Rise and shine, Dubai! With €12 billion in 2021 (+34%) according to Bain & Company, the markets of the Middle East are staying strong, with the Emirates city leading the growth as the ultimate luxury hub.
Nightlife capital, home of the world’s most futuristic skyscrapers and some of the most controversial and unusual artificial constructions, this incredible metropolis rising from the desert is undoubtedly the new place for the fashion industry.
Here, Western premium fashion and couture find a fertile market thanks to the many special events and occasions for wearing important garments. Plus, the Gulf area offers many opportunities for luxury companies since there are both locals and residents of many different nationalities with high spending power. Not to mention the tourists from all over the world that increase every year.
But this does not mean market opportunities are only for European or American fashion brands. On the contrary, it would seem that the pandemic has accelerated the rise of some increasingly successful local brands.
“Covid-19 has led to the recovery of local business, and the travel freeze has led consumers to shop in the domestic market. The fact that they are mostly ultra net worth who usually buy abroad has more than made up for the lack of tourists in the first months since the pandemic,” explained Claudia D’Arpizio, leading member of Bain & Company’s global Consumer Products and Retail practices and leader of Bain’s Luxury Goods vertical.
And that is the reason why so many Dubai-based labels are taking over the local scene.
The start-up scene for fashion brands in the UAE had never been this promising. Despite the tough competition with international luxury brands with colossal market shares, many new names are conquering the spotlight.
Dominic Nowell-Barnes, founder of the streetwear brand The Giving Movement
Like the streetwear brand The Giving Movement. Founded by British expat Dominic Nowell-Barnes in 2020 but proudly Arabic (as the name prominently displayed on an external label on every garment in both Arabic calligraphy and English demonstrates), this project is disrupting stereotypes and gaining traction among superbrand-obsessed Middle Eastern luxury shoppers, proving there is an appetite for locally-grown fashion.
Some garments by The Giving Movement
Totally made in UAE, this activewear and streetwear label creates sustainable sweats and athleisure while partnering with charities and making recycling the new fast fashion. The Giving Movement uses GRS-certified recycled nylon and FSC-certified organic biodegradable bamboo. With zero-waste, local and limited production, the label’s low carbon footprint is paired with a $4 donation per item sold.
The green commitment could be the key to increasing success and becoming more and more competitive in the Middle Eastern fashion scene.
Looks by L'Couture
According to market experts, to be successful local designers need to spot a gap in the UAE area and come up with a different product. One of the possible options involves going down the conscious and responsible fashion path, which is becoming increasingly popular.
And a great way to encourage the growth of sustainable fashion in the UAE would be to get local design schools or specialised courses in that field.
At the moment, however, Dubai-based fashion brands are mainly pursuing other paths, betting on luxury and sophisticated styles.
Lilian Afshar, founder of L'Afshar
Like L’Afshar, launched by Lilian Afshar in 2019 for a sophisticated woman and worn by Queen Rania of Jordan herself. The brand combines contemporary handcrafted local designs with luxurious and industrial elements. It can be found in high-end retail stores worldwide, such as NET-A-PORTER, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales and Harvey Nichols.
Lyndsay Doran, founder of L'Couture
A competitor of The Giving Movement, but with a more luxurious appeal, L’Couture is another activewear label founded by Lyndsay Doran in 2019. In a few years, it has already won customers worldwide.
Looks by All Things Mochi
If you have not missed the latest seasons of New York Fashion Week, you must have heard about All Things Mochi. Founded by Ayah Tabari in 2013, it combines traditional prints and embroideries with quintessential tailoring, and each item is handcrafted.
Looks by Bouguessa
Finally, Bouguessa is another contemporary womenswear label that reinvented the wardrobe classics for the modern-day wearer. Founded by Faiza Bouguessa in the Dubai Design District in 2014, the brand has made its mark global thanks to a partnership with NET-A-PORTER and, of course, the contribution of top clients like actress Priyanka Chopra.