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Creative Circle Symposium, 3 November, 2014, A4 Space by Alserkal Avenue, Dubai

Creative Circle Symposium Speaker’s Biographies

Araz Fazaeli, Designer and Fashion Blogger, The Tehran Times, left Iran at the age of twelve and continued his high school education in Vancouver and later Geneva. During what was supposed to be a gap year at the age of eighteen, he found himself quite inspired by his journey back to Iran and created a collection of sophisticated, modern manteaus, which was a huge success amidst the Tehran elite. He enrolled at Parson’s Paris in 2008, and ultimately received his diploma Stylist/Designer from Esmod Paris in 2012. The Tehran Times quickly became a cultural phenomenon inside Iran and was enthusiastically received and featured by the Western press because of its fresh point of view. The tremendous success of The Tehran Times has not distracted Araz from pursuing his career as a designer; he is currently putting the final touches on his second collection. The Tehran Times has been featured in numerous publications such as Grazia (England, Germany, India and France), Elle Magazine, Die Welt, Marie Claire, National Geographic, Elite Daily, Style.com/Arabia, 5election, Your Middle East, The Huffington Post and The Guardian, where it has become one of the publication’s featured city blogs.

Asil Attar, CEO of Lead Associates and founder of EST2014 uses her 20 years of industry expertise, global network and reputation of excellence in the Middle East, Europe and US to advice businesses on the multiple disciplines of the fashion retail sector, including strategic leadership, creative brand building, commercial retailing and brand equity relations. Her reputation for identifying designer talent, investing in the future of fashion and changing the retail landscape in the Middle East by bringing iconic brands to the region such as Abercrombie & Fitch has positioned her as one of the top 100 most powerful Arab women by Arabian Business magazine. Originally from the Middle East, Attar truly believes that the rich culture and heritage is the home of new talent. She is also the founder of the EST2014 (Established 2014) a business designed to scout the premier emerging fashion designers in the Middle East and beyond, with a vision to empower a new generation of designers, innovate and lead the future of the industry. Attar also launched her own brand, ‘Cupcakes for breakfast’ in 2014 that represents her years of luxury experience and appreciation of all things beautiful. Asil Attar is an advocate of CSR and believes ethical and social responsibility is at the forefront of any business and that for a human being to have self-respect and dignity they must endeavour to make a difference to people lives.

Ayesha Mustafa, Founder, Fashion ComPassion, holds her undergraduate degree in Economics and Politics from Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts U.S.A and her Masters in Mass Media and Communications from City University, London. She has worked as a Retail Marketing Manager for Pepsi UK for three years. However, her internship for the Grameen Check in Bangladesh at the age of 16 has determined the course of her career later on in life. The experience left her determined to provide a platform for marginalized communities’ worldwide creating fashionable goods that revived lost crafts while mixing it with a modern design sensibility, and in the process creating livelihoods and enriching communities. Mustafa now partners with over 15 socially responsible brands from all over the world, and works closely with their founders to create new and exciting products. These products have received acclaim from leading fashion publications, such as British Vogue, Vogue.Com, Vogue Italia, Marie Claire Spain, Observer Magazine, Grazia and many more. Numerous celebrities like Livia Firth, Lily Cole, Eva Longoria, Anne Hathaway have worn items that she retails. These exquisite collections are stocked by high end retailers like Bloomingdales and S*uce and the British Museum in London.

Bong Guerrero, Founder & CEO, Fashion Forward, has been at the forefront of the Fashion and Events landscape in Dubai and the Middle East for more than 23 years. He was heavily involved in the pioneering year of the fashion industry in the region, producing the first catwalk presentations of many of the established regional designers we know today. Alongside this, for the past fifteen years he has produced some of Dubai’s most iconic events for a range of top‐tier corporate clients, and in 2009 established the live marketing agency brag. He has conceptualised and delivered some of the largest and most anticipated fashion productions in the Middle East. Bong’s wealth of regional experience and love of both fashion and events culminated in April 2013 with the founding of Fashion Forward (FFWD). With solid support from his partners and formidable team, Bong launched FFWD as the region’s definitive fashion platform. The bi‐annual event offers established and emerging designers from or based in the Middle East a unifying platform upon which to showcase their collections twice a year, complemented by a developmental programme of panels, presentations, and networking events.

Effa Al Dabbagh, Founder & Designer, Effa Fashion, is a Saudi national who is based in Dubai. Having graduated with a BA (hons) degree in Fashion from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design in Epsom, United Kingdom, she began her career working as a brand manager and fashion buyer. Her role gave her invaluable experience with internationally acclaimed brands such as Christian Lacroix, Emmanuel Ungaro, Valentino and John Galliano. Through her work as a professional fashion buyer, Effa was motivated to design a luxury Ready to Wear and Abaya line that would satisfy the demands and tastes of the modern, trendy customer in the Middle East. In 2006, Effa launched her first prêt-a-porter collection, and in spring 2007, the EFFA ‘Abaya Couture’ collection was launched. By summer 2011, Effa launched her first lavish boutique in Dubai, UAE.
The Effa ‘Abaya Couture’ line is designed for the independent, active and modern woman that wants her Abaya to reflect her personality whilst keeping her cultural identity. Coined by some as the ‘little black dress’ of the Middle East, her designs are a successful combination of carefully selected colors, special luxurious fabrics, and clever cuts and techniques aiming to enhance and compliment the female form.

Professor Frances Corner OBE is Head of London College of Fashion and Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London. She has over 20 years’ experience within the higher education sector at a national and international level. Named a London Leader for Sustainability in 2009, Frances champions the use of fashion as an agent for innovation and change, particularly in the areas of sustainability, health and well-being. She plays an active role in advising stakeholders on the future of the fashion industry and the role that higher education can play in the development and support of the creative industries. She sits on the British Fashion Council Advisory Board, is Chair of the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes and a Trustee of The Wallace Collection. She holds a DPhil from Oxford, publishes widely on art and design education and has recently published her first book, Why Fashion Matters, published by Thames and Hudson, (2014).

Mohamed Khafagi, Designer and Director, SAWA Fashion School, is an Egyptian Fashion designer best known as the founder of MOJA Khafagi Design Studio and Fashion Instructor. Mohamed Khafagi was born in Cairo, Egypt, in 1982,  and studied fashion and jellewery design from a young age, completed his Masters and started his own line in Cairo in 2011. He is also a visual artist. Mohamed is one of the favourite Young Fashion designers of the Egypt’s best-dressed women, including TV hosts, famous artists, and Miss Egypt.

Nawal Slemiah, Founder & Director, Women of Hebron, studied English in Palestine. In 2005 she began selling handcrafted accessories in the Hebron market that soon turned into a non-profit Fairtrade cooperative, Women of Hebron. The collective of more than 120 women, employs the traditional Palestinian embroidery to produce handbags, purses, scarves and cushions. This income for the women of neighbouring villages and communities often acts as the only means of survival for their families. Their three shops in the Old City market of Hebron is the only female-run space and Women of Hebron is part of the Idna Cooperative Association for Embroidery and Handicrafts. The small centre located in the city of Idna is a gathering point for members of the association to work, educate and network.

Nez Gebreel, CEO, Dubai Design and Fashion Council

Nina Mahdavi, Founder, Caspian Arts Foundation, and established the foundation in 2011. The main intention is focused on supporting Education in the Creative Sector in the Middle East through awarding scholarships to young talents within the region to further their degrees in Visual Art, as well as raising awareness around the need for Universities and Schools within the region to increase the availability students have to the art & humanities as a form of education. The Foundation also supports platforms that advance knowledge in the Arts and Education to a wider audience through both public and educational programme in London as well as the Middle East.

Omar Joseph Naseer-Khoury, Birzeit University Palestine and Design in Context Program, Bethlehem, Palestine (DHIP / FTI / KADK), is a Palestinian designer from Al-Quds and Birzeit, unglamorously and nomadically living in Palestine and working between Al Quds, London and Beirut. An alumnus of London College of Fashion, he is currently on the MA Social Anthropology course at Goldsmiths College in London. His first collection, Silk Thread Martyrs, was debuted in London in 2011 at the Mosaic Rooms Gallery. Consequently, a garment from that collection was acquired by the British Museum – supposedly its first ever fashion acquisition. He has since worked on several research, training and design projects pertinent to dress, sexuality, politics, craft and fashion, namely the projects Beyond Æsthetics with Birzeit University Museum (2011-2012), Design in Context with the Danish House in Palestine and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (2012-2014), and independently on the The Ceremonial Vniform (2012-2014). Omarivs Ioseph Filivs Dinæ is imaginative Latin for Omar Joseph son of Dina.

Rabia Zargarpur, Creative Director & Founder, RabiaZ., is a business graduate from University of Phoenix and Nassau Community College NYC and studied fashion at F.I.T New York and Esmod.  Rabia Z. was born-a brand that deemed ‘modesty is always in style’. Designed to create solutions for women who want to be moderate yet modern, Rabia benchmarked the concept of ‘conservative chic’, becoming the first brand to produce prêt-a-couture ranges catering to niche needs of the ever evolving Islamic-wear market. Constantly innovating, Rabia is also working to develop a temperature controlled line for women suffering the heat of Arabia & Africa. Her high street label RUBY was launched in 2009; Ruby 4 Aspire is her high performance sportswear range that celebrates Arab Sports women, currently on display at ASPIRE, Doha, and Sheyla Salon. Rabia is respected as the voice of the modern Arab Woman as she addresses issues of emerging cultural identities for modern Muslims. Creating economical sustainability, she networked with prominent Gulf and Scandinavia businesswomen at WSG and seeks to contribute by sharing her learning of global-local solutions on different platforms.  Trail blazing, she won The Emerging Designer Award for her debut collection in October 2007 at Dubai Fashion Week, Rabia went on to win the British Council’s International Young Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 Award. Hoping to inspire young women entrepreneurs, Rabia has gladly given speeches at TEDx Youth and TEDx Sharjah, Columbia University’s Barnard College 2010, 5th and 9th World Islamic Economic Forum’s Young Leaders Forum amongst others.

Reina Lewis, Artscom Centenary Professor of Cultural Studies, London College of Fashion University of the Arts London, will have her new book Muslim Fashion: Commerce, Commentary, Community, published by Duke University Press, in 2015. She is also the author of Rethinking Orientalism: Women, Travel, the Ottoman Harem, (2004), and Gendering Orientalism: Race, Femininity and Representation (1996). She is editor of Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith, (2013), and with Nancy Micklewright, of Gender, Modernity and Liberty: Middle Eastern and Western Women’s Writings: A Critical Reader (2006), with Sara Mills, of Feminist Postcolonial Theory: A Reader (2003), and, with Peter Horne, of Outlooks: Lesbian and Gay Visual Cultures (1996). Reina Lewis is also editor with Elizabeth Wilson of the book series Dress Cultures, and with Teresa Heffernan of the book series Cultures in Dialogue.

Soniya Kirpalani, Socio-Cultural Activist and Film Director, DoBuy is an internationally acclaimed and awarded film-maker and journalist, known as ‘Crusader with a Camera’ and is considered one of the Top 25 Trend Setters from South Asia & Middle East. Winning 14 National / International awards, 32 Nominations including prestigious MipDoc Cannes, Good Pitch, Sundance, Soniya’s practice was acknowledged the most Ethical Media Company award by EFF UK. Developing her CSR SAME based on a burning issue Why does South Asia & Middle East fuel global retail but does not have a single brand of its own? Soniya launched a division to research and report on the urgency of fostering creative economies across the region. Witnessing how isolated Muslim women are in an increasingly globalized and discriminatory world, Soniya launched The Veiled Issue, to reveal the Modern Face of Moderate Muslims. Early 2014 Soniya launched SAME Education and interactive education initiative, aimed at seamlessly delivering interactive literacy solutions across all media aimed for regional designers and craftspeople. This concept won a Cherie Blair mentorship and Open EU Challenge Selection while still at the developmental stage. Soniya’s socially conscious projects are directed at highlighting the wealth of culture and potential of creativity, simultaneously stirring dialogues and debates within the design industry, governments and creative communities and ultimately to promote positive change, peace and prosperity.  She was twice nominated for British Council’s Creative Leadership Initiative. Her films DoBuy and 17 NRI have stirred advocacy and policy change.

Tala Hajjar, Founder, STARCH Foundation, completed her Fashion Design and Marketing studies between London, Paris and Beirut. Tala Hajjar has experience of working as PR and Marketing Manager between Egypt and Lebanon in various fashion and jewellery houses. Co-founded with designer Rabih Kayrouz, she now leads the STARCH foundation, a non- profit organization that helps launch Lebanese emerging designers.