UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Fashion week in Abu Dhabi


The runway featured low-cut silky gowns and red chiffons, but also a flurry of glittery embroidered fabrics, so typical of the Middle East.

And in the audience, of course, were men in traditional white dishdashas, typical of the Persian Gulf venue.

At the Abu Dhabi International Fashion Week, taking place from March 15 to 18, Arab and Western designers blended trendy tendencies in cuts and colors with Arabian influences in the choice of styles and accessories.


For a while Dubai was getting all the attention as the Persian Gulf capital of glitz and glamour. Now its neighboring emirate is claiming a shiny spot on the very selective map of world fashion, alongside Milan, Paris and London.

Apparently it takes more than world-class fashion houses boosting the show to become a "City of Fashion." Shireena Al Nowais, from the Dubai-based Gulf News waxed catty about the Abu Dhabi venue:

The fashion shows are being staged in a somewhat shabby custom-built venue in the gardens of Emirates Palace. The venue, which comprises a few hundred chairs, a large screen and a catwalk made up of a thin plastic film spread out across the floor, which the models kept slipping on, is completely unsuitable for an international world-class fashion show.


Abu Dhabi is striving to create its own breed of native designers. The surprise of the show, according to critics, was a set of designs conceived by young Emirati girls, aged 15 to 17.

Caught between tradition and modernity, their collection included a bright skirt made of woven palm leaves and another one made of compact discs.

More attuned to Middle Eastern roots were the designs of local stylist, Aisha Bin Desmal. Her work incorporates vivid traditional needlework, floating layers of colorful fabrics, and cascades of silver and gold jewelry.


And still to hit the catwalk are the creations of Rabia Z., who designs stylish garments for modern veiled Muslim women.

The Abu Dhabi fashion week's website describes her Autumn/Winter 2008 collection as dedicated to black, the color of the abaya, or the black robe of the national women:

The Black Collection is designed with a variety of fabrics: cotton and rayon jersey, satin, jacquard, velvet, cotton and Linen. The pieces have been accented with rich and playful trims and embellishments, which the Khaleeji women love: Swarovski crystals, sequins and lace trims. Another fun element used is piping made out of Arab men's head scarves or Ghitra.

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