This third edition of ‘Azyame’, the flagship fashion entrepreneurship programme by Irthi Contemporary Craft Council (Irthi), an affiliate of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), in partnership with London College of Fashion, kicked off recently with the aim of supporting the next generation of Emirati women fashion designers.
The 10 participants selected to take part in the third edition include Maitha Hamdan, founder of ‘Decencia’, for modest travel wear; Aysha Salem, who will be launching her label by the end of the programme; Shoug Fardan, founder of eponymous art-inspired brand ‘SHOUG’; Fatma Alawi, founder of ‘Mzyan’ for exquisite Moroccan kaftans; Ayesha Al Mheiri, founder of ‘OSH Collection’; Badria Salim, founder of ‘Abdar Jewelry’; Sara Almulla, founder and CEO of ‘Piece of Heart Jewellery’; Moza Al Mazrou, founder of ‘Moza Al Mazrou’; Sara Al Bedwawi, founder of ‘By Live Designs’; and Wafa Balaswad, founder of eponymous label ‘Wafa Balaswad’.
The programme kicked off with an intensive three-day workshop, titled ‘Developing your fashion business’. The workshop shed light on the basics of brand strategy and DNA, defining quality and point of difference, sustainability, working with artisans, and setting business objectives.
Designers also learned how to define tone of voice and corporate identity, customer profiling, marketing, identifying their business strengths and weaknesses and identifying brand positioning and pricing.
The third edition of Azyame is being delivered by the founder and director of TNM Consultancy Ltd, Toby Meadows, who is also a visiting lecturer at the London College of Fashion. Meadows also leads award-winning London-based cult women’s wear designer label ‘Belle & Bunty’, and is the author of the bestselling ‘How to Set up & Run a Fashion Label’, which has been translated into nine languages.
Reem BinKaram, Director of NAMA, said “As part of our commitment to promoting ethical and sustainable practices in the crafts sector, the programme will offer its participants guidance on developing their label using a sustainable approach that can be applied through all stages of work, from research to design, sampling and production.”
She added “For this edition, designers will be required to incorporate into their collections the traditional craft of Talli, that is produced by Irthi’s artisans through its Bidwa Social Development Programme. Designers will be able to work directly with artisans, many of them for the first time. It is part of Irthi’s commitment to building a fully-integrated and sustainable supply chain among its programmes in pursuit of our mission to support capacity-building and self-employment for women, especially in the crafts sector.”
BinKaram continued “We want to support women fashion entrepreneurs to build unique, sustainable, and socially responsible businesses, and at the same time marry traditional crafts and modern ambitions of fashion into one dynamic ecosystem, creating an authentic genre of crafts-inspired and woman-led fashion in the UAE.”
For his part, Toby Meadows said “I am very excited to be back in Sharjah working on the Azyame Entrepreneurship programme once again. This year we have another batch of 10 exciting local designers all looking to develop their businesses and take them to the next level.”
He added “The first session was incredibly productive, and it was great to have such an engaged and creative cohort who threw themselves into the workshop wholeheartedly. It bodes well for the rest of the programme that we have some really interesting brand concepts that are backed up by founders who are both driven and focused on obtaining their objectives.”
The programme includes basic training for participants in business model innovation, as well as development of entrepreneurial skills, but most importantly, the focus will be on ethical and sustainable practices in the fashion industry. It will also give participants an opportunity to interact with experts in branding, public relations, sales and marketing.