Middle East fashion finally gets its due

Arab consumers spent $320 billion on luxury fashion in 2016.

By Sujata Assomull

Published: Sat 17 Mar 2018, 6:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 17 Mar 2018, 8:29 PM

When I moved to Dubai well over two years ago, I was surprised not to see a Vogue magazine in the market. The Middle East is quite fashion savvy, and the region is of great interest to designers and the industry. Last year, fashion's most respected trade journal WWD (Women's Wear Daily) reported that Arab consumers spent  $320 billion on luxury fashion in 2016. By 2019, this figure is expected to touch $490 billion. The region is the fastest growing market, and there are no doubts that we enjoy our fashion here, and so it seems like a natural home for magazines like the Vogue. Finally, it launched a year ago and its arrival cemented the importance of this region in international fashion.
The magazine then chose to celebrate the launch with a soiree not in the Middle East, but in Paris, the event doubled as a celebration of luxury shoe brand Aquazzura's expansion in the Middle East. It has planned another high profile event in Beirut at the end of the month. Arguably, the city is this region's epicentre of talent. But since the Vogue is based in Dubai and internationally Dubai is better known as the hub of style in the region, why not also mark the occasion in this city? Or even in several cities, so it really feels like a magazine of Arabia?
It has not been an easy year for the magazine; there have been highs and lows. The first issue itself became a talking point. The debut cover featured half Dutch, half Palestinian model Gigi Hadid wearing a bejeweled veil. Some critics argued the choice of model saying her Arab roots did not seem strong enough to be featured as the first cover girl, and some argued about the veil. A couple of days after the Vogue Arabia's launch event, its editor-in-chief, Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, the Saudi princess who at the time of her appointment was dubbed "the Anna Wintour of the Middle East", exited the magazine.
As with any launch, it always takes time for things to settle down. Has the magazine managed to really become the authority on fashion in the region? A year might be too short a time to pass a judgment. As someone who lived on a diet of the Vogue and the Tatler while growing up in London, I am not addicted to this region's edition but I do wait to see who is on the cover.
And when I first saw this month's anniversary issue with Imaan Hammam and Iman, I was impressed. Twenty-one-year-old Imaan featured on nine covers of Vogue internationally (including the Arabia edition) last year. The Dutch model of Moroccan and Egyptian descent has become the face of Arab fashion on the international fashion circuit. The 62-year-old Iman, on the other hand, personifies ageless beauty. Both models are wearing Yves Saint Laurent outfits teamed with turbans made by Brooklyn based company, Wrap Life. It made a strong statement. I must admit I do feel the need to get a hold of this issue and read it.   
Sujata Assomull is the Consulting Fashion Editor at Khaleej Times

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