Locked & Loaded

Dubai Fashion Week gets ready for some much-needed revamping. There has been a lot of hype surrounding Dubai Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012 edition, mainly because this year ushers in newcomer to the region, Simon P Lock, as its creative director.
Much like the hype and sadly the following disappointment surrounding President Barack Obama, there was hope, but not much else. With minimal attendance in the mornings from industry professionals and a few mediocre collections inserted throughout the four-day event, DFW presented more a promise of what’s to come, rather than the execution of what was anticipated by supporters.

Dubai Fashion Week still has a long way to go. Lock openly admits this. He knows change can’t happen over night — or in this case, in a single season. Perhaps the biggest mistake was promising too much and elevating expectations to an unrealistic level. The relevant media just should’ve known better.
While the founder and visionary behind Australian Fashion Week, what actually makes Lock most credible is this particular ability to concede that DFW won’t transform into Paris Fashion Week in just one season. Yet, unfortunately, that realism still doesn’t garner the desired international buyers, and it definitely doesn’t place the key media players in the front row — not yet, anyway.
I got to sit with Lock in June when it was announced that the man praised as single-handedly making Australian Fashion Week the success it is today, was going to attempt to do the same for the shunned Dubai fashion scene. As the previous Managing director of IMG Asia Pacific, this seemed like the first right move Capital Marketing had made in seasons of amateur mistakes.

“I give this season a two out of 10,” confessed Lock. “We still have quite a way to go.” This is understandably so. With a history of less-than-inspirational design, DFW has become regarded as a lackluster tradeshow for fashion entrepreneurs — rather than designers — unable to garner the financial backing to make it on their own.
“We need to improve content now,” stated Lock. “Most noticed a technical improvement,” he continued. “We don’t have runways anymore. We have international catwalks,” he said referring to the opening ceremony, which replaced the conventional ramp with Emirati sand and juxtaposed it against a virtual backdrop of the Dubai’s contemporary skyline.

“The opening ceremony really set the tone,” stated Lock. “It was to celebrate the cultural influence that inspires many DFW designers.” He went on to explain the concept, which was to show the marrying of the often rigid dichotomy of tradition and modernity. “On the horse, led by an Emirati man in traditional costume, sat a beautiful European blonde, representing modernity,” he said, innocently unaware of his offensive insinuation that an Arab, brunette woman must represent the opposite.

While Lock may need a buffer period to understand the culture and the industry, one thing he definitely knows is fashion and what it takes to catapult Dubai into the international fashion scene. He has already made great strides. With better sponsors, more artistically creative shows, DFW is headed into the right direction. Possibly his most impressive feat this season was obtaining the patronage of Dubai Culture and Art Authority for this event. “Our vision and commitment to become ‘The Middle East Fashion Week’ is long-term and you will start to see some positive changes this season.”

However, don’t misunderstand the tone of this article. It should tell you that there is hope. If one man can lead the way to materialize that hope into something worthwhile, it is Simon Lock. He founded Australian Fashion Week in 1996, and less than a decade later, exponentially raised its profile to become respected by the international fashion industry and included on the fashion week circuit. Lock could just be the man to make DFW the Middle Eastern Fashion Week.

In June, he had said his main job as Creative Director was to always say “yes” to designers and never “no.” This week, he was happy to report that he had successfully been able to support the creative demands of most of his designers. However, after waiting over two hours for Amber Feroz’s embarrassingly referential collection (yes, McQueen armadillo shoes and Lady Gaga antlers), we can all agree that sometimes you need to just say no. In a single show, Feroz was chillingly close to ruining everything Lock and his team had done to make DFW more than just a local joke. Media and spectators walked out mid-show, and many didn’t bother to return for the two final shows.

Overall, the fashion was typical Dubai: Wth the abaya designers garnering the best reviews (Nabrman and Ush Design by Abeer A Suwaidi), the Haute Couture shows attracting the full-house audiences filled with regional media (Amato Couture by Furne One) and the Southeast Asians leading in presence.

“Please have a positive view of the advances that have been made,” Lock wrote in his message from the creative director. “Our cup is definitely half full. For many, it will not [be] enough, but overtime with growing support from designers, media, buyers, private clientele, sponsors and the Dubai government, together we will build an event we can all be immensely proud of. I already am.”

Well said.

Article by Marriam M Mossalli – Arab News