Our Exclusive Interview With Shirene Rifai The CEO and Founder of Jordan Fashion Week
At CIIN we couldn’t help but feel a sense of excitement when we heard about the participation of Jordanian designers at the Egypt Fashion Week (EFW). It was Egypt’s runway extravaganza debut with a running theme of “The Present, Past, and Future.” Jordan partook in Egypt’s entry with a curated collection “Jordan in Our Eyes,” that brought together a unique blend of modern sustainable, and traditional designs from some of the most talented Jordanian designers.
Shirene Rifai, the CEO and Founder of Jordan Fashion Week (JFW) also joined one of the panel discussions. Where the fashion experts explored the vital role of fashion councils and support systems in elevating designers’ careers and facilitating their success in the fashion industry.
We managed to talk with Shirene and were able to get a glimpse into her role in founding JFW and her vision for Jordan’s fashion industry.
Can you tell us about your background and how you got started in the fashion industry?
My journey in the fashion industry has been an incredible one, spanning over 19 years. It all started with my innate interest in media and fashion, which led me to dive into this dynamic world. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working as a luxury consultant and influencer, collaborating with brands such as Chopard and Bulgari in addition to sharing my insights through various media channels.
One of the highlights of my journey has been launching six successful publications in Jordan and Lebanon, where I aimed to inspire and bring a touch of elegance to the high-end fashion scene in the Levant. I’ve had the pleasure of curating re-branding and growth strategies for renowned brands in the Jordanian market, helping them thrive and connect with their audiences.
Being recognized as one of the Top 20 Best Instagram Fashion Accounts in the Middle East has been truly humbling. It has allowed me to engage with a wider community of fashion enthusiasts and share my love for style and creativity. Additionally, my role as a board member and advisor at DEZAIN Space has allowed me to support emerging Jordanian designers and be part of their journey toward success.
However, my most recent and cherished endeavor is Jordan Fashion Week (JFW). With JFW, our mission is to strengthen the influence of local fashion in the Jordanian economy. I’m proud to lead a team that is dedicated to building an inclusive ecosystem, empowering designers, manufacturers, marketing executives, public relations specialists, and textile traders alike.
What inspired you to create Jordan Fashion Week (JFW)?
The inspiration behind the creation of JFW stems from a deep-rooted desire to empower local talents and elevate Jordan’s presence in the global fashion industry. Witnessing the underrepresentation and limited support given to the remarkable pool of creative minds in Jordan sparked a realization that something needed to change.
As someone with a profound passion for fashion, the kind that transcends borders and resonates on a global scale, it became evident to me that Jordanian designers deserved a platform to showcase their talents to the world. The question of why our talented individuals weren’t given the exposure they deserved and why the world wasn’t aware of the creativity flourishing within our borders lingered in my mind.
Driven by a vision of inclusivity, empowerment, and economic growth, the concept of JFW took shape. It is a platform that goes beyond the ordinary, seeking to make a significant impact on local talents while addressing economic challenges and supporting tourism. By providing a stage for Jordanian designers to expand their reach globally, JFW aims to position Jordan as a prominent player in the fashion industry.
In essence, the journey of Jordan Fashion Week began with a fervent belief in the immense potential of our local talents and a burning desire to showcase their creativity to the outer world. It is an endeavor that merges fashion, economic development, and cultural exchange, aiming to foster a thriving fashion ecosystem that celebrates Jordan’s unique artistic voice.
What is the goal of JFW?
The goal of JFW is to create a dynamic and influential platform that celebrates the creative brilliance, talent, and cultural richness of Jordan’s fashion industry. JFW strives to provide a captivating stage where both emerging and established designers can unveil their collections to a global audience, fostering growth and development within the local fashion ecosystem.
By elevating the reputation and visibility of Jordanian fashion, JFW aims to attract the attention of fashion industry professionals, media outlets, buyers, and fashion enthusiasts. Through this exposure, it endeavors to create valuable business opportunities, inspire collaborations, and drive economic growth within the fashion sector.
JFW also seeks to showcase the unique fusion of traditional and contemporary elements in Jordanian fashion, promoting tourism and positioning Jordan as a vibrant fashion destination. Through captivating runway shows, presentations, and engaging events, JFW highlights the country’s rich cultural heritage and invites the world to appreciate its distinct sense of style.
In essence, the goal of Jordan Fashion Week is to cultivate a thriving fashion ecosystem, nurture local talents, and propel Jordanian fashion onto the global stage, contributing to the growth and recognition of the country’s vibrant fashion industry.
How has JFW evolved since its inception?
JFW has evolved significantly, embracing initiatives and collaborations to strengthen the local fashion industry and enhance global competitiveness.
One key initiative is “Born Again,” promoting sustainable and ethical fashion through responsible sourcing, eco-friendly practices, ethical manufacturing, and upcycling materials.
JFW supports fashion and art projects, fostering innovation by collaborating with artists and designers. This fusion of fashion, art, and upcycled materials creates captivating experiences.
Recognizing the impact of technology, JFW supports fashion-tech projects, exploring new possibilities and pushing boundaries in the field.
Moreover, JFW works on national projects with organizations like the International Trade Center and Amman Chamber of Industry, boosting growth and establishing Jordan as a fashion hub.
In terms of mentorship, JFW works closely with local fashion students, showcasing their designs and shaping the future of Jordan’s fashion scene. JFW’s influence extends to regional events, fostering cultural exchange and promoting the Jordanian fashion community’s visibility.
To promote local manufacturing, JFW bridges the gap between designers and manufacturers, supporting the growth of a sustainable and self-sufficient industry.
Overall, JFW is a dynamic platform shaping Jordanian fashion, promoting sustainability, art, technology, and most importantly Jordan’s local talent.
How has JFW influenced Jordan’s fashion industry?
JFW has made a significant impact on Jordan’s fashion industry, shaping the local scene and gaining recognition in the region. By providing a prestigious platform for Jordanian designers to showcase their talent, facilitating valuable business connections, and celebrating the fusion of traditional and contemporary fashion, JFW has elevated the visibility and appreciation of local designers. JFW’s growing reputation has positioned Jordan as a hub for creativity and innovation, inspiring neighboring countries and nurturing regional pride in the fashion industry. Through mentorship programs and collaborations, JFW prioritizes the development of local talent, contributing to the overall growth and sustainability of Jordan’s fashion ecosystem. JFW remains committed to making a lasting impact and is eagerly preparing for its upcoming seasons to continue its influence on the Jordanian fashion scene.
What are some of the challenges you faced when organizing JFW?
Organizing JFW has not been without its challenges. One of the major hurdles we faced was overcoming the misconception that we could not successfully execute such an event and showcase the abundant talents we possess. However, we are proud to have shattered that premise by proving our potential and delivering exceptional fashion experiences.
Another challenge we encountered was getting people on board and gaining their support. It required extensive efforts to convince stakeholders, sponsors, and industry professionals that JFW could create a significant impact on Jordan’s fashion landscape. Through persistent dedication and unwavering belief in our vision, we were able to garner the necessary support and bring JFW to life.
Additionally, logistical and operational challenges were present throughout the planning and execution phases. Coordinating multiple facets of the event, including designer participation, venue selection, scheduling, and production, demanded meticulous attention to detail and effective communication. Despite these obstacles, we approached each challenge as an opportunity for growth and improvement, ensuring that JFW exceeded expectations.
While organizing Jordan Fashion Week presented its fair share of challenges, we have successfully overcome them by showcasing our exceptional talents and garnering support from the fashion community. These experiences have only reinforced our determination to continue pushing boundaries and making JFW a remarkable platform for the fashion industry in Jordan.
How do you select the designers who showcase their work at JFW?
Our selection process goes beyond seeking well-established designers. We strongly believe in nurturing and supporting up-and-coming talents in the fashion industry. We actively identify and mentor emerging designers who show great potential and align with our vision.
In collaboration with our partners, we provide mentorship programs and resources to help these promising designers refine their skills, develop their collections, and enhance their business acumen. By offering guidance and support, we aim to empower these designers to realize their creative visions and succeed in the competitive fashion landscape.
We understand the importance of fostering a diverse and inclusive fashion community. By including emerging designers in our lineup, we not only provide them with a platform to showcase their work but also give them the opportunity to gain exposure and build connections with industry professionals, media outlets, and potential buyers.
Through our mentorship programs, we encourage these budding designers to explore their unique perspectives, experiment with innovative techniques, and push the boundaries of fashion. We believe that by nurturing emerging talents, we contribute to the growth and vibrancy of the fashion industry.
Therefore, our selection process considers not only well-established designers but also those who have been mentored and supported by Jordan Fashion Week and our esteemed partners. We are committed to providing a platform for both established and emerging talents, creating a dynamic and inclusive environment that celebrates the creativity and potential of all designers.
How do you feel about JFW’s participation in Egypt’s Fashion Week debut edition and your role in promoting emerging designers in the region?
It was an incredible opportunity to promote emerging designers from our region and showcase their exceptional talent. 10 outstanding Jordanian designers presented their exquisite creations. Each piece was inspired by Jordan’s rich cultural heritage and scenic beauty, blending modern, sustainable, and traditional designs to create a harmonious fusion of contemporary and classic styles.
I had the privilege to join one of the panel discussions during the event where we explored the vital role of fashion councils and support systems in elevating designers’ careers and facilitating their success in the fashion industry.
JFW’s participation in Egypt Fashion Week’s debut edition marked a significant milestone in advancing the recognition of the Jordanian fashion industry, both regionally and internationally. We were thrilled to showcase Jordan’s exceptional fashion talent and promote our unique cultural heritage.
It was an inspiring and unforgettable experience that further solidified our commitment to promoting emerging talent and fostering collaboration in the fashion industry.
How has fashion in Egypt evolved over the years?
Over the years, Egyptian fashion has evolved while retaining its rich historical influence. Ancient Egypt, with figures like Cleopatra and Nefertiti, left a lasting impact on global fashion trends.
Today, Egyptian fashion continues to inspire the modern world. International fashion designers and celebrities incorporate Egyptian motifs and symbols into their work. Modern Egyptian fashion has been influenced by figures like Soad Hosny, Sherihan, Shereen Seif El-Nasr, and Ruby, who have made a lasting impact on the Egyptian style.
The enduring appeal and artistic influence of ancient and modern Egyptian fashion are evident in its timeless elements and global recognition.
The main theme of Egypt’s Fashion Week debut is “The Past, Present, and, Future.” Can you tell us more about the participating Jordanian collection “Jordan in Our Eyes”?
Each designer drew inspiration from different elements of Jordan’s rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. Eman Al Ahmad’s creation captured the essence of Amman, fusing traditional Jordanian culture with her artistic vision. The dress featured intricate embroidery that reflected the lush greenery of Amman’s seven mountains, embodying the city’s vibrant charm.
Hala Hammad paid tribute to the Tree of Life Mosaic found in Madaba, Jordan. Her design beautifully captured the intricate details of this historical masterpiece, showcasing her artistic vision and blending the beauty of Madaba’s history with her unique style.
Dana Shahin drew inspiration from the picturesque city of Salt in Jordan. Her dress design reflected the warm tones of the city’s walls, with elements inspired by the old houses and the magical ambiance created as the sun set over Salt.
Haneen Jaafreh’s wearable art piece was a tribute to the mesmerizing sandstone formations in Petra. Through the use of biomaterials and mineral colors, her creation represented the fusion of the past, present, and future, symbolizing the enduring legacy of human creativity.
Tatyana Aceeva’s design took inspiration from the shimmering salt texture of the Dead Sea. Using 3D printing techniques, she brought the natural wonder of the Dead Sea to life in a unique fashion piece, showcasing the beauty and wonder of Jordan.
WeR designers celebrated the captivating skyline of Amman in their dress design. Adorned with crystals and embellishments, the dress reflected the softness and grandeur of Amman’s night sky, with keys symbolizing the designers’ deep connection to the city.
Kish Jeane’s wearable art dress combined sculpting and fashion, featuring the real faces of Ammanis cast by the artist. Each face told a distinctive story, representing the diverse cultural heritage of the city.
Laith Maalouf’s creation paid tribute to Jordan’s national flower, the Black Iris, showcasing its resilience and beauty through a contemporary lens. The design captured the allure of this iconic flower and represented Jordan’s natural wonders.
Batououl’s BLLURA MUSA 2.0 was a stunning wearable art piece that raised awareness of the environmental issues facing the Dead Sea. The intricate sculpture reflected the crystalline formations and unique ecosystem of the Dead Sea, urging visitors to protect this precious resource.
Raad Jamani’s creation drew inspiration from the ancient civilization of MOAB, incorporating traditional weaving techniques to blend the past and present. The dress symbolized the seamless transition from the past to the present, celebrating Jordan’s cultural legacy and vibrant history.
The designs embodied the diverse beauty and rich cultural heritage of Jordan, offering a captivating glimpse into the past, present, and future of this enchanting country.
What were your criteria for curating the designers that are to participate in Egypt’s Fashion Week?
The criteria for curating the designers to participate in Egypt’s debut Fashion Week revolved around highlighting the richness of Jordan’s cultural heritage and showcasing the exceptional talent within our fashion community.
The selection process prioritized designers who could authentically capture Jordan’s unique fashion perspective while demonstrating their outstanding creativity. Each designer chosen had a distinct artistic vision and a strong connection to Jordan’s cultural identity. Their designs seamlessly blended traditional elements with contemporary aesthetics, drawing inspiration from various aspects of Jordan’s history, natural landscapes, and architectural wonders.
Diversity was a key consideration in the selection, ensuring a wide range of styles, techniques, and inspirations were represented. This diversity not only reflected the multifaceted nature of Jordanian fashion but also celebrated the vibrant creative community of our country.
The goal was to present a compelling narrative of Jordanian culture and craftsmanship to a regional and global audience. By curating a talented group of designers, we aimed to foster cross-cultural exchange, inspire collaborations, and contribute to the international fashion dialogue.
Overall, the criteria for curating the participating designers in Egypt’s debut Fashion Week focused on promoting the richness of Jordan’s fashion landscape and celebrating our cultural heritage, while also contributing to the broader regional and global fashion community.
Can you describe some of the standout designs that were presented by Jordanian designers during Egypt’s Fashion Week?
The 10 Jordanian designers showcased their exceptional talent and creativity through standout designs. Each designer presented a unique interpretation of the theme “Jordan in Our Eyes,” employing distinct techniques and materials.
Eman Al Ahmad captured Amman’s essence with vibrant embroidery reflecting the city’s lush greenery. Hala Hammad honored the Tree of Life Mosaic, while Dana Shahin’s design embodied Salt’s timeless charm. Haneen Jaafreh’s wearable art piece fused past, present, and future, and Tatyana Aceeva showcased the Dead Sea’s shimmering salt texture.
WeR designers celebrated Amman’s skyline, Kish Jeane merged sculpting and fashion, and Laith Maalouf showcased the Black Iris. Batououl’s BLLURA MUSA 2.0 raised awareness of the Dead Sea’s environmental issues, and Raad Jamani paid tribute to Madaba’s cultural heritage.
These standout designs exemplified Jordan’s vibrant fashion landscape, leaving a lasting impression at Egypt’s debut Fashion Week.
Did you find it challenging to find designers whose designs appease both traditional and modern sensibilities?
Discovering designers who seamlessly blend traditional elegance with contemporary flair is an exhilarating journey for us at JFW. It requires a discerning eye and an understanding of the ever-evolving fashion landscape. The pursuit of designers who can appease both traditional and modern sensibilities is both challenging and rewarding. It involves unearthing rare talents who can intertwine cultural heritage with avant-garde elements, resulting in captivating designs that transcend time. Showcasing these remarkable creations is an honor and a privilege, providing a platform for their ingenuity to shine. Beyond exhibition, JFW embraces mentorship and growth, nurturing designers and witnessing their creative metamorphosis. It is a celebration of the delicate balance achieved when tradition and modernity unite in perfect harmony, leaving an indelible mark on the fashion world.
How do you think JFW’s participation in Egypt’s Debut Fashion Week will impact Jordan’s fashion industry?
JFW’s participation in Egypt’s Debut Fashion Week is a significant step in further highlighting Jordan’s fashion talent and propelling our local designers onto the regional scene. By showcasing their creativity and innovation on an international platform, we aim to increase the visibility and recognition of Jordan’s fashion industry. This participation provides an opportunity to establish valuable connections, foster collaborations, and inspire the exchange of ideas within the regional fashion community. We are excited about the potential impact of this participation in terms of elevating Jordan’s fashion profile and creating new avenues for success for our talented designers on a broader stage.
What has been the most rewarding experience you have had as the founder of JFW?
Honestly? It has been the fulfillment of a cherished dream. Turning the concept into a thriving reality, witnessing the evolution of our local designers, and seeing their incredible talents captivate audiences have been deeply emotional moments. The joy of putting the spotlight on Jordan and its extraordinary pool of designers, showcasing their creativity and craftsmanship, fills my heart with pride. But beyond the glamour, it’s the personal connections forged with these talented individuals that have touched me the most. Some have become dear friends, even like family, as we share our journeys and support one another. The bond we’ve formed is priceless, making every step of this journey truly rewarding and meaningful.