Over the next few months, we’ll be delving into the world of our FTA Prize 2021 finalists, attempting to offer insights into their personalities, while exploring the traits that make each of them unique. Here’s a look at the first four finalists, along with details about the FTA campaigns we shot to highlight their fashion labels.
Cynthia Merhej, FTA Prize finalist in the Ready-to-Wear category for 2021, applied to FTA Prize because she understood the kind of boost to her brand – Renaissance Renaissance – such a win would provide. “As the only prize of its kind, to be represented along with my peers as the future of fashion in the region would be really meaningful to me,” says the Lebanese designer. “It would be not only a huge boost in exposure and great mentorship, but a financial boost also that I think is a crucial investment into any business at the five-year stage. It would really help me to truly achieve my vision and goals for the brand for the next five years, and set the ground for the five after that.”
For the FTA shoot, Merhej chose her close friend, photographer Joyce Ng. “Joyce has a unique and surreal vision, and she is able to create a rich narrative through her images,” says Merhej. “She really managed to show the irreverence of the brand while keeping it rooted in the reality of my day-to-day life.”
When he was asked to create a shoot for FTA, Harith Hashim immediately turned to his friend and muse Rawan. “Whenever I have new designs or something I want to see on a model, the first thing I do is call Rawan to come and try everything on. She’s my good friend, and I wanted someone close to me to share this experience with,” says the Lebanese-Iraqi designer, who’s a finalist in FTA’s Eveningwear category this year.
The creator of the Harithand brand affirms that winning the prize would be incredible, but even just being nominated carries its own rewards. “I applied to FTA Prize because I saw the exposure the other designers got even if they didn’t win,” says Hashim. “I liked the experience, and for me it’s something new because I’ve never enrolled into competitions or a fashion prize before.”
Tania and Dima Nawbar, the fourth-generation Lebanese jewelers behind bespoke brand L’atelier Nawbar, plan to shift toward a more eco-friendly model if they win in the Jewelry category. “We hope, if we win the FTA Prize, to grow our team and dedicate a department for research and development, as we are hoping to do our part toward Planet Earth and become a fully sustainable brand.”
To photograph their FTA shoot, the sisters chose Yasmina Hilal. “She understood the importance of our office, showroom and workshop [in Beirut’s Saifi Village] and wanted to reveal it in all its rawness and show the behind-the-scenes of L’Atelier Nawbar. When it came to the muse, we immediately thought of our friend Yasmina Layla, as her lifestyle as an independent strong woman resonates with us and our brand.”
Celebrated Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj stars in Zakaria Bendriouich’s emotional shoot for FTA. The FTA Prize 2021 finalist in the Accessories category explains that he’s grateful to have had such a revered figure take part in his shoot, which was photographed by Joseph Ouechen. “The concept behind the shoot is the relationship between the master and his apprentice,” says the Moroccan fashion designer. “It is indeed one of the most special and crucial one in every creator’s path. I have been blessed to have such a unique and creative advisor throughout my journey of creating my bags. Hassan Hajjaj has not only been a great support and mentor to me since day one, but also an inspiration. His love for his roots, the colors, the diversity and his limitless imagination and creativity have always fascinated me.”
And what will Bendriouich do if he wins the prize this year? “I would like to grow my brand bigger, have a workshop and provide a better work environment to my craftsmen and bring into life every collection idea I dream of… and show young designers that dreams do come true and that you can definitely create magic out of whatever life gives you.”