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Cream of the catwalk

Steve Meunier
Filed on August 25, 2008

THE FLASHBULBS were popping and electro-house music throbbing on Thursday night at a special fashion show staged at the Mall of the Emirates’ Kempinski Hotel’s Evory Lounge.

The evening event, which launched Jane Norman’s new season’s collections, was certainly no ordinary affair, as every one of the twelve models selected to showcase the company’s latest clothes range were the finalists in a unique competition to find new catwalk stars.

The recently appointed muses for the show were evidently unfazed by their exposure to the limelight, as they sashayed with style down the runway against a backdrop of funky beats spun by top DJ Spoony, and were spurred on by the applause of the industry professionals who had been specially invited to attend.

Three Jane Norman Autumn collections were on display for the first time during the evening; casual, casual dress and formal cocktail, and the competition winning models - ten women and two men - were clearly relishing their prominent role in the proceedings.

Overwhelming response

The eight-week long contest that culminated with the presentation of the show had been devised by Jane Norman, the leading UK fashion brand, in a bid to find new modelling faces. Taking advantage of the boom in social networking, the competition had been arranged through the popular site Facebook and was promoted by Dubai’s Radio 1. The ‘Jane Norman Catwalk Star Search 2008’ received a fantastic response, with over 2,000 hopefuls entering with the dream of being the next hot property on the fashion scene. It perhaps wasn’t a surprise that so many people had registered, as the prizes on offer for the winners included a new wardrobe of clothes, a professional photo shoot from an industry photographer (who counts the iconic publication Vogue in his portfolio) and a modelling contract, the Thursday evening event being the first major assignment.

The lucky finalists who made the grade brought a truly international flavour to the event, with a number of continents being represented on the runway.

Most of the twelve were in their early twenties, but age is obviously not an indication of potential catwalk prowess, as the youngest to have secured a place was 15-year-old Alica Siddiqi, who had travelled from Abu Dhabi to take part. Speaking after the event and revealing a maturity and confidence that belied her youth, Alica admitted to being “really, really surprised” by her place in the finals. The high school student said that she may well continue in the industry by choosing to study fashion design after leaving school.

Some of the fortunate winners had already acquired a taste of the industry and were used to the attention they received as they showcased their techniques.

Others were simply naturals that hadn’t initially considered entering the competition, but had been urged to do so by friends and family. Farhad Jazayeri - one of the two male finalists - was typical of those who had had some previous experience. “This is my first time on the catwalk, but I’ve been modelling for about the last ten years,”

he said. The 19-year-old Iranian, who is studying for a business degree at Dubai’s Knowledge Village, is definitely no stranger to the camera.

“I’ve previously been in videos, photo shoots and also worked as an extra at film festivals,” he said.

The competition element continued throughout the evening, with a further three winners from the twelve selected to receive an additional Dh20,000 modelling portfolio each, courtesy of Capital D Studio.

‘Modelling comes first’

Natalie Naidoo, a 22-yearold, from Cape Town, South Africa, was the first to have her name called out to receive this extra prize, which was presented at the end of the show.

Natalie has only been in Dubai since the time the competition started two months ago, but clearly hasn’t wasted any time in making her mark. “I want to study nutrition and cosmetology,”

she said, after collecting her award. “But modelling definitely comes first.”

The second of the three winners who had further impressed the judges on the night was Neena Rai from India, who has lived in Dubai for 18 months.

Neena is another individual who has had some experience of time spent under the glare of cameras, as she has auditioned and been selected for the upcoming third season of the television programme Amazing Grace, making her the first Indian girl ever to appear in this popular show. Neena’s talents seem to be multi-fold, as she is also a prolific artist and has had her work exhibited in Abu Dhabi, as well as featured in the pages of City Times.

Shellie Connolly from Ireland was the third recipient of the Capital D portfolio.

The 24-year-old Emirates Airlines cabin crew member expressed her delight at being in the competition and her additional win, but admitted that she would never have entered if it hadn’t been for others persuading her to.

“My friends made me do it.

I would never have thought of putting my own name down,” she said, modestly, after the show.

‘A fantastic night’

Emceeing the event in her own inimitable style was Radio One DJ, Selena, who believed that the competition had presented young people in the region an exciting new challenge.

Jeremy Johnstone, CEO of MAF Fashion, which represents the Jane Norman brand, also expressed his happiness with the proceedings.

“Tonight was a fantastic night and I’m extremely pleased that the new models were able to show off the new and different styles from the latest collections,” he said.

citytime@emirates.net.ae


 
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