Australian Jessica Kahawaty, here at Paris Fashion Week, has celebrity status in the Middle East
Credit: courtesy Jessica Kahawaty

Currently airing and hosted by an Australian, the first season of Project Runway Middle East, acts as a vital resource for not only the 15 hopeful designers, but also viewers who are desperate to sink their teeth into the wonderful – yet highly competitive – world of fashion.

And with judges Elie Saab and Tunisian fashion icon Afef Jnifen  acting as mentors for the aspiring creatives, everyone will be continuously receiving invaluable words of wisdom. 

Tunisian judge Afef Jnifen (left) and Lebanese designer Elie Saab (centre) with Project Runway Middle East host Kahawaty

“Seeing every contestant having to try different styles of design has been inspiring for the competitors, judges and audience and the advice Mr Saab and Ms Jnifen are giving is just priceless,” the presenter of the Beirut-based reality series, Jessica Kahawaty told GRAZIA during a recent visit home to Australia.

Blogger Mahmoud Sidhani and Singapore-born model, stylist and fashion editor Esther Qwek with Kahawaty at a Dima Ayad show in Dubai
Credit: Getty Images

“One important lesson everyone has learnt is that you can’t just specialise in one certain design field – for example just couture or ready-to-wear. This isn’t indicative of the real world. Designers now have to move out of their comfort zone and one creative path and be ready to take on all realms,” Kahawaty added.

The in-demand Australian model, who now lives in Dubai, also believes aspiring designers must not only excel in many different fashion design domains, but also have a pulse on the current trends.

Prominent Lebanese designer Elie Saab also acts as a mentor to the aspiring designers on Project Runway Middle East
Images credit: Courtesy of MBC

“While it’s still necessary to express one’s self, designers also need to be multifaceted and holistic and keep up with what people are wanting to wear,” she said, referencing the talented Australian designer Christopher Esber and Saint Laurent’s Anthony Vaccarello as examples of designers who achieve this and more. “He [Vaccarello] is effortlessly edgy and has a unique style, yet he sticks to what’s needed – he embodies the Saint Laurent feel and what the fashion house’s devotees want.

“Someone needed to live up to Hedi Slimane and he is doing just that.”

“However in saying that, creatives still need to have their own personal style and twist to things, and spend time perfecting the craft,” Kahawaty says. “It’s a long road. If this is your passion, work day and night – live and breathe the industry. Right now, there is so much being offered. What can you offer that’s new, different and you?”

To watch Project Runway Middle East, visit MBC Online