While winter is falling down on the Northern Hemisphere, its thread pullers from the hip-hop, streetwear and general fashion scene are taking a trip to the desert next week. Between December 7-9, Dubai will see the sixth installment of street culture gathering Sole DXB. The event, which started as a meeting point for a handful of local sneaker lovers has grown into a three-day festival for kicks, streetwear, live music, sports and art, visited by around 16,500 people last year.

At Sole DXB 2016
Photo: Farel Bisotto
At Sole DXB 2016

Over the years, Sole DXB has brought all major sneakers and streetwear brands to the United Arab Emirates, but also hosted more niche names such as Harmony Paris, Maharishi and Olaf Hussein, which are otherwise hard to get in the region. Moreover, the event saw performances by A-list musicians from Skepta to Mobb Deep and talks by industry insiders including Amy Leverton (Denim Dudes) and Yassine Saidi (Puma).

Behind Sole DXB are Hussain Moloobhoy, Joshua Cox, Kris Balarite, and Rajat Malhotra, four Dubai-based friends with backgrounds in the creative industries of London, Australia, New York and the Middle East.

On the eve of Sole DXB No. 6, we spoke to Malhotra about the nature and players of the up-and-coming Dubai streetwear scene and what to expect from next week’s event (think Pusha T and Dior Homme for a start).

Rajat Malhotra, partner in Sole DXB for four years
Photo: Sole DXB
Rajat Malhotra, partner in Sole DXB for four years
Sole DXB has been bringing street culture to the desert for the past five years now. What made you (the founders) decide to launch this event in Dubai in the first place?

We had all grown up across different cities, but moved to Dubai eventually. During that process, Dubai had so much to offer, but there were parts of our past lives that we missed and we didn't feel that we should have to get on a plane every time we wanted to experience it. 

So Sole essentially started as a project to bring like-minded people together: To build something for ourselves and build a platform for the community.

Street style at Sole DXB 2016
Photo: Adam Katz Sinding
Street style at Sole DXB 2016

 

From Skepta to Stormzy, Filling Pieces to Puma–the line-up of past editions sounds like the crème de la crème of US and European hip-hop and streetwear culture. What’s the local flavor of the event?

There's lots of great talent in Dubai, in every space. The event will feature live music from the likes of Shebani, Moh Flow, and Aeli, to name a few. Brands like ANTHLGY, Amongst Few, FMM Dubai, Precious Trust and Shabab will all be exhibiting and showcasing their latest collections.

 

What about the visitors–are they mostly from Dubai/the UAE or tourists?

Dubai's a pretty multinational space.  So even the residents of the city made up more than 70 nationalities at last year’s event. But we also get a lot of tourists. Eleven percent of all our attendees last year were from outside the UAE. A third of those were industry.

In conversation: Patta founder Edson Sabajo (l.) and Harmony Paris founder David Obadia at Sole DXB 2016
Photo: Farel Bisotto
In conversation: Patta founder Edson Sabajo (l.) and Harmony Paris founder David Obadia at Sole DXB 2016

 

How big is the enthusiasm and following for streetwear and sneakers in the United Emirates and who are the thread-pullers (personalities and brands) we should know from the scene?

In three years, our event has gone from 8,000 attendees to over 16,500.  The scene is growing, and very quickly.

 

Hands down: Why should foreign brands decide to take part at Sole DXB?

We don't think it's possible, at this point in time, to look at a brand as foreign anymore.  If your production can handle it and the ambition is there, then your market is global.  If you want to address the 200 million people that live in the Middle East, then Dubai is the gateway to that. And if you want to face the right consumer, adjacent to your peers, then Sole DXB is where you should be.

At Sole DXB 2016
Photo: Farel Bisotto
At Sole DXB 2016

 

What options do they have onsite when it comes to presentation, events and the actual selling of things?

Brands can present in three standard sizes of small, medium or large, where Sole provides a shell and core.  Alternatively, brands can choose to lease a clear footprint and build up to three stories high, creating a larger experience.  All brands have to apply and present their program and product to qualify for a space. One hundred percent of brands retail and many take the opportunity to launch new products and exclusives at the event.

 

Which brand and event highlights can we expect from the upcoming event next month?

There's a lot going on this year. We're looking forward to what the luxury players like Dior Homme and Kenzo are going to bring to the event. We've also got the international premiere of the documentary Word is Bond on opening night and three after parties that weekend that are going to be nuts. 

Atmosphere at Sole DXB 2016
Photo: Farel Bisotto
Atmosphere at Sole DXB 2016

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