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A Behind-the-Scenes Force in the Beauty Industry

By Lama Zalat. In the ever-expanding digital universe, influencers and bloggers continue to take the beauty and fashion industries by storm, particularly in the Middle East where numerous males and females have become renowned trendsetters. Amongst

A Behind-the-Scenes Force in the Beauty Industry

By Lama Zalat.

In the ever-expanding digital universe, influencers and bloggers continue to take the beauty and fashion industries by storm, particularly in the Middle East where numerous males and females have become renowned trendsetters. Amongst the rising number of established and aspiring influencers on social media, one Dubai-based male in particular stands out.

Meet Forat Al Haider. Aside from his growing fan base that currently exceeds 210,000 followers, Forat plays a leading role in the development of the beauty industry. In this issue, we learn more about him and how he carved his path in the beauty and lifestyle industries.

Who is Forat Al Haider?

I’m 27 years old, born in Sweden to Iraqi parents. I have three siblings: one sister and two brothers. I grew up in Sweden, where I studied and completed my Master’s at the age of 21 from Lund University, with a focus on globalization, brands and consumption. From that age onwards, I was interested in learning how the global world shapes our thinking. I focused on learning about consumer theories, including why we behave the way we do when it comes to consumption, and how this shapes our behavior when interacting with others.

What brought you to Dubai?

When I graduated, I was planning on staying in Sweden for a year or two to gain work experience, but I always had a hunch that there was more to the world than just one country. My brothers had already moved to Dubai and I had visited before and loved the city, so I decided to move as well. What I love about Dubai is that you have a lot of young people who have an interest in developing society in an innovative way. Being of Arab heritage but brought up in Europe, I could really combine the best of both worlds here. People here are also very ambitious and always want to accomplish more, and live the life that you typically only see in TV series. This was the life that I wanted.

Your social media continues to garner more attention from fans around the world. How did you get started?

I actually downloaded Instagram by accident, because I wanted an app that I could use to edit photos before putting them on Facebook. Then, I realized that you could use Instagram to connect with people on a wider basis- a hashtag or a location could connect you to so many people; and people watching is a hobby of mine given my consumer background.

When I started posting my photos on Instagram, I began to share what I was interested in- including lifestyle, fashion, music, and eventually beauty. People on social media sometimes tend to show a different or more filtered side of them, but I believe that my commitment to authenticity and keeping my profile an accurate reflection of me is what encouraged people to start following me.

My online presence then began to evolve when I came to Dubai. Before I got here, Europeans would tell me that I was not fully European because I was of Arab heritage, while the Arabs would not consider me fully Arab because I grew up in Europe. As a man who is proud of both his heritage and upbringing, I decided to use my social media to show people just how Arab I am- but with a European twist. For example, people would see me on social media wearing a fancy suit and dancing to traditional music- showing a mix of both of my worlds. Today, the people of Arab origin who follow me online are from various countries around the world- some are born and raised in the GCC and the Middle East, while others live outside their country of origin and can really relate to my mixed background.

How did you make your way into the beauty industry?

When I first came, I was offered jobs in PR and media, and I turned them down as I didn’t want to be stuck in those industries. I wanted to work in a place where I could come up with a lot of creative ideas, and I was lucky to begin working at Chalhoub Group, the leading partner for luxury and beauty in the Middle East. I started by writing reports about trends in the Middle East, before moving into brand acquisition where my interest in beauty really took off. I became part of a team that scouts and acquires brands and concepts, and brings them from around the world to the Middle East. This gave me the opportunity to work with some of the biggest brands in the world while helping in adapting their products to our regional needs and developing new beauty concepts designed for our region. For example, I worked on ways to design product packaging in a way that works best based on our habits and what we are commonly used to doing in this part of the world. The ability to work on such projects enabled me to be innovative, and explore the ever-changing beauty industry on a bigger scale. Within the Middle East, competition in the beauty industry is not focused on the region, but rather on rest of the world as our consumers are often well-travelled, socially active, and up to date with the latest global trends. Because of this, we need to keep up with what’s happening in the industry around the world so we can remain at the forefront of it.

Do you think that the Arab world is starting to become more accepting and inclusive of men in the beauty industry?

One of my first reports that I wrote for the company I work in 2013 was about masculinity in the beauty industry, and how it is okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to use skin care and wash your face, and to dress nice and maintain your appearance. It doesn’t have to mean anything other than that you are a guy who is taking care of himself. Today, I think the industry has come a long way in terms of acceptance. In reality, men have always taken care of their hair, beards, skin, and nails through a variety of treatments, but this was traditionally done quietly for fear of stigma. Today, we see men putting their beauty routines directly onto their Instagram stories for the world to see which shows just how far we’ve come.  

Do you think the Arab beauty industry is on part with the rest of the world?

I think we are ahead of the rest of the world- look at brands like Huda Beauty, founded by Huda Kattan. I am close friends with the Kattan family, and I have always been inspired by how they have revolutionized the industry by developing a brand that truly keeps Middle Eastern consumers at the heart of its priorities, knowing that we have our own beauty needs both physically and culturally. For example, people in Europe often prefer to keep their use of cosmetics and fragrances toned down. Here, not only is our weather quite different, but many consumers also enjoy using vibrant colors, contour, and thick lashes on a daily basis. The team at Huda Beauty understood these needs, along with the Middle Eastern skin types and tones, and they developed a beautiful set of products that really fit with the market. This is an example of a brand that began regionally but went global because of how innovative the products were. I think we still have some way to go in terms of development such as operations and logistics, but I’m confident that we will get there.

What do you think are the key growing trends in the beauty industry in 2018?

I think the way we are headed, we’re going to continue realizing that we shouldn’t focus on covering issues rather than fixing them. In the past, women often applied heavy makeup to cover skin faults rather than taking care of the problem, which is why the makeup industry was booming in comparison to skin care. I think this will slowly start to change, and we will start to have many more products available in this region for all types of skin- including those that cater specifically to men.  

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