The event Fashion Week – Paris to Manama is in its third season. We had a comprehensive chat about it with the creative minds behind this successful initiative, Camille Toussaint, Linguistic, Educational and Cultural Affairs Attaché/ Cooperation and Cultural Action Service at the French Embassy in Bahrain and Nadia Mbarek, Head of Events and Protocol at the French Embassy in Bahrain.
OHLALA – What is the Fashion Week – Paris to Manama?
Camille Toussaint – Fashion Week – Paris to Manama is an initiative of the Cooperation and Cultural Action Service of the French Embassy in Bahrain. This cooperation in the field of fashion between the Kingdom of Bahrain and France aims to shed light on talented emerging Bahraini designers through French expertise and guidance.
Nadia Mbarek – The French Embassy organised the first edition in 2021, in collaboration with the Royal University for Women, especially with the Bachelor of Arts – Fashion Design students. The week culminated with a fashion show, which took place at the university with eight designers presenting their work. The following year, since the success of the first edition, the interest and demand from the public and participants increased and the Embassy decided to expand the experience, opening the call to everyone, increasing the number of designers up to 13 and offering a big fashion show by the waterfront of the National Theatre. This year, the expectations and challenges are even higher, and the Embassy aims to consolidate relations in the field of fashion between both countries.
OHLALA – Why was fashion the chosen platform to connect France and Bahrain?
Camille – Since 2021, one of the target audiences of the Cooperation and Cultural Action Service of the French Embassy in Bahrain is the Bahraini youth. During the last few years, we have cooperated with local entities to implement innovative programmes and projects, especially in the fields of cultural and creative industries. One of the priorities of the French vision is to contribute to the international development and growth of the talented Bahraini youth.
Nadia – And due to the high potential of the emerging designers in Bahrain and the renowned French expertise in this industry, fashion became a natural platform to connect France and Bahrain. Further to the first edition, the Embassy realised that the Bahrain fashion industry had high potential. However, it still needed support regarding education, practice, savoir-faire, sourcing, etc. As France is well known for its fashion influence worldwide, the Embassy implemented this programme to bring expertise and international exposure to this talented Bahraini market.
OHLALA – How was this concept created and why? What is its main purpose?
Camille – The Fashion Week – Paris to Manama is composed of a contest of designers and a week dedicated to the fashion industry and networking. Regarding the contest, the main purpose is to guide, for several months, about 15 selected emerging designers of Bahrain through local, regional and international experts.
Nadia – During this period, they will create and showcase a capsule collection of five to six pieces and a masterpiece under a specific theme. Then, designers will present their work to an international jury that will award the best designers for their potential and talent. Camille – I want to add that this summer, three of the five winners of the last edition will be in Paris to follow a programme at the Institut Français de la Mode, one of the biggest institutions in the field.
OHLALA – Can you tell us what to expect in this third edition of the event?
Nadia – The Embassy expects that this third edition will be even bigger, with more participants, attendants and events. There will also be a customised mentorship programme with renowned experts, from branding and sketching to styling. This year the fashion show will happen on October 26 and will offer once again a different and unique experience to all the designers and guests.
Camille – The week itself, which will take place from October 22 to 26, will be composed of fashion shows, workshops, conferences, inspiring talks and masterclasses, amongst others. The main objective is to consolidate this cooperation between Bahrain and France through international networking and exposure with the presence of French and international experts, especially from the GCC and France. Moreover, the Embassy seeks to bring a high-quality French savoir-faire to the market by linking the French partner, the Institut Français de la Mode, in Paris, with an organisation in Bahrain.
OHLALA – What is something new to this edition that you didn’t have in the previous events?
Nadia – This year, the Embassy decided to dedicate one entire day to the designers of the last two editions and connect them with this edition’s participants and experts. It will be a unique opportunity for them to display their work, present their development, participate in workshops, talks and conferences and meet new experts and actors in the fashion scene.
Camille – Further to the success of the two last editions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France is following closely this innovative concept of ‘French expertise to a local market’ and is supporting this cooperation by providing high-profile experts from France. This will bring regional and international exposure to the Bahraini market.
OHLALA – What is the main aspect of this project that you are very proud of ?
Camille – This project is fascinating because we realise, year after year, that it makes sense for everyone, governmental institution, university, training centre, small or big enterprise, involved to be a part of this unique project. Participants, organisers, sponsors, partners and the international public are all waiting for what has become one of the year’s most prominent fashion events.
Nadia – This project was born according to the needs and expectations of the fashion industry in Bahrain, and I am very proud as a member of the team, to see how this programme contributes to and completes the potential Bahrain already has. It makes me proud to see and follow these talented designers developing their brands, some of them from scratch, starting their own businesses, selling in the region after the programme, renewing their brands, and so much more.
OHLALA – What do you like most about Bahrain?
Camille – I really appreciate Bahrain’s diversity in terms of cultures, religions, backgrounds and languages. This offers Bahrain an international and multicultural environment, which is an incredible richness for the growth and development of the Bahraini youth. However, despite this melting pot of cultures, Bahrain has successfully preserved its own culture and traditions.
Nadia – Bahrain might be small, but it is a grand country offering a cosmopolitan lifestyle with its diversity and hospitality. It is rich in its heritage, culture, tradition, arts and cuisine. I believe that has helped the designers to boost their creativity and makes them open to the world!