Fashion Trust Arabia reveals finalists for 2023 edition
Non-profit organization Fashion Trust Arabia just announced the 2023 finalists who were carefully selected by a previously announced stellar panel of judges. Twenty-four finalists (4 in each of the 6 categories) will be making their way to Doha at the end of October, in the hope of seducing the jury and put their hands on the coveted awards. Here’s a tour of who made it to the next round.
AHMED AMER – LEBANON
We’re over the moon for Amer, whose work we’ve been following very closely since the beginning of both JDEED and his career. Amer, a Beirut-based fashion designer, illustrator and teacher at the school that shaped him, Creative Space Beirut, knows a thing or two about competitions- while at school, he was selected to participate in the MENA’s “Project Runway” and in 2020/2021, he won the Open My Med contest by Maison Mode Méditerranée.
Beyond all his creative activities, Ahmed takes time to advocate for youth and children’s rights as a
volunteer with the SDC Lebanon mission, addressing critical issues faced by his country, including corruption, conflicts, and mental health.
Dress / Ahmed Amer from the VESTIGE collection
ELISE TESTOT – SYRIA
Elise Testot is a Syrian-French designer who spent the greatest part of her life living in Middle Eastern countries but is now based in Paris. Her designs borrow the codes of the 1950’s aesthetic and combine a bit of both her worlds, an Arab spirit with a touch of European flair.
Elise Testot – Collection IV “I DREAM OF ITALY”
SARAH ALHAMDAN – SAUDI
Alhamdan represents her label “Mood Of Thoughts”, an architecture – 70’s – art deco inspired label based in London that endorses ecological responsibilities. The brand proposes interchangeable and inclusive designs to suit different styles, body shapes and moods.
ZEID HIJAZI – JORDAN/PALESTINE
Zeid Hijazi is the Central Saint Martins’ alumni who’s already making a lot of waves. Hijazi is no stranger to the FTA competition; he left the 2020 ceremony (the first ever) with an Award for the Debut Talent category. Three years later, after completion of his studies and various works in the industry, he’s coming back even stronger to claim the title in Ready-to-Wear.
The brand is very much about “thought-provoking story-telling” and “challenging the conceptual norms” in a unique, futuristic yet dystopian Arab World. The silhouettes evoke the designer’s fascination for subcultures or metaphysics and result in folklore-futuristic pieces that have already caught the eyes of many.
A silhouette from AW23 by Zeid Hijazi
AMIR AL KASM – SYRIA
Amir Al Kasm is a label that celebrates contradictions. The oppositions between good and evil, darkness and light, strength and vulnerability translate into beautiful evening and bridal gowns. The brand that mixes empowerment and refinement, is the result of the designer’s deep passion for fashion and his wish to leave a mark in this industry – it’s more than just about the garment.
Amir Al Kasm “Acid” 2019
CYNTHIA MERHEJ – LEBANON
Cynthia Merhej is the founder of Renaissance Renaissance, a brand that celebrates couture by women for women. Following in her mother and great-grandmother’s steps, couture runs in Merhej’s veins; the designer grew up observing the developments in her mother’s Beirut-based atelier. Renaissance Renaissance was born after Merhej’s studies in Visual Communication in London and is an ode to the family’s legacy, seamlessly translated into 21st century fashion.
Merhej lives in Paris since 2020 despite keeping a foot in Beirut where her atelier, managed by her mother, is located; it’s her way of supporting the city’s recovery from the rough patches it went through.
This year will mark the second FTA experience for Merhej, that also counts a LVMH prize nomination under her belt.
Renaissance Renaissance FW23
SIHAM SARA CHRAIBI – MOROCCO
Rabat-born Sara Chraibi grew up surrounded by culture and art, which led her to study architecture in her home country before moving to Paris for a Master’s degree in philosophy and architecture theory. Since moving to the City of Lights, Chraibi, who already knew how to embroider and sew thanks to her mother, saw an increase in her passion for fashion. In 2014, her namesakes label was born.
The designer found her way back to school in 2020-2021, completing an MBA in Global Fashion Management at IFM (Institut Francais de La Mode) in Paris. She later became a guest member of the French Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion. Her North African point of view reflects in her celebration of femininity and the beauty of creativity.
Maison Chraibi Couture 2023
YASSMIN SALEH – LEBANON
We’ve been following Yassmin Saleh’s adventure since her student days at LAU and it puts a huge smile on our faces to see her on this list. Her namesakes label was founded in 2018 in Beirut with her sister, Farah.. The brand is a sartorial and craftsmanship dream, including unconventional techniques. It celebrates women who love to know the beautiful stories behind their clothes.
Season after season, Saleh is inspired by a different narrative, tackling socio-psychological phenomenons that will later translate into high-quality sourced fabrics and silhouettes that follow a slow fashion process.
AMEL BATITA – ALGERIA
Since she was a kid, Amel Batita was fascinated by the world around her. Her father who used to do commerce in Italy, initiated her to a universe of scarves, colors and prints- she quickly found herself a passion for fashion, through which she could express her true-self.
Working with her father on markets, she met women who were looking for the perfect scarf who would reflect their inner beauty. Little by little, after observing them feeling so unique, Batita slowly developed a love for the product, before eventually turning it into her namesakes label. Batita practises what she calls “art-cycling”, preparing her textures from aluminium, plastic bottles… on canvas before translating them onto silk scarves.
DINA BAHEIR – EGYPT
Dina Baheir and her mother are the founder of Scopa, an Egyptian brand founded in Cairo in 2019. Together, they design statement wooden bags decorated with hand-made paintings. Each piece is conceived to add a touch of uniqueness while redefining the stereotypes of luxury bags. Mother and daughter are both inspired by their respective generations and merge their views beautifully to produce their one-of-a-kind pieces.
OMAR TAHA AND LILY MAX – EGYPT
A BETTER FEELING is a Cairo-based design studio, founded by Xander Ghost and co-designed and co-creative directed by Lily Max and Xander Ghost.
Together they hope to create a synergy between products and people through “a symbiotic visual identity and material language“.
OUBADAH NOUKTAH – SYRIA
Nouktah, meaning “point” in Arabic, is the brainchild of Oubadah Nouktah, that connects the dots between his Syrian heritage and beautifully crafted, architectural bags.
While his pieces suggest an ode to rebirth and transformation, they also highlight the designer’s passion for automotive design.
A testimonial of this passion is his first line’s “Cabriolet Bag” inspired by the roof of convertible cars. Nouktah’s sustainable approach is seen in his use of discarded car parts, reintroduced in high-end bags mixing tradition and innovation.
The “Gesture” collection
ANAS ALOMAIM – KUWAIT
Anas Alomaim is an architect, jewelry designer, and a professor of architecture who grew a passion for jewelry after the passing of his father, which connected him deeper to the women of his family.
Alomaim then created and produced solitaire rings for both his mother and sisters, to express his gratitude towards them while times were at their roughest.
His academic journey led him to a complete a Masters of Architecture and Urban Design at Columbia University, after which he moved to California to pursue his PhD at UCLA. Alomaim has been experiencing working in the creative industry through different outlets from architecture offices to design firms, and fashion houses like Diane Von Furstenberg.
“Immersion” collection of OUMAEM by Anas Alomaim
KATARINA TARAZI – LEBANON
Katarina Tarazi is a Lebanese jewelry designer who launched her brand in 2021 after years of fascination for jewels. Tarazi names childhood as an inspiration, a time when she collected Victorian toys and trinkets. That part of her life can today be seen in her pieces that incite playfulness and evoke our superstitions.
Each of her jewel is carefully crafted in Beirut, from the first sketches and technical drawings to the 3D sketches and then production. Tarazi prides herself in pushing the boundaries of mechanics and aesthetics, delivering unique models that can take up to a year to be finalized.
NOUR BENSHEIKH – TUNIS
Nour Bensheikh is one half of the duo behind ÈLBÉ (alongside Clémentine L.), a fashion accessory label designed and manufactured around the Mediterranean Sea. Their use of graphics and their multicultural backgrounds give life to inspirational pieces, made in sustainable materials and crafted luxuriously that aim to “build bridges and break borders.“
This year will mark the brand’s second time at FTA.
SHEREEN SHAWKI – EGYPT
Shereen Shawky founded her brand Dys-euphoria in Cairo, putting a focus on storytelling, culture, craftsmanship and tech. Dys-euphoria is a combination of Dysphoria and Euphoria, two antonyms that aim to represent the acceptance of all kind of feelings and state of minds. The first collection was inspired by Shawky’s home country of Egypt and its ancient myths.
ADAM ALAOUI ELYASSE – MOROCCO
Adam.é is a universe where duality converges, highlighting how the dynamic between power and pain shape the human condition.
AMINA GALAL – EGYPT
Amina Galal is an Egyptian Fashion Designer who gained her BFA from Parsons Paris this year. She says to be drawing her inspiration from subcultures and craftsmanship – she’s captivated by the many cultures she was able to witness living and working in an array of different countries.
She puts an emphasis on the human behind the clothes, believing that they are animate pieces that can tell a story and carry a purpose.
BATOUL AL-RASHADAN – JORDAN
STUDIO B.O.R is Al-Rashdan’s creative laboratorium that aims to bridge the gap between innovation and sustainability. Inspired by her home country’s landscapes and traditions, the designer associates high-tech processes to ethical values and eco-conscious materials.
MAISSANE NOUR ZINAI – ALGERIA
Algerian-French Parisian-born designer Maïssane Nour Zinaï is the founder of ARISTHANE, the label she established after gaining her Fashion BA at the iconic Central Saint Martins in London.
A mix of aesthetics, at the crossroad of “futuristic, dynamic, sport-oriented, elegant with a touch of humour, community-centred and
a celebration of reality through fiction,” ARISTHANE is a display of mixity.
Maïssane knows a thing or two about award ceremonies – she received the British Fashion Council Award in 2019 & 2021, the Alexander McQueen’s Sarabande Foundation Graduation Prize in 2022 and the Net-A-Porter Vanguard Prize in 2022.
GUEST COUNTRY – NIGERIA
Lagos Space Programme is a “conceptual non binary design label” that Adeju Thompson founded back in 2018. What does it offer? High-end ready-to-wear collections rooted in the African culture and an interpretation of its future.
Tokyo James is a Nigerian-British luxury fashion brand founded by Iniye Tokyo James, that saw the light in 2015. Often found between Lagos and London, the menswear base in his collections use Saville Row’s traditional tailoring techniques that encounter unconventional textile and color options.
The brand launched a womenswear line in 2022.
Kenneth Ize looks at the reinterpretation of Nigerian craft implemented on luxury designs. The designer works hand in hand with multiple communities in Nigeria, underlining the importance of traditional Nigerian crafts and the local artisanship.
“The Circle Of Birth And Death”
Nkwo Onwuka is known for being a “sustainability expert in the African fashion industry.” She dedicates her time and career to promote a positive image of Africa, its cultures, traditions and rich history. Her designs bet on innovative and meaningful way to create modern pieces of clothes and textiles.
Discover more about the finalists on Fashion Trust Arabia’s Instagram, right here.
Cover: Maissane Nour Zinai