Tania Fares, of Lebanese descent, first founded Fashion Trust in the UK, to assist up and coming young designers to achieve their potential.  She then started a similar platform, Fashion Trust Arabia, devoted to helping Arab designers in the same way, through mentoring and other types of assistance. Fashion Trust Arabia (FTA) conducts an annual competition to select the fashion designers in the MENA region that are well poised to receive financial and business support as well as international recognition through the help of the FTA.  FTA is the Arab World’s only program of its kind committed to identifying and cultivating talented designers. Tania Fares is the founder of FTA and co-founder of The British Fashion Council (BFC) which aided her in the launch of Fashion Trust UK. In a celebration for FTA, organised by Maison Pyramide and Lara Scandar, eniGma’s Reem Tamo sat with Fares to ask her some pressing questions.

Tania Fares & Lara Scandar

Tell us about your background before Fashion Trust Arabia:

I had my own fashion label with Lulu Kennedy. Lulu Kennedy founded Fashion East, which is a platform that helps young British designers. I had my label for 6 years, then I was so inspired by Lulu who helped young designers and decided I wanted to do the same. So I started Fashion Trust in the UK and it’s been going on since 2011. We helped designers like Roxanda, America Trendu, Molly Godard, and so many other British designers. We give them financial and mentoring support.

Why did you decide to take Fashion Trust to the Arab world?

My aunt wanted to host a gathering for me in Jordan, so I went and she invited a lot of designers; I was so impressed by the talent in Jordan. They all started telling me to do something like what I did in the UK. I’ve always wanted to support young Arab designers because I few like there’s a lot of talent and creativity in our part of the world.

How satisfied are you with the recognition and exposure Fashion Trust Arabia has been receiving so far in the Middle East?

I’ve been overwhelmed and very happy. The coverage we’ve gotten from magazines, newspapers, bloggers and everybody has been amazing. We’ve been featured in The Telegraph, Vogue and we were a Business of Fashion finalist. I feel there is a lot of interest in the Arab world; everyone wants to know more about the designers and culture.

What challenged you the most when you started Fashion Trust Arabia?

I want designers to be more confident and see the opportunity the Trust can give them. It’s not about winning and losing, it’s an opportunity; you have nothing to lose if you apply, it only takes an hour of your time. It’s exposure.

Which contestant surprised you the most?

Selim Azzam. He really surprised me because the first time I met him, he was very shy but he’s actually very well-spoke and a businessman. He just opened his showroom and has received over 400 applications from women who want to work with him, so he’s amazing!

What do you look for in an up and coming designer?

Identity is very important. I want to see a few collections and know what they’re doing to see that they’re not just working on bits and pieces from different areas. The pieces need to be beautiful and done well.

What advice do you give to an up and coming designer who’s still not ready to create their first collection?

It’s a bumpy road, don’t give up and just do it.

Do you feel that art and fashion have a direct relationship when it comes to design? Or do you feel like you don’t need to be artistic to pursue a career in design?

It’s important to be artistic but there are certain designers who made it because they’re good at business and production. I’ve seen very creative, unbelievably talented designers that were not able to make it because they have zero sense of business; I’ve also seen less talented designers that have a more serious and growing business. Art and fashion definitely connect, for sure.

Where do you see Fashion Trust Arabia in 5 years?

Growing more and mentoring more, making the designers more international. Collaborating on products if we can.