DIFF 17! Film Will Find You

The 17th edition of DIFF commenced with the expected glam and vigor of an international film festival, topped with the warm generosity of Arabian hospitality. In contrast to my involvement last year, based partly on curiosity and partly on the enthusiasm of a rising social media star, this time the festival promised to be quite a bit more festive for me with invitations to the Opening and Closing, VIP parking a few minutes away from screenings, access to a secret lounge and rocking after parties. Read more about the Opening of DIFF ’16 over here. 

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The festival is undergoing changes but they weren’t particularly obvious to an outsider like me. Apart from usual screening programs, galas, “in conversations” and workshops, DIFF 17 features virtual reality experiences and free movies at The Beach. The Film Will Find You tagline was selected to represent the transformation of the way entertainment reaches our hearts and eyes, noting the impact of Netflix, social media algorithms and ever advancing technologies.

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The hospitality was impressive, with a large number of multilingual volunteers, complimentary coffee for press, two-for-one ticket deals, complimentary public WiFi and even bottles of Evian water left in chairs at all Gala screenings.

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While movie stars and celebrities walked the Red Carpet, I hung out with everyone’s favorite (including me) DIFF team member Brent Lawrence at the special lounge overlooking the action. Brent, in his perfect black tux, managed to participate in several conversations simultaneously, exchanging jokes and insight with a curious crowd and Dubai beauties.

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Team Harper’s Bazaar Arabia was present on the carpet spotting the best dressed. No matter how hard I tried catwalking by them or posing pretentiously, my outfit caught no attention. Regardless, I decided to keep on showing up.

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The venue for the occasion, Madinat Arena, was at its brightest. The legendary place radiates an incredible charm enhanced with search lights, candles, flowers and views on the Venice of the Middle East.

The Opening speech by Chairman Abdulhamid Juma, packed with witty remarks and his shimmering sense of humor, contained a deep idea about the human side of cinematography and the importance of art. His “dreams are future movies” quote is still being analyzed in the corners of my head. Cate Blanchett and Patrick Stewart joined on the stage, and reiterated the thought that Art will Save the World.

In contrast with the party vibe, the gala screening of Hostiles put a rather dark feeling in the audience, with no one wanting to leave their seat when credits rolled. Keep an eye for my upcoming review, but the movie was more about love than once would assume from the title.

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Straight through a dimmed room and to the right, I was stunned by the set-up for the after party. Imagine endless rows of champagne, luminous lights, Haute Couture style, a rocking band and happiness shared in every direction.

I danced, laughed, cheered and interacted with like-minded folks feeling out of the world, and in a way I truly was. Thank you Dubai Film Festival for a magical night!

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Wake up in Paris and brunch @La Cantine du Faubourg, Dubai

Run every Saturday from 12pm-4pm, the cost of brunch with soft drinks starts at AED 250, which I found rather irresistible. A big fan of Dubai’s brunch culture, I had extremely high expectations for La Cantine du Faubourg. They managed to surprise right at the entrance, looking casually chic in silk pyjamas and perfect hair.

“It’s wake up in Paris and celebrate”, explained my hostess while walking me to Room 3, a cheeky name for every in the house. A real queen size bed with luxurious cotton sheets and big fluffy pillows was set in the middle of La Cantine looking irresistible.

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In the best traditions of Parisian breakfast, a basket of freshly baked pastry was brought paired with a strong cup of coffee, butter and jams. While I enjoyed sipping coffee and studying the menu, the DJ at the bar started playing tunes. The place filled up steadily and by 1pm was filled with the air with cheers, giggles and happy conversations.

When selecting dishes I focused on slightly complicated creations with ingredients hard to find in Dubai: tuna ceviche, cured meat, grilled octopus and salmon carpaccio. I had no doubt that the greatest culinary experience awaited me. Everything I tried was absolutely delightful with my favourite dish being an aubergine gratin with dark tomato sauce and a generous amount of parmesan.

Around 3pm the music got a little louder, moving crowds closer to the bar and on to the beautiful terrace expected to be officially open soon.

Freely flowing mocktails and cocktails kept the party going. I spotted a server in a kimono and dark sunglasses; I realized that the ambiance resembled the vibe from James Bond’s adventures with a mix of spontaneous adventure in the air. Happy to the tiptoes, I savoured my desserts and tried to memorize every second of that beautiful day.

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Enigma @PalazzoVersace, Dubai

At the lobby level of Palazzo Versace, with indoor and outdoor seating facing the main pool and magnificent Creek (especially at night), Enigma delivers on its namesake, “delightfully mysterious”. So did my incredible gown from Si Fashion Galerie.Si Fashion Galerie.

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It’s best to call it contemporary Turkish with warm Mediterranean influence, reflected in the ingredients, flavours, colours and distinguishable Versace prints.

The installation of branded wall mirrors result in dramatic reflections of candlelight and exteriors, creating an Ottoman palace effect. The soft fabrics used for seating arrangements including pillows, sofas and chairs create a “divan culture”.

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Signature cocktails, designed around everyone’s favourite beverages and well-known landmarks like Constantinople and Bosporus, show the bartender’s obsession with the history (of the world and drinks).

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One can never underestimate the freshly baked fluffy bread with crispy edges and sesame seeds, paired with a selection of sauces, including my favourite tomato and red peppers, sweet pear puree and sliced marinated to crisp onions.

The real magic starts when the chef appears with a long serving table and house cured meat, pastrami layered with black pepper, fenugreek, anise, bay leaf, white pepper and obviously a secret ingredient. While the chef slowly slices pastrami on white plates carved of stone, he engages in a conversation explaining the magic behind the softest and the most fragrant piece of meat one can dream of.

But the masterpiece of the night was octopus, cooked in a vacuum pot for as long as five hours, then quickly seared on a hot pan.

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I’m wearing a beautiful tight gown from Si Fashion Galerie.

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ESMOD Dubai Runway

Last night a new generation of ESMOD graduates presented the glamorous outcome of their three years of dedication to the non-glamorous side of vogue: stitching, sewing, pattern drafting, scaling and other elements often left behind the curtain. A long journey through the ins and outs of the fashion industry was visualized in a collection individually produced by each emerging designer from concept to runway. With 22 branches worldwide, ESMOD is a French Fashion Institute and a top school for design and pattern makers.

Previously set at Wafi luxury shopping mall, this year’s new venue was in contrast with local trends and unexpectedly edgy. The runway curved between wooden benches fixed on an artificial field lit by industrial lamps. At the beginning ceiling high posters created the illusion of cheering crowds. The whole space was protected by wires, fences and netting, adding a touch of a street underground culture to the upcoming event.

Backstage (I used my charming powers to sneak in) things seemed to be under control. Kid models with iPads reading The Economist (see photos below), graduating makeup artists kept busy bronzing pretty faces (including mine), and designers keeping surprisingly chilled. I managed to startle a person or two with a random flash but in general we (me + my camera) were invisible to most.

I was pulled aside by Ohoud, a graduating student of ESMOD, who applied layer after layer of magical beauty products to help me look like a true Instagram Star. Half an hour later I was transformed 🙂

Dressed by Canella in Canella Hostal Couture, a 2-piece outfit with a focus on a beautiful Geveva handmade skirt, I got surrounded by photographers who demanded me to turn, walk, sit, smile and deliver pose after a pose.

Pushed in a fancy corner, I complied.

Back at the venue, hundreds of guests including family, friends, bloggers, alumni, models, influencers, hipsters, fashionistas and other stylish Dubaians were greeted by the founders of ESMOD and stalked by me. Craving inspiration (and dinner), I scouted eye-catching pieces and people with camera in hand.

It was a whistle paired with witty comments from L. Redman that started the show. As I had never met any designers it was easy to be absolutely neutral focusing on music, fabrics, accessories, footwear, creativity, art work, etc., rather than personalities. Towards the end however I narrowed my “OMG” list to one designer and my “I want it now” list to two.

Knowing the amount of hard work every designer had invested in their first collection, it was unsurprising to see emotions on the runway. I was laughing, sobbing, clapping and snapping through the show wondering how impossible would it be to select a winner.

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Unsurprising the producer of Vancouver Fashion week, Jamal Abdourahman, chose three winners instead of one to showcase their collection during Vancouver Fashion week in September. As they say, “Winner takes all”. Congratulations!

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Feel Ibiza, breath Dubai

Close your eyes and visualise a place where sand whispers stories of eternal happiness and blue is the warmest colour. Picture white chaise lounges, vibrant umbrellas, sun-kissed hair, boaty-boats and a glorious Mediterranean tan ruined slightly by fancy swimwear. Add a fabulous soft beat and oh boy, you are in Ibiza.

Open your eyes and you are here in the financial heart of the dazzling Dubai, sipping rosé at La Cantine du Faubourg.

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Impossible, you say? Well, not quite! Look closely at the photograph…

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The mesmerizing piece is the work of a Frenchman, passionate photographer Stephane Dessaint. Born and raised in Paris (I wonder if he loved to hang out at Montmartre) Stephane also lived in LA and New York where he was involved in the emerging fashion industry. Several years later, at his recent vernissage in Dubai, Stephane was introduced to me as the artist and photographer behind the limited edition “Ibiza Feelings” collection. My first impression however was: “Boy, he knows how to dress”.

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Charmed by his style I was the hundredth person at La Cantine to ask the same question: “What’s your secret?”, unintentionally narrowing his work to a photography trick. To my surprise Stephane took my inquiry with the full seriousness a serious artist can only afford and whispered back technicalities related to his usual day at a shoot. Geared up with a camera, Stephane would patiently wait for the “l’heur du Zenith” when the angle of the sun leaves no shadows on the ground giving seawater additional sparkle and deep blue colour (apparently his favorite).

Warning: Please consider the image below as rather inaccurate as I don’t recall being the only person who talked 🙂

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Stephane Dessaint’s work will be displayed at La Cantine de Faubourg for another couple of months. Please stop by to witness the charming vibes of Mediterranean summer and photographs that tell stories.

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Fashion Forward Dubai – it’s on!

Sheer with joy fashionistas, designers, models, bloggers, buyers and the beau monde. While the cosmopolitan fashion community is catching up on sleep, post major fashion weeks, Dubai is plotting to shine bright with talent from all over the globe at the new edition of Fashion Forward (FFWD).

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Fashion Forward, the region’s well known fashion platform follows a “See Now, Buy Now” progressive format, where collections presented on podium are immediately available for purchase and delivery. Watch a kaleidoscope of last season’s best moments over here (credit to FFWD crew for images and a video)

Scheduled from March 23rd-25th 2017, the FFWD team had already opened its doors to sassy media reps and designers for an interactive press conference with the theme of fashion standards in the age of technology.

Taking place in the inspiring, sleek Dubai Design district, this year’s edition will support its commitment to introduce fresh faces to the market, debuting thirteen designers. In line with traditions, FFWD will showcase 30 regional pret-a-porter, haute couture and accessories designers who form not only the wardrobes of local “IT boyz and girlz,” but contribute greatly to what the cut of tomorrow is going to be. In the process some will make it big carving out a name and a niche for their labels on a global fashion map.

Online registration for industry pros is open and truly it’s the easiest and most efficient way to be a part of the show. Spare no time and go here for further detail  Tickets are expected to be on sale soon. Meanwhile scroll up and down through images of the unforgettably stylish people I stalked during the press conference.

Marcela Danielova, designer relations director at FFWD:

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Rumbi Tendaupenyu aka just.askana:

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Layla Shugri a designer and the owner of Lya Lya Couture:

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Florian Akinbiyi, MC, Host, Public Speaker:

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Arwa Al Banawi, designer:

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FFDW team:

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Be your own stylist with Valenxe

Once upon a time on a late night train from France to Germany, two beautiful girls dreamed up a perfect wardrobe staple for all occasions all around the world. Joined by a third fashionista they designed a pair of truly desirable and versatile leggings with a slimming effect. That’s how Valenxe, the “intrinsic attractiveness” was born. Being hard to impress, I decided to sneak three pairs of Valenxe leggings into Dubai and put these babies to an ultimate style trial, breaking all possible fashion rules in between.

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Look One: Trophy Girl

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It was a sunny January Friday in Dubai, the perfect day to brunch, pool around and show off that hard to get beach body (did you try my insane workout?). So I grabbed my “la vie en rose” shades, a silky shiny tunic by Parker NYAntilla crop leggings in dream navy, and headed to the family friendly Waldorf Hotel on the Palm. Cropped leggings is a challenge to wear well. For me. I visually extend the look of my legs by balancing shorter leggings with either flats or sneakers. Voila:

Look 2: Nasty Woman

They say show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are. Woah-oh-oh-ah-ah-ah! Hanging out with these three unbreakable style gAnnstars: no.1, no.2 and no. 3 led to irreversible changes in my attitude. Armed with a truly Canadian maple syrup candy, a tee with me boyz Beavis and Butthead, I pulled on the leather-like Aspasia leggings in black and rolled away. Do mind the cool hat (this is Rella)

Look 3: Lady in Red

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When the time came to dress for a challenging shopping afternoon with a fellow fashion-addict, I opted for a bright red tight dress, Versace scarf and Bollea leggings in bella fiora brown. Not only did I have a fun time strolling down the new “must-see” district in Dubai, but found a solid number of followers thinking I was a celebrity in disguise.

Look 4: Walkaholic

It’s that time of the year in the UAE when the anticipation of rain is almost as enjoyable as the rain itself. Layered in Aritzia wool jacket and protected by a powerful red umbrella, I felt like Mary Poppins on a mission. Surprisingly my black  Aspasia leggings pulled off a classy as well as edgy look, making my lower body look “gym every day” thinner.

Look 5: Trouble Maker

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Inspired by the adventures of Indiana Jones, I decided to initiate my own treasure hunt and drove all the way to the capital, glorious Abu Dhabi. Dressed in a vintage cotton shirt from Austria, breathable Japanese sneakers, sweet Italian shades and Canadian leggings I was proud to communicate the spirit of a true globetrotter. I did discover a hidden Arabian quarter overlooking the blue water of a little creek and called my trip a total success!

Loved Valenxe – shop’em here! Stalk me on Instagram and Facebook

Update: While on a different style mission, I spotted another Dubai girl rocking Valenxe leggings. I think she wore them better than me! What do you think?

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