability to navigate between many artistic disciplines. Alsalem is experienced in sculpting and painting, and these skills have pushed her to “create fashion with a multifaceted base and surface that’s unaffected by trends and often involving, architecture, art, literature and a bit of technology”. Always between Doha and Paris, Mansour’s work is inspired by her dreams, art, and architecture. “For me, designing has no rules. If you start setting rules, you will not be able to create anything. You create what you dream of,” she says.
The two male designers, the Moroccan Artsi Ifrah (Maison ARTC) and the Syrian Moulham Obid, share a love for handcrafting, and their determination to dress women like some kind of modern goddesses. “Napoleon said that there is a thin line between the ridiculous and the sublime. I am searching for this line in every piece,” says Ifrah, convinced that “it belongs to every woman, [the need] to find out her own path of self-confidence.” Obid, who is obsessed with sustainability, says that his creations are “sophisticated extravagance at their best, unique individual pieces that speak to every modern woman”.
A woman will succeed last year’s winner, Bilal Fellah (Port Tanger), and his one of a kind sunglasses and follow in the footsteps of Andrea Wazen (2020) and Zyne and Sabry Marouf (2019).
Three of them create handbags, with a huge focus on sustainability: The Sudanese, Eilaf Osman (Eilaf), the Egyptian, Karen Gaballa (BOADK), and the Moroccan, Leila Roukni (Talel). Eilaf’s values “are centered around the preservation of Sudanese heritage and using traditional artistry codes that are inherently sustainable by nature”. BOADK focuses “on the experience of belonging to nature and nurturing the channel between women and nature, through the creation of spirited wooden handcrafted bags”. Finally, Talel bags, “only available in limited quantities, are produced sustainably and have been consciously designed to follow those who dare on their wildest adventures”.
The fourth nominee, the Tunisian Duha Bukadi, is a playful shoe designer, architect and storyteller. Her brand, Pupchen, is her “aesthetic revenge on the world of resigned adults, tedious routines, and flat personalities”.
The Mukhi sisters in 2019, Ammanii in 2020, and Alia Bin Omair in 2021: Another woman will be crowned this year in this always fascinating category.
Will it be the Lebanese Alexandra Hakim, who definitely masters fine technique and is obsessed with sustainability? Will it be the Moroccan Dalila Barkache, who is constantly defying the norms and seeking the unconventional? Will it be the Egyptian Fatma Mostafa, a multidisciplinary artist who has conquered the art of embroidery? Or will it be the Moroccan Youssra Nichane, who’s fully dedicated to craftsmanship and determined to mix tradition and modernity? The answer, of course, will be given in October in Doha, Qatar!
After the very talented Zeid Hijazi in 2020 and AbdelGader El Tayeb in 2021, who will rise and shine this year in this carefully scrutinized category?
From Lebanon, Claudia Khachan focuses on freedom of expression and sustainability. From Yemen, Kazna Asker puts multiculturalism at the center of her fashion, designing for both men and women. From Morocco, Mohammed El Marnissi wants his fashion, an homage to Arab heritage, to help change mentalities. And Rayana Boulila, from Algeria, is determined to create a new woman: “Venus”.
After Columbia, and the triumph of Agustín Nicolas Riveiro, who will be crowned king or queen of Turkish fashion this year? Two men and two women compete in this category, one that reminds everyone how little fashion cares about borders.
Les Benjamins “is a coalescence of founder and designer Bünyamin Aydin’s interests in drawing, photography, and art, and is a touch point for people to enter our world. I want people to feel part of our movement, which begins with the East”.
In 2019, Burç Akyol decided to launch his own label and debuted a genderless, artisanal collection “celebrating feminine seduction in both women and men, a wardrobe for sexy tragedy actresses,” the designer explains.
Ceylin Turkan Bilge’s experience in art direction, graphics and fashion design aided in the creation of her own label, “a brand that encompasses a utopian lifestyle”, SIEDRES, that she confounded with her husband, Emir.
Sansim Adali’s loyalty to her design vision “equates to representing the opulence of her multicultural being, personalizing her cultural traditions while redefining couture at her atelier in Istanbul with a team composed of fashion designers, 3D artists and computer engineers”