It was a stellar year for the region as Arabia made headlines across the world courtesy of the achievements of a special few. Be it in the fashion industry or automotive, film or sport, these are the elite group of individuals with roots in the region that have put the global spotlight on the Middle East in 2016 and are emerging into 2017 with a fierce focus of their own...
2016 was a breakout year for Saudi filmmaker Mahmoud Sabbagh as his cinematic project Barakah Meets Barakah, Saudi's first ever romantic comedy, earned both plaudits and awards. After earning the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the Berlin International Film Festival, the film was then submitted as a nominee for the 2017 Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, only the second such nomination from the Kingdom after 2013's Wadjda.
Renowned Iranian director Asghar Farhadi added to his Oscar win with another award: Best Screenplay for Forushande (The Salesman) at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. One of the best cinematic stories out of Iran, the film puts the focus on a young couple who, in search of a new home, find their lives changed forever after an attack led to a thirst for revenge. Farhadi is one to watch in 2017.
One of the most coveted spots in fashion was finally filled this year and by none other than Bouchra Jarrar. The 45 year-old French couture designer of Moroccan descent was announced as the new Artistic Director of Lanvin, a spot vacated by Alber Elbaz in October last year. "It is a huge honour to continue promoting the Lanvin style, with designs created in the company's ateliers by teams who possess extraordinary expertise," she said. "Joining Lanvin meets my desire to expand my creation to wider fields of expression. It is my intention to bring to Lanvin the harmony and consistency of a fashion designed for women, a fashion of our time".
After winning The Fashion Prize late last year, Lebanese designer Hussein Bazaza is on the fast trajectory to fashion stardom. In 2016, his cause was boosted by the launch of a womenswear capsule collection on Farfetch. A continuation of his Spring/Summer '16 collection, Mithra, the exclusive line is dominated by geometric shapes, laces as well as a muted colour palette making Bazaza an emerging designer to note in 2017.
The Chairwoman of the Islamic Fashion and Design Council (IFDC) made several headlines in fashion circles in 2016, most recently with the announcement of a partnership with Farfetch on a special modest-wear section. Earlier in the year, Khan was also part of a panel of illustrious fashion bigwigs at Arab Luxury World and spoke about the shift towards Islamic fashion. Speaking about the new direction Khan said: "Domenico Dolce saw it as a business opportunity. He studied the market and understood that there is a Muslim clientele that has certain parametres that they simply cannot break. What you will see now is a movement for more fashionable styles and looks in order to express their personality more."
Rami Ali celebrated his tenth season at Haute Couture Fashion Week in Paris last July with a Fall/Winter '16 collection that screamed '50s glamour, complete with billowing silhouettes and cinched waists. The mosaic-inspired 20-piece collection was presented in an intimate setting at the stunning Hotel d'Evreux. Watch the Fall/Winter '16 Couture show now...
Zeinab Al Hashemi
It was a fitting Dubai Design Week debut for Swarovski as it partnered with prominent Emirati artist Zeinab Al Hashemi for a kalediscopic work titled Hexalite. One of the highlights of the design fair, was created using 33 hexagonal mirrored-steel frames and 1,145 Swarovski crystals, the sculpture was a stunning play of light and perception and thrusted Al Hashemi into the spotlight. "There is a lot of illusion in my works, which gives you one part of the truth and the rest of it is a possibility," said Al Hashemi.
Mohammed Kazem became the first Emirati to be selected for the prestigious Rolls-Royce Art Programme. This also marks the first time that Kazem was credited with creating a metal-based sculptural work that became the inspiration for an exclusive bespoke Rolls-Royce vehicle. "As an artist a big part of my work is finding the right inspiration that can develop into an artistic expression, and Rolls-Royce is a brand that is full of inspiration from its rich heritage to the Bespoke craftsmanship throughout its build process," said Kazem.
Iraqi Zaina El-Said, one of Emergeast's celebrated artists, was further propelled into international limelight in 2016 when the Four Seasons Hotel Moscow hosted a solo exhibition of her masterpieces as part of its Supperclub project, a platform for global artists. The event showcased El-Said's unique digital and collage techniques in creating dream-like images and offered an insight into her regional inspirations.
The Egyptian flag was raised for a third time at the 2016 Rio Olympics thanks to Hedaya Malak. Going into the year's biggest sporting event as reigning African champion, Malak climbed the international rankings ladder after winning bronze in taekwondo, a win secured in the fourth round by the golden kick.
Also don't miss, Buro 24/7 Middle East's roundup of 2016's biggest fashion moments.