THE EMERGENCE OF A MIDDLE EASTERN FASHION POWERHOUSE
The Middle East has always been a subject of interest in the world. Whether it concerns politics, wars, cultural differences or tourism, the Middle East seems to draw attention to itself. But now, could this developing region be home to the world’s next fashion capital?
The Middle East is divided into two types of countries: oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait and non-oil-producing countries which include Lebanon, Syria, Israel, and Jordan to name a few. Not surprisingly, according to a pole done in June 2013 of the top 10 richest countries in the world using gross domestic product (GDP) per capita provided by the International Monetary Fund’s April 2013 World Economic Outlook Database as well as CIA World Factbook, one of them was a Middle Eastern oil-producing country. The United Arab Emirates came in 6th, proving that oil-producing countries can support a high-fashion industry.
This is a country were Dubai and luxury are one and the same, where one can find the tallest tower in the world, where man-made islands are shaped to look like palm trees and the only country where luxury cars are synonymous with police cars. Where else will you find a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and a $2.5 million Bugatti Veyron part of a police fleet?
With a desire to elevate the city’s glamour and luxury as well as their economy, Dubai looks to include other industries that would complement those they already focus on. This is the primary reason for Dubai’s pursuit of the multi-billion dollar fashion industry. And though the U.S., Europe and Japan are the leaders of this industry, Dubai is the force to contend with in the Middle East, as this city accounts for nearly half of the region’s market share with regards to retail spending.
Dubai has been ranked the second-most important destination for international retailers after London by real estate services firm CBRE as the majority of all leading international retailers have opened stores in Dubai and the consulting firm Bain and Company has determined that a third of all luxury spending (clothing, accessories, cars) in the Middle East occurs in this fast developing city.
Unfortunately, this does not satisfy the city’s officials, as they want to develop Dubai’s creativity by making it the place to be for the Middle East’s best designers.
Construction for the Dubai Design District, or D3 has begun. This giant project will be solely dedicated to the development of the fashion industry in Dubai and will house design studios, and boutiques, as well as hotels, high-end departments, and of course, shopping. According to the CEO of Tecom Investments, Amina Al Rustamani, who is developing D3, the first phase of construction will measure approximately 18 million square foot and will cost $1 billion.
The goal is to create a space that caters to everyone living in Dubai, as the majority of the population, around 90% of its population are foreigners. This strong multinational presence is great for Dubai designers because they see it as a means to get noticed by the world. The concepts and ideas for D3 will make it uniquely its own, separating it from Milan and Paris.
Bain and Company stated that nearly a third of the $7.6 billion spent on fashion in the Middle East in 2012 was spent in Dubai. This can be explained by a fashion driven region.
In the Middle East, fashion is part of the culture. ‘Fashion is not merely a luxury, but a necessity in this part of the world’, says Lebanese designer Zayan Ghandour. With this in mind, many believe that in the Middle East women dress relatively conservatively, though locals disagree. Underneath the traditional long black robes over clothing and scarves over their hair and faces, they are ‘dressed to the nines’, with their high fashion clothing, flawless makeup without a single hair out of place. Women love to flaunt themselves and their beauty, whether in public or during private gatherings. In the Middle East, fashion means culture.
And in Dubai it also means business. In Dubai, shopping is tax free, and with 40 malls in the UAE, it isn’t surprising that the Oxford Business Group announced that a third of Dubai’s economy comes from their retail industry. And with over 75 million visitors last year, it’s no wonder why the Dubai Mall is looking to expand its retail space.
The Mall of Emirates is looking to increase their sales substantially and plans to invest $1 billion over the next 5 years in order to introduce new stores as well as restaurants to their 466 stores currently available to visitors.
These expansions will contribute to the planned increase in tourism in order to prepare for the World Expo in 2020, which Dubai will be hosting. Officials expect 17.5 million foreign visitors to attend the 6-monthlong World Expo.
According to the fashion market analyst of Bain and Company, Cyrille Fabre, tourism and fashion go hand in hand in the UAE as shopping is the third largest reason for tourists to visit Dubai.
He said that ‘fashion is a big tourist attraction and as the fashion industry grows, tourism grows and vice versa’.
So is Dubai the next fashion capital of the world? Evidently, the city has the financial backing to fund the necessary requirements as well as being a very important Middle Eastern tourist destination. Could it be enough?