With 25 days to go until the Qatar 2022 World Cup, the evening of Wednesday 26 October was not about soccer, but another initiative from Doha, a city which is now positioning itself as a major fashion capital.  

In the intimacy of the courtyard of the Qatar National Museum, celebrities from the fashion world took the time to meet and congratulate each other in a storm of glamour, elegance and style. And although it looked like a 1940s black and white Hollywood movie, the scene was real and Doha was filled with colored light.

Without generosity, glamour is just stardust. And if all these celebrities were gathered that night, it was to give their support to and express their solidarity with the new generation of Arab fashion designers, under the aegis of the Fashion Trust Arabia foundation, whose honorary president is HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and whose co-Chairs are Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani and Tania Fares. “Our mission, now more than ever, is to shed light on all the creatives from North Africa to the Levant and the GCC. The Arab fashion industry has so much to offer, and we’re here to fully support it. FTA is about creating a community by bringing people together to collaborate and share ideas. This is what FTA is all about, because what is life without community and support?,” said Fares.

Jodie, Nemr, and… FKATwigs

After a year of hard work and the selection of 24 candidates in six categories from over a thousand applicants, the big night had finally arrived. 

The sight of the huge parade of guests walking down the red carpet towards the esplanade of the Qatar National Museum, where the dinner and the open-air ceremony were held, more than hinted at the grandeur of the moment. To the rhythm of the nomadic music of the Shehadeh Brothers’ band playing Arabian classics, the guests danced their way to the venue.

There was a nod to sport last night, “Football and fashion are very similar! They are both a global phenomenon, they both bring people together and they transcend boundaries.

It couldn’t be more perfect to be celebrating fashion and all its youthful energy tonight in the home of the football World Cup!” announced the hosts of the evening, the American actress Jodie Turner Smith and the Lebanese comedian Nemr. The evening opened with Arhbo, the official anthem of the World Cup, performed by Nasser Al Kubaisi and Haneen Hussain. 

This interlude, essential for allowing one to immerse themselves in the euphoria of this exceptional event, was to be followed by a major surprise: Sponsor of the event, Miu-Miu, who hosted the after-party at the end of the ceremony, had invited the immense FKA Twigs to put on a mini-concert before the announcement of the winners. Her intense presence, and the caressing and soothing power of her voice absorbed the anxiety in the moments that preceded the announcements. 

Tania Fares: “Thank you for placing your trust in me”

It was with the same serene tone that Tania Fares, dressed by Yousef Akbar, the FTA 2020 laureate in the Evening Wear category, in a sumptuous blue night sequined long dress, took the floor to welcome the guests, announced the list of finalists, wished them good luck, and reminded them of the mission of FTA. Fares gave thanks to FTA’s Honorary Chair, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, “Everyone knows by now that I am your biggest fan. I am so inspired by all that you do for education and for women across the region. Every designer I meet dreams of dressing the style icon that you are. Thank you for placing your trust in me.”

“To my co-chair, Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani. We do make a good team! This initiative would not be possible without your dedication, focus and your genuine desire to help young talent. Your support is truly invaluable, to all of us. I’m in awe of all that you do for fashion, culture, and art. Look around us tonight, you have built many bridges through an exciting week of events; you had a vision and changed the regions’ cultural scene. FTA has come a long way, to think in 2019 we started with 200 applications and this year we’ve jumped to over 1,000 applications!” she said.

In this opening speech, Farès also thanked the sponsors, “Mr. El Baker from Qatar Airways and Qatar Duty Free, thank you for flying us to Doha. After all, it is the best airline, I’m sure you all agree with me! I would also like to thank Galeries Lafayette Doha, Chopard, through Al Fardan, and Miu Miu. Thank you ITKIB, MatchesFashion, Code8 Beauty, Balmain Hair, Bicester Village, Harrods, Maison Pyramide, Maison de Mode, the W Hotel and Mazen Jaidah for the wonderful food. I know it’s a lot people to thank, but we are very fortunate to have so much support! I also want to thank Naomi Campbell for her support to FTA this year”. Fares rounded out her speech by praising the teams of Qatar Creates and Qatar Museums, as well as FTA’s collaborators for their indispensable help and their efficiency.

Ifrah for Evening Wear, the Albinali sisters for Ready-to-Wear

Then came the announcement of the winners in the Evening Wear category, and it was Her Highness Sheikha Moza who was called to hand out this first prize, whose winner was Artsi Ifrach, with his label Maison ARTC. It was a great moment of emotion for this designer, who assembles textile elements from all over the world to create clothes that shine with the values of universality, brotherhood and inclusiveness.

Before the announcement of the winner in the Ready-to-Wear category, it was the Lebanese designer Salim Azzam, co-winner of FTA 2019, who gave his testimony as tradition requires. His story is one of those that brilliantly justifies the need for an initiative like FTA, “When we applied for this award, we had a dream to preserve and share the craftsmanship of the artisan community in Mount Lebanon, a community of women who protected this craft across generations. We were five artisans in one room, with one sewing machine, and 400 applications from women who wanted to be part of our journey. My heart was heavy… I wanted to bring as many women as I could along on the journey. That room felt too small for the dream we had,” he said. “Then we won the FTA award and it reminded me that our dream is worth chasing. Our one sewing machine turned to seven, and our room turned into a beautiful atelier – home to 60 women artisans and counting.”

After that, was the gorgeous Bella Hadid who presented the trophy to the winners of the Ready-to-Wear category: the incredible Saudi sisters Siham and Sarah Albinali, founders of the brand Lurline.

Mostafa for Jewelry, Osman for Accessories

“Time for our most glittering award of the night. Literally. It’s the Jewelry Award”, announced the Jodie Turner Smith, Caroline Scheffele, artistic director of the house Chopard presented the award, with the incredible British model Jourdan Dunn. The winner, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the Egyptian Fatma Mostafa, who fascinated the judges with a collection of miniature embroideries inserted in gold cases.

Turner Smith then announced, “Earlier this year Fashion Trust Arabia was honored to partner with Hamad International Airport, the world’s best airport, for an incredible opportunity to shine the spotlight on Qatar-based talents through designing the new customer facing staff uniform that will be seen and recognized by millions.” An incredible film titled “Fta X Hamad International Airport Collaboration Moment” was revealed to guests. Qatari fashion designer Zulfa Al Thani was chosen to design the uniforms after creating iconic pieces that bridge the gap between haute couture and ready-to-wear.

The time had now come to reveal the winner of the Accessories category. Eilaf Osman stood to receive her award from the hands of Precious Lee and the one and only British model, Poppy Delevigne.

Asker for Debut Talent, Akyol for Guest Country

A touching speech by Yousef Akbar, the 2020 winner of the Evening Wear category followed. The young Saudi could not hold back his tears as he remembered the sacrifices endured and confided with humor and gratitude, “FTA has truly changed my life. Because if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today. I would probably be miserable at an office somewhere posting memes about how much I hate Mondays.”

One of FTA’s most cherished awards is the Debut Talent Award, and it is associated with the memory of Franca Sozzani, the famous editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, who passed away too soon. Presented by the legendary Egyptian actress Yousra and the American singer of Syrian-Canadian origin Paula Abdul, it went to the young Yemeni designer Kazna Asker, who delivered through her collection a story of memory and the challenges of emigrating. Her fresh and communicative joy won over the entire audience. 

Even after only four years, the FTA Prize has resulted in its own traditions. One of those is of honoring a designer who is not necessarily from the Arab world. It’s a core part of the Prize, and it’s sacred. This year, FTA celebrated Turkish creativity, in partnership with Istanbul Apparel Exporters’ Association. The winner of the Guest Country Prize was Burç Akyol, who received his trophy from the hands of Czech Supermodel Karolina Kurkova and Emmy Award-winning Turkish actress, Neslihan Atagul.

Valentino forever

But that’s not all! In keeping with FTA tradition, an award is given to the “Entrepreneur of the Year”. It’s way to show young talents that great success is possible and that you can go further than your own dreams. Who else deserved this title more than Huda Kattan, the founder of Huda Beauty cosmetics, whose immense success is matched only by her philanthropic generosity? Presenting her with the award was no other than Founder and CEO of The Business of Fashion, Imran Amed and a member of music royalty, the one and only Janet Jackson. “Being an entrepreneur takes vision, courage and flawless execution. I have seen all of this from tonight’s winner who has built her global beauty business from the ground up, inspiring women around the world,” said Amed.

The announcement was followed by a testimonial from Hassan Pierre, the CEO and cofounder Of Maison De Mode, the world’s leading ethical fashion platform, who offered his mentorship to this year’s winners. “Over the next three months, tonight’s winning designers will have the opportunity to be mentored by myself and my co-founder Amanda Hearst. We will be aiding the winners in incorporating sustainability into their businesses, though the production of ethical products, sustainable design techniques, and the development of an overall CSR strategy for their brand. “To all of tonight’s winners, the revolution in consciousness about fashion that continues to take place is very good news for you. It means that there have never been more opportunities for those who are determined and creative”, he said.

The evening rose to a climax with the announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Award, whose winner was eagerly anticipated by the entire audience, as his genius has marked – as it continues to – the recent history of fashion. Undoubtedly the last witness of a generation of giants, Mr. Valentino Garavani was awarded the prize. Absent from the ceremony, Valentino was represented by his lifetime partner Gian Carlo Giametti to whom the trophy was given by the sublime Marisa Berenson of whom Yves Saint Laurent said was “the face of the 1970s”.

“It is my great honor to be here tonight to give this award to one of the greatest legacies in fashion history,” said Berenson, adding, “I am very privileged to know and love Valentino since I was a young girl and a model, to be his friend and know what a kind and wonderful man he is, to know what it feels like to be dressed by him, to have been photographed by the best wearing his wonderful clothes, to have walked down the aisle at my wedding in a dress that made me feel like scarlet O’Hara!”

Upon receiving the trophy, Giametti said, “Thank you dear Marisa, for your beautiful words. You have been a muse and a friend for many years and it is an honor that you have accepted  to be here with us tonight, and thank you Fashion Trust Arabia for this award that represents an important recognition of Valentino’s work and of his life.

“It is with big emotion, that I accept it for Valentino. Receiving it tonight in front of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani and among you all, people of culture and fashion, is a very significant moment. Tomorrow, we open for the first time our Retrospective in Qatar. It represents also a testimony of the deep friendship we have with this great country.”

Sheikha Al Mayassa: “This is why we’re here”

After this vibrant moment, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa gave the closing speech. “FTA was born out of a need to empower and support the fashion designers of our region— allowing them to engage in a global narrative, as well as to nurture the creative economy of our region. Today some of the winners and associates of FTA have gone on to dress international celebrities, make it to the front covers of the most important fashion publications, and receive major commissions from large organizations. This is why we are here, and this is what we will continue to do”. 

Measuring the distance FTA has covered, Sheikha Al Mayassa recalled in particular, “About 15 years ago, I reached out to a fashion expert in New York and asked her to assist us in developing our fashion industry. She told me we did not have a fashion industry to develop – and frankly she was not interested in our region. Fast forward 15 years. Qatar is now a hub for fashion. Look at the diversity in this room, the range of our winners, and the platform we have provided for the MENASA region. From retail, to museum exhibitions, to awards, we bring the very best of the fashion industry to congregate here in Doha.”

Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa also announced the fashion events that will accompany the 2022 World Cup, “During this tournament, Qatar Creates is presenting Its Qatar Fashion United by CR Runway, curated by Carine Roitfeld, bringing together over 150 brands -from the very well known, to the emerging- and many young designers from our region, as well as FTA winners. This unprecedented fashion show will take place at the 974 Stadium – combining sports, music, fashion and art in one place. Later this week, we will celebrate the Fashion For Relief gala, with Naomi Campbell and the designers from African nations and the African diaspora she has curated.”

It was finally to a dear friend and an immense creator that Sheikha Al Mayassa dedicated an emotional tribute: “I want to recall a great creative force in the world, Virgil Abloh. It seems impossible that it was only a year ago that Virgil was here. I remember vividly how he said that he felt a pulse in Qatar, like the heartbeat of the world. His presence meant so much to us.” Sheikha Al Mayassa then presented the closing event, “In the FTA’s spirit of community, I would now like to celebrate Virgil Abloh through this short video.”

Between the family photo and a storm of applause, the guests, filled with positive emotions, headed, for the most part, to the after party given by Miu-Miu at Ritz Carlton Doha, with the strong impression that Doha is not a new fashion hub, but one of those capitals where fashion and art feels entirely at home.

Bella Hadid X Alaia Vintage 1986

Three hours before this FTA Prize ceremony, indeed the most anticipated event of the year, the red carpet fashion, as always, did not disappoint. From haute couture, to elevated street style and tuxedos paired with sneakers, this year’s attendees knocked the ball out of the park. But were we expecting anything less? It was go big or go home and we’re here to round up some of our favorite looks from the evening.

Palestinian model Bella Hadid shut the red carpet down with a vintage Alaia dress that dated back to 1986. Emerging and established Arab designers from the Middle East to North Africa also dazzled. Among those wearing some stunning garments were FTA Co-chair Tania Fares, who opted for a sparkly blue number from FTA 2020 Evening Wear winner Yousef Akbar, model and philanthropist Halima was jaw-dropping in Rami Kadi. Model Ikram Abdi seemed to have predicted how things would go by wearing Lurline’s Ofra dress, this year’s Ready-to-Wear winners! Content creator Tamara wore an haute couture piece from Tony Ward’s FW22 collection, while model Jasmine Stookes stood out in a beautifully embellished Zuhair Murad dress, and Saudi content creator Nujoud Alrumaihi dazzled in an ensemble by Lebanese couturiers Azzi&Osta.

Our pool of MENA creatives also looked the part. Karen Wazen and Nathalie Fanj were both dressed in MiuMiu, while singer-songwriter Dana Hourani chose a black latex piece from Avellano. Actress Tara Emad wowed in a black dress from British luxury womenswear brand Safiyaa.

As for the men — a twist on traditional tailoring for today’s modern man was a common theme. Qatari content creator, Abdulla took a risk that paid off by opting for a Miu Miu two piece set. T.V. host Lucas Castellani opted for a Thom Brown skirt paired with a blazer, whereas the Shadban Twins kept it sleek and simple in suits from Dior.