Fashion Forward (FFWD) is the Middle East’s definitive fashion platform, celebrating the most exciting and progressive style in the region every October. Here FFWD founder Bong Guerrero explains his journey from parfumier to fashion tsar
To explain the story behind FFWD I have to rewind a few decades. I came to Dubai in 1990, very young and straight out of college. After a year of living here I decided to start a small perfumery shop. My business partner was Emirati and his sisters suggested a tailoring component would make a nice addition to the store. I had no clue about dressmaking, and I’m not a designer, but I decided to take a chance.
What started as a corner in a shop became one of the Middle East’s largest fashion houses, designing and making bespoke gowns for royalty. In those days, Arab women did travel but their fashion requirements were very specific. We had to tailor-make a lot of clothes as design sensibilities were a cross between east and west, with a lot of cultural flavor. We assembled a team of the region’s most talented designers, the best tailors and finest embroiderers. It was a full-on fashion house.
Today my business is centred around producing events such as Fashion Forward Dubai. I would like to use the word curate as I’m dealing with very creative people, collating their work and presenting it to the end consumer. That’s what I did with the fashion house and what I continue to do as an events professional. The fashion twist is a nod to what I was involved with in my early years, as a member of Dubai’s fashion fraternity. The scene was very small at that time, so all the designers and business owners of fashion houses knew and supported each other. When I got into the events business this collective of contacts chose me to produce their shows. That’s how Fashion Forward was born.
When we launched Fashion Forward five years ago we felt it was the right time. Had we launched 10 or 15 years ago it would have been premature. It’s subject to debate whether or not we remain ahead of the game because it’s still such a young scene, but I have faith we’re here at the right time. A lot of brands and labels have sprung from our platform and moved on to the next level, which is super gratifying.
The clichéd claim is that the fashion industry is easy, fun and always glamourous, but I promise you it’s very challenging. One thing I like about the fashion industry – specifically in our market – is that it’s very new. It has its own set of obstacles: it’s eclectic and diverse, and everybody is working to different tempos while following their own direction. It’s certainly interesting space to work in.
Fashion Forward is cementing its reputation as a reference to what is happening in the Middle East. I would like to think that we are the largest and most credible platform from which designers can launch or strengthen their existing brand, and I’m most proud of the fact that we add value to our designers by giving them regional and international recognition. It’s gratifying to know that we contribute to the industry and hope we will continue to act a reference point for the future.
We acknowledge the fact we are an emerging market and there are a lot of lessons to be learned, so we invite global experts to speak at our events. Sharing knowledge is really important as fashion schools are not that mature here yet, so the industry really welcomes the opportunity to access knowledge and experience. We have had some fantastic international guests over the years, who have really made an impression.
Ten years ago, when people thought of Dubai they just imagined shopping malls, oil and gas, infrastructure and skyscrapers. In the past five to seven years we have taken a softer turn into the more soulful angles of the city and of the region. The Design District exemplifies this perspective by providing a shelter to the creative community. It’s such a great environment, with a good vibe and a fabulous collective of people exchanging ideas and collaborating. It’s a pride and joy of Dubai. I love working here and I’m very grateful to have had the estate as a strategic partner for Fashion Forward from the very beginning.
We are cooking up a lot of tweaks and new surprises for the show this year to engage our very demanding audience. At the same time, we will continue to strengthen the pillars of our platform: great content, an even higher standard of designers and some really stellar celebrity names. New for 2018 is a city-wide approach, where we are not limited to one venue but spread across the city. Get ready for something spectacular.
FFWD takes place in Dubai from 26-28 October.
For more information go to fashionforward.ae
This year, expect an even higher standard of designers
and some really stellar celebrity names