Disruptive is a loosely used and oft-misused term these days. Everyone likes the label as it is almost a badge of honor in this digital age, but not all those who use it necessarily qualify for it.
But the very first Pret-A-Cover Buyers Lane event isn’t one of the pretenders. The six-day celebration of modest fashion taking place at City Walk Dubai from March 28 to April 2 is turning the traditional format of fashion weeks on its head, by leveraging digital technology.
“We’re trying to be revolutionary,” says Alia Khan, chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion Design Council, which is organizing the event. “We felt that the fashion-week model presented a lot of issues for the industry which weren’t being addressed. Designers weren’t getting proper exposure, orders weren’t getting placed, and people weren’t able to connect with their work in a meaningful way. We wanted to create a base for engagement.”
And they are doing just that with a high-definition projection system that will showcase 90-second videos by each of the participating designers, to make for an immersive 360-degree experience. The multi-platform hi-tech projections include water curtains for holographic effect and LED screens to ensure a striking effect, which in turn gives designers a much more creative, powerful platform to bring their brand to life, rather than a standard one-time catwalk show.
According to Hatem Alakeel, one of the leading regional designers participating in the event, it will enable a stronger, closer connection between designers and their clients.
“It’s a large investment for a designer to do a show, so at the end of the day you want to ensure there’s a return on investment,” he says. “The cool thing about this event is that we have full control over the creative execution. For me it’s ideal, as I get to control my social media, my video, my merchandise … We can have our work live-streamed in an area that has traffic and visibility, and then people can actually come and see and feel the clothes at the pop-ups.”
Not just limited to digital versions of catwalk shows — which are taking place at 7-9pm each night — the bustling event includes a range of activities aimed at consumers as well as to facilitate business-to-business networking. Luxurious pop-up shops by the designers will allow customers to instantly buy what they see — a direction in which the global fashion industry seems to be moving — and there will also be placements in partner stores, as well as VIP shopping sessions and special sales.
The placements and pop-ups in partner retail stores — which includes big names such as Bloomingdale’s and Le-BHV/Marais and Galeries Lafayette — also benefit the mainstream outlets by driving traffic, and creating awareness among consumers about their modest fashion offerings.
“We’re cognizant that retailers also need to be supported,” said Khan. “So, we hope our new strategies will do away with the old way of doing things, and provide opportunities for meaningful engagement.”
This sort of disruptive approach to conducting business will manifest in other ways too. Panel discussions and seminars will be replaced by short, on-the-spot interviews between designers and influencers, which will be live-streamed; and facilitations of one-to-one meetings between retail outlets and more than 30 participating designers.
The repertoire includes a truly global mix, from regional labels such as Toby by Hatem Alakeel, to brands from the UK, Italy, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, the US and Australia. The diverse range of offerings includes couture, sportswear, kidswear, and accessories; even beauty brands such as halal luxury skincare is on offer. Modest fashion retailers such as The Modist and Fashion Valet are also involved, bringing their selection of international designers into the mix.
From a designer’s perspective, the event, which is supported by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center, provides a platform unlike any other. “I think it will create a new standard and raise the bar for designers,” Alakeel said.
And it is about time that the bar was raised, as the modest fashion industry prepares to come into its own. The estimated $250 billion industry is projected to grow exponentially to be worth almost $370 billion by 2020, according to a Global Islamic Economy report.
Commenting on the evolution of the industry, Khan said: “There’s always been a huge demand for modest fashion, but it’s only in the past four or five years that it has really started taking off. Now the mainstream fashion industry is realizing the potential, and asking themselves, why aren’t we a part of it? And to be frank, it all started thanks to social media, when bloggers and influencers started talking about it.”
It seems quite appropriate, then, that an industry that has had life breathed into it by something as new-age as social media is leading the charge in digitally revolutionizing — indeed, disrupting — how fashion is experienced and consumed.
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