If I asked you right now to imagine a woman from the Middle East, you’d probably come up with images of a woman wearing a veil to cover her head. That’s understandable, since a lot of women do wear the veil or hijab there (as is required by their religion). What’s not understandable, however is people who think that they cannot be fashionable, because they totally can. Though they may be required to wear the hijab in most countries in the Middle East, they can still look absolutely stylish while wearing them. In fact, a lot of mainstream designers have incorporated this article of clothing into their own lines, which is why there is now a thing called “hijab couture,” which has spread even beyond the Middle East.
So where can you find “hijab couture” and other showcases of unique Middle Eastern fashion? Why, on the runway during Fashion Week, of course! Several countries in the Middle East have their very own Fashion Week every year, including Bahrain, Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. These events are big hits in their respective countries, but one event in particular is catching international attention. Every year, Dubai (which is in the UAE) has their own version of Fashion Week which they call Fashion Forward, showcasing the amazing talents of their local designers, who have uniquely and seamlessly combined the beauty of both Middle Eastern culture and Western culture in their designs.
A lot of up and coming designers have garnered much praise during this year’s Fashion Forward, including The Emperor 1688, Poupee Couture, Kage, Rami Kadi, Zareena, Bashar Assaf, Jean Louis Sabaji. Aside from these names, some of today’s globally renowned designers are from the Middle East. Elie Saab--who has dressed the likes of Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, and Beyoncé; Zuhair Murad--who has dressed the likes of Taylor Swift, Miranda Kerr, and Kristen Stewart; and Abed Mahfouz--who has dressed the likes of Carrie Underwood, Irina Shayk, and Natasha Bedingfield; were born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon.
This may sound a bit surprising, but the Middle East has one of the most rapidly growing fashion industries in the world. The biggest buyers of haute couture reside in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE; and they’re mostly royalty. These wealthy women are always buying the latest designer clothing for the numerous social events they have each year, and they will not hesitate to spend lots of money for only the best, most unique garments. (Keep in mind that most of these events will have no men present, so they can wear virtually whatever they want.)
I can even tell you from personal experience that shopping in the Middle East is just a dream. When I was in the UAE last April, I went to some of the malls there, including the Dubai Mall, which is the largest mall in the world! It has over 1,200 shops, and some of the biggest names in the fashion industry; you’ll need more than a day to see everything! And most of the shoppers I saw there carried numerous bags filled to the brim with the latest trends, so it’s really no surprise that Dubai, along with the rest of the Middle East, is the world’s most vibrant fashion market. Move over, New York, Paris, London, and Milan, you’ve got some big competition for the title of “Fashion Capital of the World!”