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This may sound like a futuristic fantasy, but imagine a world where fashion and technology become seamless. Now, what if we tell you that Jalila Aarab is introducing a fashion incubator that aims to do that!

At StartUp Bahrain, we came across FinTech, MedTech, EdTech, and many more Tech related terms, but we promise that this is the first time we’ve come across a FashionTech entity. Bahrain Fashion Incubator (BFI) is introducing cutting-edge technology to the fashion industry in the Kingdom, but how does it do that? StartUp Bahrain interviewed the owner of BFI and how she tailored this original concept.

Jalila’s passion for fashion started at a very young age. Growing up, her mother owned an atelier and a fashion institute in Morocco. So, naturally, she got drawn to it at a young age and decided to embrace it as a career as she grew older.

“I got my Bachelor degree in fashion design, fiber technology and Auto Cad design and grading from Elbaz, and luxury fashion management from Bocconi University.”

Upon graduation she worked for Progretex, as a sample department manager, overlooking designs for major brand customers. Three years later, she decided to start her own fashion outsourcing business in Morocco, which she successfully sold within five years from inception.

Fast forward a few years, she decided to bring her talent to Bahrain, “When I settled in Bahrain, I started Lamasat, focusing on traditional and eveningwear. I also started a wholesale fashion distribution line providing products to Casino group and Al Futtaim.”

Throughout her experience in the region over the past 22 years, she faced many challenges in the industry. She said, “The challenges that face the fashion industry in Bahrain are many. From limited raw material, to skilled resources, and all the way to lack of professional technical fashion knowledge institutions.” These all led Jalila to build something the country missed. But how do you overcome such challenges and build something from scratch?

“I was part of a roundtable discussion organized by Rowad in 2015, where H.E. Khalid Al Rumaihi, urged entrepreneurs in each industry to collaborate together to face common challenges and overcome them. This prompted me to start a fashion incubator to help fashion startups be armed with proper technical knowledge to create innovative designs and brands that will place Bahrain on the world map as a fashion design hub,” highlighted Jalila.

Her immense experience in the fashion industry and wide knowledge of the region have shown her the potential and opportunities that are missed. She simply connected the dots and came up with Bahrain Fashion Incubator, which can fill a big gap.

BFI aims to help budding designers to think innovatively and produce creative fashion designs that will compete on the international stage. The Incubator will provide structured buildup programs to help designers from ideation, brand creation, design execution, manufacturing, distribution and merchandising.

The major question however, is how do you embed technology into this? Although Fashion Tech sounds futuristic but fashion is inherently a form of technology. “From creating various fabrics using different materials and ingredients, to cutting a piece of cloth to turn it to a dynamic geometrical body-shaped piece that is wearable, functional and artistic is a technological leap of faith.”

Adding to that, Jalila said “Nowadays the fashion industry is going beyond using technology to produce garments. In fact, it is the garment itself that has become the technology. The industry is adding a new system of weaving technology into the fabric. Project Jacquard, for example, is transforming clothes into interactive surfaces by using touch-sensitive textiles, integrating devices into clothes, using Nanotechnology, or thermo-chromic pigments.”

BFI is introducing laser cutting machines, 3D printing, computerized designs, embroidery and fabric printing. “In our workshops, we use technologically developed fabrics that sensitize heat and light. We will also be introducing new textile technology and fabric manipulation techniques to change the material itself and transform the overall experience of customers and their relationship with clothing.”

The incubator offers knowledge building services through workshops, events, fashion shows, and one-to-one mentoring that will be open to all fashion enthusiasts, startups and established businesses. They will also embrace 10 startups over a two year period to help them establish and launch their businesses.

In addition to providing the working space for 10 startups, BFI will incubate through the following structured program. “In every stage of the program, the startups will gain the requisite professional skill and knowledge to advance to the next level. Ultimately, these startups will be provided with tools, know-how and access to channels to compete on the world stage.”

“In the last stage of incubation, the startups will already be equipped with tools and knowledge to stand on their feet and spread their wings wherever they find opportunity. We will move fashion designer amateurs and enthusiasts from being followers and replicators to be innovative creators of fashion who will stand a chance in the fierce global fashion industry.”

Bahrain has the potential to become the region’s hub in fashion technology, by sowing the seeds for a new technological revolution. Make sure you visit Bahrain Fashion Incubator’s website to learn more on the programs they offer, and follow StartUp Bahrain on Instagram to stay tuned for the latest and trendiest techs in town.