The SMCCU was keen to be involved in a new initiative spearheaded by the PR firm Grace & Garbo, which uses fashion as a medium for cultural exchange. Their first such cultural event, was held at the Pullman Hotel, and featured a panel discussion about how fashion has influenced the growth of the Abaya market, and how it is perceived by the west. SMCCU presenter Debbie Jaunich was also one of the panelist, and brought a unique perspective on the evolution of the Abaya through her own experiences over the last 20 years. Rebecca McLaughlin of Dubai TV was the MC of the event and brought questions directed to the designers about what they see as future trends and if indeed the Abaya is here to stay. Amal Murad of Redaa, Rabia Zargarpur of Rabia Z, and Sarah Al Madani of Rouge Couture all agree that the Abaya is not only here to stay but has already crossed over into non-traditional Abaya markets. Their wish is for the UAE to become the capital and “go to” market for the latest abaya fashion, but were realistic about the challenges faced by many designers in a small niche market. Tradition, culture and modest dress all play a role in what designers create, but also emphasised that sometimes they like to push the envelope and create something that grabs the attention of buyers. Feedback from the audience was enthusiastic, and participants left with a better understanding of the role the Abaya plays in the region.