The heavyweights of the fashion industry arrived in Doha this week to attend the fourth edition of the Fashion Trust Arabia Awards organized under the royal patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser and her daughter and FTA co-chair, His Excellency Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al. -Then me. Big cash prizes and extensive mentoring programs are designed to help emerging designers from the MENA region. The competition highlights not only creative excellence, but also sustainable production methods and techniques that respect local traditions and support communities of women artisans.
Pierpaolo Piccioli, Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser and Bella Hadid at the FTA Awards Gala. Photo: FTA Awards Gala Concert
Among many deserving young talents, this edition’s winners in the ready-to-wear category are Saudi Arabian sisters Siham and Sarah Albinali, whose collection of bold structured silhouettes has been tinted in a soft gothic hue. Moroccan-born designer Artsy Ifrah of Maison ARTC won the Evening Wear Award for his poetic one-off pieces artfully assembled from improvised materials. The jewelery award went to Egyptian-born artist Fatma Mostafa, whose rare gold pieces are hand-embroidered and adorned with delicate gem-like landscapes. Sudanese designer Eilaf Osman received the award for a collection of unique handmade bags and baskets created by a community of women weavers from the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and assembled by leather craftsmen in a small Andalusian village in Spain.
Supporting and encouraging low-income artisan communities was a common practice among this year’s finalists. “The feel of human hands has been important in many collections across all categories,” said Erdem.
Moralioglu, a member of the FTA advisory council. “All the works had beautiful handwork and a smart approach to sustainable sourcing.” The guest country for this edition is Turkey, which has an exceptional craft tradition; designer Burch Akyol won the First Prize.
Jury member Olivier Rousteing of Balmain praised “the uniqueness of each designer, as well as their moving and vibrant storytelling.” This is certainly the case for Sheffield-based Yemeni Kazna Asker, a Central Saint Martins graduate who received the Franca Sozzani Debut Award. Asker’s oversized “sports abayas” are exceptionally cool hybrids made from recycled caftans and nylon sweats, pants and long skirts. Through her fashion practice, Asker wants to highlight the important role of women in the Muslim world, breaking cultural notions and stereotypes. Her smart and determined acting is proof that fashion can sometimes be a game changer.
Creative Director at Tiffany & Co. Ruba Abu-Nima, of Jordanian and Palestinian origin, highlighted the importance of the FTA Award in highlighting the wealth of creative talent in the region. “Being in this part of the world, I am so proud that such outstanding and brilliant talent is finally being fostered from the Middle East,” she said. “There is a significant story behind every designer, a good reason for what they do, since in the Middle East it is much more difficult to get into art because it is not supported. Their struggle to do what they love and to turn their passion into a goal is a much thornier path than in the West.
The glamorous awards ceremony, held at the National Museum in Doha and hosted by actress Jodie Turner-Smith and comedian Nemr Abu Nassam, attracted dignitaries including Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul and Bella Hadid, but it was the emotional speeches from many of the winners who recalled both their struggle and their desire to never give up. “What really moved me was how proud everyone was of their heritage,” said Yoon Ahn, creative director at Ambush. “I was pointed out by those who had more purpose than just a superficial level of marketing vignettes, those who wanted to give back to their communities by strengthening broken people, empowering women who don’t have the opportunity or access from men to tell their stories. I was impressed,” he continued, “by those who didn’t care too much about showing up in Paris, but wanted to give strength and resources to their communities at home, to build everyone together, proud of where they came from.”