As most of you know I’m the founder behind my own pret-a-couture label Avastave, and a graduate of the French Design School, Esmod, Dubai. Needless to say as with many higher learning institutes the associated costs weren’t cheap and I am lucky to have had the financial backing of my parents that many do not. However as time passed and I graduated with honours, life kicked in, proving that talent or a renowned degree in itself, isn’t all you need to win this game.
As artists, we all believe that our work will create such tremendous ripples to the local scene that it would be impossible to not be recognized or profit from it. I am telling you right now, that the chances of that happening are next to none, and I don’t mean that to dissuade you from pursuing your dream or dim your shine, but to give you a better understanding of the tasks you have ahead of you. They call it a dream for a reason, because it is up to you to make it a reality.
Dubai is booming with opportunities, but let me remind you that they often require heavy capital, and unless you are local, have exorbitant amounts of family money or were lucky enough to find an investor in time for your graduation show these possibilities are not open to you. To give you a clear example, I recently received an offer to show at Paris Fashion Week, with a Dubai based company called Opulence Events, the email went on with the usual encouragement that would make any fresh creatives eyes light up saying things like ‘the show will have renowned press, your outfits will be printed on banners, access to international buyers etc’, you scroll down to the contract; the agreement of your participation, and then you see it, $15,000 is the cost for you to show. If you can afford that, then you’ve had a much better organisational system than me, because that is an unreal amount of money to charge an emerging label. These emails have come to me through the years, each more expensive than the last, and you have to ask yourself, do these business entities really think that local designers have that kind of money? Even Fashion Forward, Dubai’s premiere showcase for new talent charges a whopping 18,000, as participation fee.
Let me rephrase my question, do they really think anyone but locals and rich-kids who do this as a celebration of their vanity can afford these programs? The truth is, the programs that are in place to help aspiring creatives are few and far between and they are ninety-nine percent almost always targeted at locals or Europeans. With their being no citizenship possibilities in the UAE to date, this means if you are from an Asian country or aren’t blessed to carry UK, EU, Arab passport, then you will most likely fall into the category that is ignored. Even though the UAE boasts a massive amount of workers from countries such as India, Philippines, Africa and Sri Lanka these countries are yet to receive adequate representation.
The relevance of citizenship is vital here, because a country is most likely to support and push the efforts of one of its own, and as we all know that the UK and US publications will almost definitely support talent from their own countries in the GCC and the Arab world delights in celebrating their own home grown talent, that leaves very little for those whose countries are significantly smaller by comparison. While the US,EU, AUS etc do celebrate diversity and encourage more people to join their communities as equals, privy to equal rights the UAE’s stance on this particular topic, means those of us who have the ability to truly contribute with our business plans are left to contemplate leaving behind our second home, in favour of countries that better recognize and encourage our talents.
As a designer, I have had the privilege of being acknowledged by several publications, but I have definitely not been provided with the opportunities that would have been afforded to me should I have possessed another passport. So, how do you make it work in a place where everything seems to stunt your growth?
You can work a day job and try to do a collection on a commission basis, however if you are planning on even small scale production it will cost you upto 17,-20,000AED, and if it doesn’t sell, that is another issue entirely. My words of advice would be, to save your money until you can migrate to a place where equality is the name of the game, and even though you will still struggle to get to the top, for the most part the race there will be on a level plane field. And, if you are to remain in Dubai, a few stores offer commission based options to showcase your label, however I for one am yet to see a designer truly benefit from these stores, whose profit sharing methods often mean you will be left with less than half of what you spend on production.
The truth is, every individual is different and you can most certainly find a way to make the most out of where you are based. It is not the lack of support that is the primary issue in the advancement of the middle-class Dubai based designer, it is the complete rebuttal of the predicaments faced by said designers that are holding back what could possibly be one of the newest thriving fashion capitals of the world.