Arab Fashion: 101

By Marriam N Mossalli


The most important thing in Arab Fashion is vocabulary. And, in the Middle East, only two words really matter: Limited Edition.
Whether we’re talking about our cars, clothes, watches or handbags, one thing is for sure: if it’s limited edition, it’s automatically hot! Now, that may sound a little superficial — and it is — but it’s also very true and a well-accepted absolute truth at that.
In a region that is saturated in international designer goods, it’s hard to make yourself stand out. Every Dubai “fashionista” has a Birkin, like every Saudi one has a Chanel 2.55 Jumbo, just as every kid has to have a pair of Crocs (which personally, I cannot believe were ever in style!). The point is everyone has the means to wear “designer” these days whether they bought it on vacation in Paris or purchased a knockoff version from a kiosk in their local mall.
The lack of an anti-counterfeit agency in the region has made “luxury” goods more accessible. Go to any downtown market in the Gulf, and it’s an Arab version of Canal Street in New York City’s Chinatown. You maybe going downtown for some reasonably priced local souvenirs, but once there, you find yourself smack in the middle of a fashion blitz of Chanel, Burberry, and Prada. So, what’s the solution? You can’t stop the bombardment of fake luxury handbags as much as you can’t stop them from being fashionable and thus, sought after. As long as people are buying them, they’ll be available.
The answer? Limited editions. Limited editions are almost never copied. For one thing, they’re usually made of more exotic and expensive materials. It’s easy to get pleather, but a little harder to get plastic with python print — or at least, if there is, it looks too fake — even for the person who wears fakes! Take the Python Lady Dior handbag. Essentially the same as the other Lady Dior purses, but instead of the usual lambskin, it’s made of stunning Python and then brushed over with gold. You may find the classic Lady Dior, but the chances of finding a counterfeit limited edition is rare.
We also love limited editions because they’re exclusive — another great word in fashion! The only thing we love more are specialty items, like Alice Temperly and John Galliano abayas! Arab fashion addicts also appreciate the regionalized items.  For example, to celebrate the opening of a new store in Dubai, Bottega Veneta created a special, limited edition version of the Stretch Knot handbag. Available in a numbered edition of just 25, it is sold exclusively in the Mall of the Emirates Fashion Dome store. Made of lizard in a lush shade of fuchsia and embellished with corners sheathed in hand-woven intrecciato antique sterling silver, the Dubai Knot is an elegant variation on Bottega Veneta’s celebrated Knot clutch, only with a slightly elongated shape that lends the bag a sleek and feminine silhouette. The ultimate Arab fashionista knows she needs to have this bag!

For winter 2010, and as a première for the Colbert Festival in Dubai, Chole’s Bracelet bag returns as a guest star, in limited edition of ten pieces. Exclusively revisited in satin and delicately embroidered with crystal pearls for the festival, the Bracelet bag is a must-have!
The next most powerful words in the Middle East are: Upon Special Request. “Upon special request” translates to two of the most fashionable adjectives out there: Exclusive and Customized. If it’s not readily available, the item suddenly becomes more coveted. It’s the golden rule of  “We want what we can’t have,” or in this case, what we can’t have immediately.

This phenomenon also explains the magic of the capsule collection. Sofia Coppola for Louis Vuitton or their newest collaboration with Japanese artist, Takashi Murakami, which is set to launch April 15, are all sought-after pieces! We want them because not everyone can. Just look at this week’s launch of Lanvin for H&M! People were camped out the night before, hoping to get a good time slot so that they may grab their three items! (Yes, you read correctly: you slept in a sleeping bag on a dirty urban sidewalk in two degree weather, while holding in copious amounts of Starbucks in your bladder, just for three items that you’ll probably find on eBay an hour after the store opened).
We want the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 not because it’s the most powerful, most expensive, and fastest street-legal production car, but because it’s as unique as it is impressive. This exclusive beast on wheels, whose body features a plethora of high-grade materials, is a limited edition — production of the Bugatti Veyron is limited to around 300 cars, to be manufactured over a five-year period.

The last lesson of Arab Fashion 101: Make sure you have a job that pays really well or get yourself a sugar daddy. We won’t judge. Well, we will — but only on the bag you carry, the clothes and jewelry you wear and the car that you drive.

Arab News article




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