Whether they have roots in the region or are based abroad, these are the top tastemakers that are continuing to influence their industries, and by extension, the world. From Dubai-based fashion designers to Egyptian-born industrial designers, we've compiled a list of the talent making their mark on the Middle East and sketching a story far beyond its borders...
Zuhair Murad — Fashion designer
Born in Lebanon, Zuhair Murad started sketching from the age of 10. He then went to Paris for a fashion education and now has boutiques in Beirut as well as in the French capital. His celebrity clientele includes Jennifer Lopez, Blake Lively, Kate Beckinsale and Taylor Swift. In 2015, Murad made headlines again when he designed Sofia Vergara's wedding dress, saying, "It's a fitted dress because we wanted to see her beautiful curves but at the same time there is the removable outerskirt so later on she can remove the ball gown skirt. We wanted something very spectacular and grandiose." The house of Zuhair Murad also confirmed to Buro 24/7 Middle East that the dress was embellished with 350 crystals, pearls and sequins and it required over 1,657 hours of handiwork.
Zaha Hadid — Architect
Dame Zaha Hadid is arguably one of the leading architects of our generation. Known as an architect who consistently pushes the boundaries of urban design, her architectural creations have become icons and often the centerpiece of the local skyline. Some of her works include the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics as well as Guangzhou Opera House. Awarded the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, she now can add another accolade, Britain's Royal Gold Medal, the first woman to be awarded the prestigious honour. Approved personally by The Queen, the award is presented to those who have had a significant influence either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture. "We now see more established female architects all the time," says Hadid. "That doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress."
Jean Nouvel — Architect
Another recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Jean Nouvel has often likened his role as architect to that of a film director and places enormous importance on designing a building harmoniously with its surroundings. His past projects include Burj Doha in Qatar and The Koncerthuset in Copenhagen, while his upcoming projects include the New York's 53W53 residential tower. However, what's creating the biggest buzz is his Louvre Abu Dhabi project, planned to open in 2016. "I wanted this building to mirror a protected territory that belongs to the Arab world and this geography," he said. "You always create it somewhere in particular, at the request of one person or several people, but always for everyone to enjoy."
Amal Clooney — International human rights lawyer
While she's better known as the wife of Hollywood star George Clooney these days, Amal Clooney is still a hotshot human rights lawyer in her own right. Even as she mixes with Hollywood royalty, Clooney is still as passionate about fighting for equality and has recently launched a scholarship for Lebanese women. "This scholarship will give young women from Lebanon the opportunity of a lifetime," said the Lebanese-born Clooney. "Cross-cultural learning and studying abroad can be transformative."
Karim Habib — Chief Designer for BMW
Karim Habib was born in Beirut, raised in Canada, and is now the leading design name for a German auto manufacturer. As BMW's Chief Designer, Habib is constantly seeking inspiration from all around yet never totally dismissing the human element that still makes driving an experience. Recently in Dubai for the Dubai Motor Show and the unveiling of his latest creation, the BMW 7-series, Habib said, "No matter how technology creeps around us, we still believe in the human aspect; the driver is in the middle and is always the focus. So whether it's interior or exterior, that soul has to remain."
Radhika Vaz and Nadia P. Manzoor — Pakistani comedians
Pakistani comedians, Radhika Vaz and Nadia P. Manzoor were arguably the stars of the recent Gotham Awards. Winning the gong for their Muslim feminist cultural series Shugs and Fats, the once Dubai-based duo strives to change the misconceptions that Western society has of the modern Muslim woman. "The reason I wanted to create the Shugs & Fats characters is because I believe that women are judged far too much by their appearances," says Vaz. "We assume that a woman will be a certain way just by looking at what she is wearing."
Michael Cinco — Fashion designer
Inspired by classic Hollywood starlets, Dubai-based Michael Cinco has fashioned a name for himself in the couture industry. Among his celebrity clients are Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell. In November, Jennifer Lopez wore his dress — a crystallised fuchsia ombre '50s gown — while hosting the American Music Awards. Another of his creations made it to the silver screen earlier in the year when Mila Kunis wore his gown in the movie Jupiter Ascending. "It's a white dress made of tulle and adorned with red ceramic roses," he said. "Her character was born a goddess in another planet and her look had to match that."
Vikas Khanna — Michelin-starred chef
Vikas Khanna believes his success is down to pure luck. From India to the US, Khanna never imagined he could make it in the food business until a chance meeting afforded him a gig on Gordon Ramsay's TV show Kitchen Nightmares. That became the impetus for the Junoon name and since then, he has cooked for everyone from the Dalai Lama to US President Barack Obama. In 2015, Khanna opened the restaurant's first location abroad at the Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai, serving food made with five of India's most famous cooking traditions: tandoor, tawa, sigri, handi and patthar.
Karim Rashid — Industrial designer
Cairo-born Karim Rashid was once described by Time magazine as the "most famous industrial designer in all the Americas". Rashid has designed everything for everybody, from bottles for Kenzo to kitchen appliances for Slovenian brand Gorenje. This year, Rashid was invited to design the trophy for the annual AZ Awards, a calendar fixture in the industry. For the trophy, Rashid took the two letters and meshed them into a sculpture that can be positioned in various ways. "I'm making an object of desire to serve those who have created such important, poetic, beautiful work and who are changing our physical landscape".
Michele Lamy — Fashion personality and wife/muse of Rick Owens
Algerian by blood but born and raised in France, Michele Lamy is a true fashion enigma with her gothic priestess get-up, tattooed fingers and gold teeth. Her influence across industries cannot be discounted as she wears her many hats; wife and muse of fashion designer Rick Owens, one-time owner of Les Deux Café in Los Angeles and musical performer. In 2015, Lamy's influence in the art world led her to mentoring Italian artist Giovanni Leonardo Bassan, culminating in his first solo exhibition in Dubai titled Martyrdom.