If the shoe fits…

It all started one unsuspecting Thursday night at Barasti, enjoying some cocktails under the stars and engaging in some blatant people-watching. An attractive girl in her 20s walks past in a dress I spotted earlier in a high street store. Another cocktail, meet an old friend, grimace over the DJ’s choice of muzak, some more people-watching, oh! What do I spot? Another attractive girl wearing the exact same dress. Shock! Horror! If this was the Oscar’s there would be a cat-fight right about now. As the night progressed into the early hours, friends were made and more people were watched, I counted six girls wearing the incriminating dress from the affordable high-street store. Six! And lest the dear reader wonder if perhaps I was suffering from double-vision thanks to those cocktails, let it be known, the strongest ingredient in there was some sharp Pineapple juice. Six young attractive girls wearing a block-printed, slinky jersey dress from High Street Store du jour. I was appalled! Don’t think I’m a high-street snob either, I found it equally infuriating when a couple of seasons ago a certain identical version of the Louis Vuitton speedy was spotted on multiple arms of fashionistas all over Mall of the Emirates. Where has all the creativity gone?

It made me think about fashion in Dubai on a deeper level. Cities like London, Milan, Paris and Tokyo are heralded as much for their designer togs as they are for the avant-garde individualism represented by young people in their ‘street’ togs. The advent and unbridled popularity of blogs like ‘The cool Hunter’ have represented that the fashion-conscious aren’t just interested with what the couturiers are creating. Fashion is intensely and increasingly influenced in a down-up manner. With the Punk and Mod movement in the 60s hitting London, designers like Vivienne Westwood claimed with great authority that Punk was all about the people. Her collections were as much about young fashion students ripping their jeans and wearing knuckle-dusters as jewellery as her mind’s own creative ministrations. With it’s newly launched fashion week, multitudes of designer boutiques and fast-fashion troves where does Dubai’s burgeoning fashion scene stand in terms of a defined street style?

If the episode at Barasti is anything to go by, Dubai’s street style may have a long way to go. Asking several fashion friends in the know they all lament over Dubai’s lack of originality. “Everywhere I go I see people following trends, I hardly ever see anyone starting a trend or following a path less beaten to inspire a trend”, says Natalie Robehmed, “When I visit London I may see many girls wearing exactly what style.com says is ‘in’ for the season, but I also get to experience some innovation and creativity, people stepping outside the box”

From the ornate Harajuku girls of Tokyo, to the ethnic beauties of Mumbai, the well-coiffed Parisians to the eclectic East Londoners, the beachy keen babes of Miami to the head-to-toe black New Yorkers, every city has their signature style that doesn’t just take its inspiration from trends but also works of practicality and circumstantial conveniences. Taking inspiration from history, culture and making sure to keep the weatherman’s warnings in mind, a street style is derived by a need to experiment with one’s look, be creative and not worry about breaking or making fashion rules. Taking the plunge into the unknown can be intimidating but it sure beats having the same dress and the same pair of shoes and the same handbag as your equally fashionable friend.

Though perhaps we fashion-cynics are being a little harsh. Dubai is a pretty young Emirate and it does show some evidence of having particular aspects to its fashion personality that can be deemed quintessentially Dubai. Stalk a neighbourhood mall and aside from the perfectly trendy, you’ll soon notice a few quirks that make Dubai’s street style an emerging persona. O.T.T Swarovski crystals, glitzy stilettos, a little bit of leopard skin here, a few beachy-keen summer dresses there, lots of sheer black Abayas, the most bling version of designer Sunglasses one can lay their hands on, super-sized leather totes in loud colours…you may have to squint and look hard, but a gleaming street style is just waiting to emerge. Perhaps it’s a beacon of hope for those waiting patiently for a fashion revolution here in Dubai, but there is hope.

So it all rests on you. Stop going for the tried-and-tested, take a chance! If your heart tells you you’d love to wear a pair of wellingtons under an abaya, go crazy! Feel like ditching your trustworthy little black dress combo? Wear your mum’s old wedding dress and accessorize with a smile- you could well be the mascot for Dubai’s street style revolution.

A very important person once told me he believed every city was a shoe. If East London is a pair of re-issued patent leather Doctor Martens, Paris is a pair of smart, Prada loafers and Mumbai is a pair of Kohlapuri ‘Chapals’, what would Dubai’s shoe alter-ego be? The truth is the shoe would probably be a particularly glitzy pair of heels, decadent, luxurious, hella expensive and just a little bit too much.

As is trend around these neighbourhoods, a quote:

“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.” – Oscar Wilde

May the Doc Martens, Prada loafers and Kohlapuri chapals be with you,

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