How I got here: Bong Guerrero, Fashion Forward Dubai CEO and co-founder

Guerrero details his journey from Manila to the Dubai fashion scene

Education

I left my home of Manila in the Philippines aged 17 to study abroad in California, US. I studied business and received a bachelor’s degree from the College of Notre Dame de Namur. It was the mid 1980s and I enjoyed the thrill of living and studying in a cosmopolitan city, studying hard and maintaining good grades. I gravitated to extra-curricular activities and became the head of the International Student Association. In my senior year, I was also elected as the president of the Student Council – the first foreign student to hold that position. As a young student leader, I was always at the forefront of organising events such as college fairs, festivals and of course the crazy college parties. I never thought that one day I would be using these skills and organising events as my career and business.

My start

I realised there was a space in the market to gather and present incredibly talented regional designers. This is what motivated me to create Fashion Forward Dubai. I had arrived in Dubai in 1990, straight out of college at the age of 23. The fashion landscape was only just getting started and I arrived right at the beginning. I opened a small perfumery in Al Diyafah road, which became one of the first fashion houses in the area creating bespoke dresses for the ladies of the city. In 1999 I started my first events company. Alongside the parties, corporate events and product launches that we organised, we also conceptualised and produced most of the early fashion shows in the city. In 2009, I partnered with my friend Ramzi Nakad to establish Brag, now a leading experiential agency. Always with an eye on the emerging local fashion scene, I saw that something was lacking. There were all these incredible designers, but no real unifying platform to showcase them. I knew how to put on an event and I knew there was the talent available so it was a matter of bringing the two together in the right way. In 2013, together and with the solid support of my partners, we established Fashion Forward Dubai.

Highs and lows

When you embark on a new project, there are always things you are nervous about, but with the support of my partners and team I was confident in the vision of Fashion Forward Dubai. With the design talent that we had I knew it was going to be something special. We took a lot of time and care to get Season One right, curating the right list of designers and the best possible format. We started Fashion Forward Dubai with a lot of humility and were realistic of the expectations and also what was achievable. It was a huge success and a definite high. It really gave us a solid benchmark to work with and we have been able to grow and learn as we go – building up our successes and learning from our challenges. Right now, Fashion Forward Dubai remains one of the most anticipated events in the fashion industry to highlight established and emerging regional designers. It is the only fashion platform endorsed by the Dubai Design and
Fashion Council.

Approach

My simple philosophy is to enjoy and love the work that you do with passion. I’d like to think that being passionate brings out some kind of creativity. There are unlimited possibilities in life. Despite all the challenges, when you have a strong vision and passion, a great team around you and solid work ethics, you can make your dreams come true.

Dos and don’ts

A great event always starts with how you promote or build it up. It is like putting together a puzzle, they all start with small pieces and you must put them together. It must have the right mix of people in the right venue that is smartly transformed. It is always important to have elements, moments or acts that make the event unique and memorable. Another crucial tip is don’t forget to enjoy the process and stay calm under stress and pressure.