The Gulf's fashion stars shine at Muscat Fashion Week
Nestled between jagged mountain ranges that were the ocean floor millions of years ago, and the deep blue sea, this charming Sultanate, the last frontier of the Arab world, has set its heart on becoming the fashion hub of the Gulf States.
Backed by His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos bin Said; organised by His Excellency, Sultan Hamdoon Al Harthi, the head (or 'mayor') of the Muscat Municipality; and supported by both influential government ministers and the city's wealthy and cosmopolitan upper-crust, Muscat Fashion Week is now in its third year. And if the determination and commitment to the arts and culture of Oman's ruler is any indication, this is an achievable goal: Muscat is the city which, in four years, built a state-of-the-art, Royal Opera House (think New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art with acres of Italian marble and Islamic architecture), officially inaugurated in October 2011, with a performance of Puccini's Turandot, featuring Placido Domingo as artistic director and sets by Franco Zeffirelli.
This week's event was a fashion milestone, bringing together the spring/summer 2013 collections of 12 designers from seven countries including Oman, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
As might be expected, there were some collections which could have done with a more defined concept, judicious editing - or even shoes. And there was, at times, a preponderance of the black abaya (not to be confused with the burka), which has become something of a "working wardrobe" for women in all walks of life throughout the Gulf.
Although 'black' might be Planet Fashion's favourite colour, in this context it often appeared overly hardline Islamic. If anything, it was a sharp contrast to - not to mention a stark reminder of - the vivid colours and prints of the more "heritage" national dress of, for example, Yemen, or even Oman itself, vibrantly visible in museums such as the Bait Al Zubair, or the personal "village" museums restored and designed by HH Ghalya Fahar Al Said, patron of Muscat Fashion Week, on Muscat's "Corniche".
But there was creative sparkle when designers tapped into the DNA of their own cultures and used regional hand-skills of folkloric embroidery and beading to define a new, international fashion language, particularly in the areas of resort and evening wear, signatures which have already attracted the eye of major stores including Harrods, Harvey Nichols, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Particularly effective was an abaya-kaftan hybrid, in silk chiffon, split open over long gowns or leggings, seen at the UAE's Kanzi, Das, and Mauzan collections, the latter shown to an Arabic version of The Clash's Rock the Casbah .
The venue, a pavilion under the stars, on the edge of the sea at Riyam Park, with mountains as a backdrop, set the scene for an "Arabian Nights" red carpet fantasy.
A ROUND-UP OF THE STANDOUT COLLECTIONS:
DIBAJ the Muscat-based design duo of sisters Afaf and Aida Al Farsi, offered a rich, shimmering parade in silk, velvet and lace that beguilingly merged Anne Boleyn references with Old Oman - "We've been watching The Tudors ," said Afaf. Voluminous, bell-shaped gowns and cloaks, embellished with metallic beading, Swarovski crystals, fringing or mirror embroidery, were accessorised with Omani silver jewellery dipped in gold.
ZOHR RAIS the Casablanca couturier renowned for dressing the King of Morocco's wife, showed a regal, red carpet collection based on the traditional, flowing silhouettes of kaftan, djellaba and cloak, ablaze with gold and silver hand-beading and crystals, and ending with a Little Red Riding Hood, cape made entirely from hand-appliqued silk flowers.
TOUJOURI the Qatar label, is designed by Lama El-Moatassem, who studied at London College of Fashion and Central St Martins, before working for Chloé and Matthew Williamson, and has already attracted high-style-profile customers such as songstress, Florence Welch. Lama mixed digitalised, hand-painted, watercolour prints with vintage textiles, hand-embroidered or detailed with elaborate, "armour-plated" beading.
RAZAN ALAZZOUNI from Saudi Arabia, is a graduate of Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and counts Emma Roberts and Kelly Osbourne among her fans. She focused on a sculptural and feminine, Fifties-inspired silhouette, in a red white and blue theme, with floor-grazing, dance skirts contrasting with surprisingly short, prom-style dresses. "Now you see what is under all those abayas," she said.
AHMED TALFIT the 25-year-old Tunisian, who is known as "the McQueen of the Middle East", stole the show in last night's final presentation. A graduate of the French fashion college, Esmod, in Tunis, Talfit tailored a dramatic, futuristic-gothic silhouette in black leather, tulle, organza, silk and lace, with exaggerated shoulders and peplums or a scissor-sharp, body-con line.
NAWAL AL HOOTI the young Muscat designer, paired neon-coloured short tops with denim minis and leggings, decorated with colourful folk embroidery, and layered abaya-style, hooded and beaded cloaks over long gowns, cinched with silver Omani belts.
Original : fashion.telegraph.co.uk