Ahmad Ammar and Vincenzo Visciglia, both from a background in engineering and architecture, came together in 2014 to create their brand AAVVA in the United Arab Emirates.
“Everything that inspires us is about architecture. Being in Dubai and seeing all the architecture inspires us because fashion and architecture go together,” said Visciglia.
Their work has revolved around sustainability and fashion. Their unique designs often have a pattern looking which they explain is due to their background.
“The challenge was to prove that we can have custom designs, we are different in the market, and make us desirable if they buy Christian Dior,” he added.
One of the challenges they once faced as local designers is that their work is handmade, which increases the pricing making them as expensive as international brands. They say their aim has been to make women feel good about themselves. “Whoever wears AAVVA has an attitude; we cater to their body,” he added.
Fashion design in the UAE market has developed; however, it faces the shadow of fast fashion. Once a new market, people are still building an appetite for having their clothes designed for them.
Dubai alone holds Fashion Week four times a year, two for women and the other two for men. The city that wants to become the hub for fashion hosts Dubai Design District, a creative hub built at a cost of $1.1 billion.
However, there have been a few challenges, one of which is that designers are not necessarily creative, a notion that the market doesn’t accept.
“I see a lot of designers that are kind of copying dresses, then a celebrity would wear it and then a backlash takes place,” he said. “Be patient and honor your own creativity.”
“We still don’t have a proper Fashion Week and the only reason is that we don’t have enough buyers,” he explained. “They have seen the impact the fashion business has on the economy,” he added.
Driven by a growing appetite in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the fashion industry is hosting a growing number of designers who find their inspiration through different means. Some of them take their work to other parts of the world and not only locally. Within the UAE, the fashion industry is expected to grow to $4.57 billion in 2022.
Lena Zacharis, a Greek Syrian fashion designer who has been living in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi since the early 1980s, founded LeZaMi Fashion there in 2014. She had her first collection showcased in Milano HOMI in January 2019 for Italian customers and fashion trendsetters.
“Diversity is key. Since I have clients with various styles, I have a wider platform than most designers to express and create,” said Zacharis.
Her pieces, she said, can be worn by all clients regardless of nationality. “I can tailor my pieces to different tastes to fit the modest, the young, the hip, and the trendy,” she says. She always looks for luxury resort style and denim fabrics.
She said that her inspiration comes from her desire to dress women in a way that reflects their true authentic identity. Her designs, she describes, are modern, and modest with a stylish twist. It is about surrounding women with “beauty, color, fashion, and self-love.”
“Arabic fashion designers are bolder now and more open to expanding and experimenting,” added Zacharis.
“Also, with current world affairs and the prices and the difficulty of shipping along with post-pandemic – people are now keener on buying local fashion,” she added.
Aside from luxury brands that local fashion designers compete with, there is a growing number of customers who opt for fast fashion instead.
A study by global consultancy firm RedSeer Strategic Consulting projects that driven by an increase in the frequency and average order, the online fashion industry is expected to increase by 20% of the total market size over the next three years.
“The evolution of fast-fashion platforms catering to instantaneous trends and style-hungry shoppers is at the very core of the increasing share of wallet among online fashion shoppers,” wrote the consultancy firm. Accordingly, these fast fashion brands are performing better than premium brands.