In a series of interviews, CPP-LUXURY.COM is taking a close look at Qatar’s essential influence in fashion both in the Middle East but also globally.
We have recently interviews Thomas-François Bouige who is an International Fashion Consultant based in France and a member of Qatar Fashion Society.
What motivated your recent focus on the Middle East?
I have started my career in fashion in 2011 and since then I have always had opportunities in the middle east. Launching my agency in 2012, I wanted to have a niche and therefore take on designers that would speak to me in terms of products and creativity. For me evening-wear, refined and elegant fashion are what speak the most to my heart and I believe one cannot be successful in this field without passion. As it turns out, Middle Eastern designers and retailers are more involved in this kind of fashion so it is very naturally that our strong relationships there started.
Tell us more about the Qatar Fashion Society? What makes Qatar an ideal hub for creativity?
Qatar Fashion Society has been created under the impulse of my very dear friend Fahad Al Obaidly, an artist and designer from Qatar. The idea is to offer a support to Qatari emerging designers, from international key players in the industry in order for them to develop locally and abroad. Qatar is craving for fashion, every Qatari that I have met are passionate about design, garments, beauty and are so much interested in everything about fashion.
I think the influence of HRH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, truly one of the best dressed women in the world, is beneficial for all Qatari women. It proves them that fashion does not have to be provocative or in search of shocking the opinion. Fashion is most and for all an expression of one’s identity and culture. Qatar has its own culture and identity, truly different from any other GCC country and this is what Qatar Fashion Society a great creative hub, there is so much talent that is just craving to get expressed the right way.
You were recently involved in the Fashion Trust Arabia inaugural edition which took place in Doha. How would you describe the potential of the nominated participants?
First of all, Fashion Trust Arabia, under the impulsion of Tania Fares and Sheikha Moza, was one of the best events I have had the chance to attend. All participants deserved to be where they are and truly have a huge potential. Some of them are already well exposed on the international scene. Sandra Mansour and her divine creations has been working with worldwide retailers for years now; Marzook’s collections is sold in the top prestigious international stores at the moment; Boyfriend from the stylist Amine Jreissaty has had an international coverage prior to the event. I think all nominated participants were selected because there is a commercial potential behind. They are all, in their own way bringing something new to the market and that’s what retailers are looking for. Uniqueness and creativity.
Which are the key steps a newly set up brand or a brand focused domestically to expand abroad? To what extend the provenance of the designer / company plays an important part?
When a designer already has the chance to be involved on their local scene, first of all this is a great start. Many designers struggle to start their brands because most of the time they are not taught the right tools on how to start a proper business and set up a brand. This is our ambition for Qatar Fashion Society, making sure our designers have in hands what is necessary to launch their brands. The designer’s provenance is of course very important because it sets up cultural ground. The next steps for our designers will be to take them to international fashion weeks, setting up showrooms for them in the world’s capital to get feedbacks and orders from buyers from all around the world.
Lebanon already has several internationally established luxury fashion designers. What was the foundation behind their success?
I think what made Lebanese designers become such key players in the industry is to embrace their cultural identity. Lebanese women have always had a taste for evening-wear and being sophisticated is part of their DNA. Countries that have been facing political issues and repression need a way to express themselves and Lebanese have expressed it through their creativity in making sure their style and heritage. Working with some Lebanese brands myself, craftsmanship is extremely important when you provide with evening-wear and Lebanon is lucky to have within their inhabitants many talented craftsmen and women.
What is the potential of GCC / Middle Eastern brands to target local / regional consumers?
With the current blockade, it makes things a bit difficult. Stores in the UAE or Saudi Arabia will not take Qatari designers into retail and every Qatar based company established in those countries have had to close their doors due to this tense situation. However, Qatar is not closing its door to talent.
Are there particular design details which you could recognise as being part of the DNA of the region’s designers?
As I mentioned earlier, eveningwear is the key to development in the area where it comes to clothing. The traditional habits remain very important in the area so you will find a predominance of abayas in the area. Regarding what is attracting local customers is embellishment. When the black abaya is so important you will need to stand on your accessories. You will therefore often see embellished shoes, bags and jewellery. Colours close to Jewels are a significant part of the DNA, so you will frequently have Gold, Silver, Emerald or Copper within the designer’s collections.
Beyond creativity, designers need to set up a business operations structure. Is the region prepared to attract foreign business specialists or to nurture local talent?
Qatar Fashion Society is currently attracting many business specialists to the market in order for their designers to understand how a business has to be set up on an international scale as well as putting together local talent that unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet in their own country. The idea is really to bringing people together and combine the talents in all fashion related disciplines. It was never done in the past and I think we are on the right path now.
Do you provide advice on financing? What are the main investment sources for these young designers?
Yes, we do provide advice on financing as the first step in our masterclasses and workshops is how to set up a business plan and get some funding when the business is starting to grow. At the moment most of our designers are privately funded but we are giving them tools on how to find diverse financing possibilities and make their businesses grow.
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