Fashion / Lifestyle

UAE Art & Fashion: A Cosmopolitan Mix

Last weekend I was among the lucky visitors to the brand-new Louvre Abu Dhabi — a futuristic museum designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and the hottest new arrival on the global art scene.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Photo courtesy Mohamed Somji.

The museum’s concept is to show humanity in a new light, highlighting the commonalities across civilizations, cultures and religions.

The crowd shuffling through the museum’s 12 halls was just as cosmopolitan: in addition to Arabic and English, I could overhear French, Italian, German, Chinese, Russian and Dutch.

Such cultural mix is, of course, commonplace in the UAE—one of the world’s busiest transport hubs, a shopping mecca and a leading importer of talent from chefs to executives and even an odd fashion designer.

Meanwhile, the fashion industry has been making overtures to the Middle East—from hijab chic to the infamous ‘burkini’. But somehow the UAE’s cosmopolitan spirit has yet to translate into a distinct fashion statement—much less a sustainable one.

My research on local sustainable fashion brands yielded poor results. One notable exception is Unwasted Abu Dhabi, which offers upcycled denim jackets and multifunctional skirts-cum-tops as a response to the conspicuous and excessive consumption one associates with the region.

Upcycled denim jacket by Unwasted Abu Dhabi.

And yet the times may be a-changin’: sustainability has been climbing the emirate’s agenda and oil-rich Abu Dhabi even hosts the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

As we move closer to a post-oil, smart-energy world, let’s hope that fashion will follow suit in weaning its own dependence on fossil fuels — in the UAE and beyond.

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