This year I attended my first Fashion Forward in Dubai and it was sooo exciting and sooo inspirational. I want to share some insights that I think are worth sharing.
One of the first talks that I attended was “The Art of Digital Storytelling in Fashion” by Mansoor Mannbutte, co-founder of Things by People who had a very nice presentation, and Daniel Coutinhu, CEO of Nowness. Until now, I wasn’t actually familiar with Nowness, it sounded familiar, but I never looked at it. So after the presentation, I looked at their Instagram page and noticed that their content is very cultural and artistic, it’s all about emotions, experiences, moments, each photograph has a story behind it, which is something you don’t see that often on Instagram.
One of the important things Mansour Mannbutte mentioned, in his presentation was that “Digital is a medium. Story can be in any form” so when you are coming up with your communication plan, don’t start with the medium, start with the message you want to give to your audience, and then focus on how to use digital as a tool, to best deliver your message. It can be any sort of content that works for your brand, a photograph, video or audio, but you need to have a powerful message and it has to be delivered to the right audience for them to listen.
Moreover, Mansour Mannbutte mentioned, four rules that worked for their brand, in terms of digital storytelling; the first rule was “to disrupt the ordinary content” since there is so much content and distractions, you need to be different to stand out. He gave the example of Nowness, when he first saw their videos, and said to himself “this looks cool, this doesn’t look like something that belongs to the internet” so he went and explored more. I think this is very important, you don’t want your consumers to see your content and move on, you want them to stay and explore more of it. The second rule that he mentioned was “to be original” and that the biggest struggle we have now, being a new market, is to be risk takers and create good work. The third rule that he mentioned was not to be “too serious”. This saying reminded me of the first steps of the creative process, when you are doing brainstorming, you put all of your ideas on paper, everything and anything that comes to mind and then choose the ones that can be used without discouraging any ideas at the first stage.
He closed the presentation with saying that “everything is going back to art” a statement that speaks for itself. Here are the videos he shared during his presentation.
The next talk , I attended was “Getting Smart on Fashion” by Sarah Hermez who is the founder of Creative Space Beirut. This was such an inspiring talk for me, because I keep telling myself I want to do something; I want to start my own project, or my own brand. Her dream was to connect fashion with social justice, by setting up a free fashion school, of course as 24-year-old girl it was not easy, but with hard work and a great mentor, designer, Caroline Simonelli, she got support and made it happen. What I got from this talk is that if you have an idea that you believe in, you need to plan, be persistent and not be afraid to ask for help from someone who has experience and credibility, if it is a good project you can find support and do it.
Moreover, she mentioned how fashion education is so expensive now that it has become something that can pursued only by the privileged and she wanted to break that. I also liked the way she described the way the curriculum is set up, in a way that you get to work on all the steps together as you would in a professional space. As a Master of Communication graduate, I think that is something missing in today’s schools, you learn the theory and then you practice that part of theory, but you don’t connect it with the overall process. If I find a video of this talk online, I will share it, because I think it is amazing to hear her talk about her journey with such great passion and enthusiasm.
Another talk I attended was “Data is the new black” with Acile Sleiman who is the Industry Head of Retail, e-Commerce & Online Services at Google, she also had a very interesting presentation, about how companies can use data. She mentioned that findings showed that we spend approximately 8 and half hours on our phones, which is more than most of us sleep.
I actually found an application few weeks back that lets you track how much time you spend on your phone and the findings are true, I found that I spend 5-8 hours every day looking at my phone. The name of the app is “Moment” and it has a flower logo if anyone wants to try.
Another points that I found interesting were that the audience for digital in the Middle East is growing fast, most people consume content from their mobile, and the most popular platform is YouTube. Personally, I would have guessed Instagram to be the most popular platform as I don’t use YouTube on everyday basis, but data proves otherwise.
Acile Sleiman also mentioned that, she would not suggest small brands to develop mobile applications, because most people keep only the most important Apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on their phone, and you don’t want your consumers to download the App and then delete it later. Take out from this is, to prioritize creating content for mobile and create more video content.
Moreover, she gave an interesting example of how a father figured out his daughter was pregnant, when she was shown an Ad that was related to pregnancy, shown to her because of what she was searching. I was also astounded by the cues that data analysts look at, for example if you start buying unscented creams, there is a higher possibility that you are pregnant. This is the article I found on Forbes about the topic:
Now, despite the possible vulnerabilities, data can be useful for both consumers and companies. I loved the other example Acile gave about how L’oreal used search data to launch a new product, the thinking process behind it is incredible. Here is the link:
Acile also mentioned that if you want to be successful in today’s fast paced world, you must not be afraid of change, because new technologies are introduced continuously, and you need to be able to predict trends and act fast. Some of the new technologies she mentioned were; 3D printing of products at home, Augmented Reality used by IKEA or Virtual Reality used by Google with their Tilt Brush.
In addition to this, I found this article few days back about a “hyper-reality” game experience that you can now have in JBR in Dubai. I think it is definitely something worth checking out! Here is the link:
The last talk I attended was also very inspiring. The title was “Building a Brand That Lasts: The Azza Fahmy Story” with the Head designer of Azza Fahmy Jewelry, Amina Ghali who is also the daughter of the founder Azza Fahmy. Amina spoke about her journey of becoming a part of the company and it was intriguing to listen. I loved the story behind the necklace she was wearing, it made me rethink the way I think about brands. You can find a photo of it on their website, here is the link:
During the talk, she explained the process behind creating it, the fact that it took 10 years to make, including research (in temples with Egyptologists), design, production, execution etc. and the number of people that worked on creating such an exceptional piece. This brings me back to what Mansoor Mannbutte said about their work, when people come to them saying we want to work with you, but we don’t have the budget. To make a video it takes a lot of time and a lot of people and many of us don’t realize that.
Some of the lessons I learnt from this talk are; to follow your dream, no matter what others tell you and to think firstly about your passion and not about the money, because money will come if you love what you do and if you work hard. She also spoke about the misconception people have about a daughter coming into an established family business, the fact that she started at the bottom and worked her way up just like anyone else would. She also mentioned that their work environment is closer to a tree structure, rather than a pyramid, which means that you have different parts of the tree and different branches, but each branch is equally important.
Moreover, she mentioned the importance of working with people that have the same passion, so for example when choosing influencers, you need to find influencers that are right for your brand, because people will notice If the collaboration is paid and not genuine. Another thing she mentioned was to get inspiration from anything and everything, that is when you can make a product that is truly unique, and to be a continuous learner because there is always more you can learn, it never stops.
Lastly, she mentioned a sustainability project they are working on of designing solar panels that are beautiful and can transform the landscape in a beautiful way. Here is a link I found:
Lesson learnt: Find your passion, plan and make it happen. Be prepared to fail, to be discouraged and rejected. Great things take time and a lot of effort, but nothing is impossible.
I think it’s amazing how much you can learn from other people and their success. If anyone has an interesting talk, they can share with me please share it in the comments.
This was all I wanted to share about the talks and I did not even start about the amazing runway shows and presentations! Guess, you must wait for my next post! 🙂
I promised before that if I find the talks I will share them so here they are.