They’ve been thinking about it for months, a little more every day. What if it’s me? What if I win in a few days in Doha, in front of hundreds of people, the FTA Prize in my category (Ready-To-Wear, Evening-Wear, Accessories, Jewelry, Debut Talent and Guest Country) cradled in my arm? What if one of my wildest dreams comes true, what if November 3rd is the first day of the rest of my life?
Ahead of the eve of this major event, arguably the most important in the MENA region for young Arab fashion designers, we asked our 24 finalists that all important question: What if you win? Their answers were touching, full of emotion, but also uplifting and reassuring: they do not see fashion as only beauty, art for the sake of art, but as a way of changing the world, pushing Arab mentalities to evolve towards something more responsible, more conscious and more sustainable.
Here they are, in alphabetical order, sharing their dreams, their emotions and their excitement.
Haya Al Abdulkareem / Kuwait / Accessories
I would take this great opportunity to inspire younger Arab designers, to show them that if you work hard, you can reach your goal, and that nothing is unachievable if you set your heart and mind to it. I would also use a part of the funds to help other designers who are struggling to find the appropriate channels to manufacture and produce their products in a sustainable way.
Maram Aboul Enein / Egypt / Ready-To-Wear
Winning the FTA prize will open doors of guidance and mentorship that I didn’t have access to before and will be an integral, pivotal point in taking the brand to the next level. Having that kind of support will help me achieve goals that are so much bigger than me or the brand. Our plans include implementing technical systems that will cater to every brand in the MENA region as well as further developing our “PRAY FOR HUMANITY” initiative of charity-driven collections. Other than that, we will finally be able to expand our ready-to-wear collections into a full 360 lifestyle brand.
Zaid Affas / Iraq / Ready-To-Wear
I’d of course party and celebrate all night! I’d call everyone I love to tell them the amazing news and thank them for always supporting us. Once all the excitement passes, it would be straight back to work to start implementing the plans that have been prepared if I was to win, as there will be a lot to do!
Mohammed Benchellal / Morocco / Evening Wear
Winning this Prize would push me to keep striving for what I believe in; to create in a sustainable and ethical way, putting the environment before profit. It would allow me to fulfill a long held dream, to design a collection in the MENA region, and continue on my ultimate mission of empowering women, using fashion as a means of self-expression.
Zakaria Bendriouich / Morocco / Accessories
First of all I will be so honored and grateful to meet so many talented people in the fashion industry. I will also start the production of my new collection, expand my brand to an international scale, create a better atelier environment for my craftsmen and of course explore new fabrics and techniques from all around the world to elevate my creativity and designs. And hopefully I will navigate new fields by introducing a Zakaria Bendriouich eyewear line and shoe line, both of which have always been part of my dream.
Bilal Fellah / Morocco, Algeria / Accessories
To be honest my mum doesn’t understand my work. She thinks it’s super strange and she asks me if I found a new job every week. So, if I win, I’ll tell my mother and she will probably believe that I made it up. Then my whole hometown will be happy!
Juanita García (Priah) / Columbia / Guest Country
Ever since I conceived Priah, selling garments has been an excuse, a means to a great end: to make ourselves useful to society. I have a dream of making our women believe in the power of their hands to touch souls, in the power of our crochet to tell our story through beauty and poetry hidden in every stitch, in the power of our brand to connect with our ancestors and leave a legacy. I need to learn to improve my business model, I need to find a way to sell better to a niche market instead of selling more to a global market, I need to train more people with specific skills, I need to invest in storytelling. The knowledge and network provided by FTA could definitely benefit our project, and winning the Prize would mean that we would have the support to create a stronger voice to defend everything we stand for.
Alejandro González and Andrés Restrepo (Alado) / Columbia / Guest Country
We love telling stories, and being able to take our brand to different, foreign scenarios has been one of our dreams for a very long time. We have so much to say, and more than that, we want to show our Colombian roots, artisanal crafts, and the talent people have. In the research process on our identity as creators and designers, we had the great opportunity to start working with people who were displaced due to the Colombian conflict. While doing this, we discovered how much talent and how many traditions were hidden away. We would love people to know the work we have done with these local communities and how we put everything together in our process because we discovered that what our clients most loved about our pieces were the stories behind them.
Harith Hashim / Iraq, Lebanon / Evening Wear
If I win, I feel it’s my duty to help the fashion industry flourish again here in Beirut, to work with new graduates, hire more local craftsmen, [I need to do this] since a lot of designers had to leave the country. I feel it’s an opportunity for the brand to somehow help others as well.
Lama Jouni / Lebanon / Ready-To-Wear
Winning the Prize will allow me to continue my expansion plan yet remain conscious while doing so. As a designer, I want to inspire and help women feel good about themselves, that’s why it is important for me to widen my reach in order to tap into every potential market.
Laura Laurens / Columbia / Guest Country
I’ll keep working to continue empowering the minority groups I work with, I’ll re invest in the company to continue expanding in a conscious, circular and transparent way, I’ll keep rocking to continue exploring and pushing through boundaries using creativity and I’ll be really grateful because it will be an amazing opportunity to show the world the diversity and other sides of Colombians!
Laith Maalouf / Jordan / Evening Wear
I will add a new Prêt-À-Porter line, and one for Plus Size, I will hire a PR team in order to develop my brand more efficiently in the MENA region, and I will participate in international exhibitions. I also want to work more on the sustainability side (I will hire a team to revamp used items), and will do my best to train local talents and offer them job opportunities.
Roudha Al Mazroei / Qatar / Debut Talent
As a young designer, winning this Prize would mean starting my career on the right path. Since graduating in Fashion Design, I’ve been so afraid to launch a new collection, so winning the FTA Prize would give me the push I need and the mentoring I’ve been hoping to get to start the brand and put my full effort into it.
Cynthia Merhej / Lebanon / Ready-To-Wear
It will change my business, and my life, in incredible ways. After the extreme hardships and difficulties of maintaining and transitioning my business through the Lebanese financial crisis and Beirut Port blast, winning this Prize would provide incredible financial support. It would allow to take my business to the next level and to achieve my goals and my dreams. My aim is to become a globally recognized brand, and I will invest every penny of the Prize holistically across my business – from communication to production – to achieve that.
Eli Mizrahi / Lebanon / Evening Wear
Being such a nascent brand, it’s an honor in itself to be nominated for the FTA Prize. Having been so lucky to receive all the support from my peers and the industry, I’m aware that my brand is at a crucial intersection right now and winning this award will give me the means to build out my team and continue the hard work. What is especially important to me is the goal that I have for the brand to be 100% sustainable by 2022 and the award will help me navigate that process, which I know takes a lot of research and dedication.
Tania and Dima Nawbar (L’atelier Nawbar) / Lebanon / Jewelry
Representing Lebanon as 4th generation jewelers through the FTA Prize is truly a privilege. Winning the Prize would be an honor and would mark the beginning of a new journey. A journey where we are committed more than ever to sustainability and eco-conscious practices. A journey of expansion, research, development and growth.
Alia bin Omair / United Arab Emirates / Jewelry
I will be very surprised and overwhelmed after such great news. I will text my family and my friends, and I will be posting and talking about it for a while.
Agustín Nicolás Rivero / Columbia / Guest Country
If I win, I would try to keep on inspiring new generations of artisans in Colombia. Ever since I began to work with artisans in the regions that I’ve had the opportunity to visit, I’ve noticed that almost 90% of practicing artisans are elderly or of an advanced age. Their knowledge was acquired through their parents or by the traditions of the communities to which they belong. However, most artisans have not been able to pass this knowledge to the newest generations because of the lack of economic opportunities when they try to sell their crafts, the 60 years of war and armed conflict in my country, and of course the zeitgeist that we are living in today. It is very fulfilling when, after many days of work, we finish a beautiful piece, and the youth from those territories feel that the co-creative design that we have produced with their elders resonates with them. This can be a productive opportunity for newer generations of artisans to be curious, inspired and also help them to stop these crafts and traditions from falling into oblivion.
Julien Riad Sahyoun / Morocco / Jewelry
I would go on a retreat, and spend some time with myself to organize my projects for the year ahead.
Dania Shinkar / Saudi Arabia / Accessories
First of all, this win would be a huge validation for me. It would be a constant reminder and motivational driver to keep working hard and continue doing what I love most. I hope to build relationships with the judges and mentors, and to capitalize on the knowledge and insights gained from their mentorship to really grow and move my brand forward. I would also invest the prize money into hiring a production manager and a PR team, participating in shows and developing the brand’s sustainable practices.
Azza Skhiri Bouchamaoui / Tunisia / Jewelry
I will fulfill a dream and I will pave a new history for my jewelry brand, Didon.
Mina Tahir / Egypt / Debut Talent
Besides tears of joy, I’d like to take a trip to my dad’s hometown in Sudan to source traditional vintage fabrics!
Abdel Gader El Tayeb / Sudan / Debut Talent
If I win, I will be able to continue to grow my brand. With my partners, I will develop a new collection in which craftsmanship will continue to take the lead. In the upcoming collection I will involve different artists and artisans, such as videographers and basket weavers, based in Omdurmann in Sudan.
Malik Thomas / Iraq / Debut Talent
I will use this grant to invest and continue my material exploration and production exclusively in the MENA region. Through basing my practice in Amman and producing from there, I have uncovered so much potential. I intend to keep developing and nurturing that potential.