Kuwait, “the pioneer”
Imran Amed, editor-in-chief and CEO of The Business of Fashion (BoF), recently described Kuwait as “a blank slate and that is a real opportunity,” referring to the significant fashion opportunities that lay ahead for the country. Amna Alsalem, whose eponymous brand fuses elegance with edge through the old-world craftsmanship of traditional couture agrees, added, “Kuwait has been a pioneer and played a big role in the consuming and retail part of the industry so far, I wish we could see real serious efforts, changes and investments toward the industry as a whole.”
In June of this year, the inaugural Oud Fashion Talks (OFT), a series of networking events, saw fashion professionals from all around the world fly in and the events put Kuwait on the map. Founder of 3oud.com and organizer of OFT, Zainab Abdulaziz ALabdulrazzaq told BoF, ““[Throughout] my ten years working in media, I always [saw] a distance between Kuwait and the rest of the world. Now, with Saudi Arabia and Doha opening up [to international players], we felt like outsiders [from a creative output perspective] — and there is no reason [for that].”
According to a study by Bain & Company, Kuwait currently accounts for 15 percent of the regional luxury sales and Alsalem points to witnessing the gradual change over time, but says that it has been slow as it’s largely expanding through individual efforts. “There was a store [in Kuwait] called Villa Moda. Designers would speak with pride about being stocked in Colette in Paris, Browns in London and Villa Moda. This market was a real pioneer — there’s an advanced level of sophistication, taste and appreciation of fashion here, but over the last 15 years, other markets have raced ahead,” says Imran Amed.
From Villa Moda to AlOthman, Kuwait’s first multi-brand high-end boutique in 1956 and a pioneer in importing European luxury brands into The Middle East, Kuwait’s appeal to luxury has been consistent. AlOthman’s founder, Rachad Tabiat describes the Kuwait customer as “one of the most knowledgeable, savvy customers you can meet.” From our 2021 finalist Haya AbdulKareem to Bazza Alzouman in 2020 and Liudmila and Marzook in 2019, since FTA’s inception in 2019, each year has seen a Kuwaiti designer being shortlisted — a testament to the however small, yet flourishing local creative scene.
As for the future of fashion in Kuwait? Alsalem argues that the industry’s infrastructure is currently “weak [….], with these challenges comes great opportunities, an opportunity to learn from industry mistakes and build a stronger sustained healthy new one.”