Can Saudi Arabia First Fashion Week A Step Towards Change?

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Arab Fashion

London, United Kingdom: Last Sunday, Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud slithered into London’s luxury Savoy Hotel to talk about Saudi Arabia’s first fashion week ever scheduled during the last week of March. The launch was officially announced on Monday before the regal presence on the front row with many of the Saudi princesses and Queen Elizabeth. The coming times for the Saudi’s fashion industry seems to remain into the boom with the extraordinary latest announcement which was made during Richard Quinn’s show, in the presence of many important fashion influencers.

“A fashion industry is taking a new shape in the MENA(the Middle East and North Africa) region and is set to create jobs for up to 20 million women”, said a spokesperson from The Arab Fashion Council.

The organization is set to put goals into unifying 22 Arab countries under one umbrella and is laying off the framework into the fashion industry. The countries are planned to be divided into three clusters to harness the strengths of local economies and create a sustainable fashion infrastructure that is spread across the region, said Jacob Abrian, founder and chief executive of Arab Fashion Council.  “This way we are connected in terms of creative economy — every country will be pioneering its own expertise,” he added.

During this collaboration, North Africa will be provided with raw materials and textiles for manufacturing, while factories in the Levant will be used into finishing the goods and retail sector will be set into the Gulf, where cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi attract shoppers across the world.

This is an opportunity to “create a completely new economy,” he said “and by doing this we plan to add 20 million employment opportunities for the woman”.

Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said in a statement: “We are delighted to be working with AFC who represent an incredibly important market for British fashion designers. We are looking forward to developing a strategy for brands and businesses looking to expand into the Arabic countries through this collaboration with AFC, who are experts in this field. The British Fashion Council’s role in this partnership is to share their expertise in setting up infrastructure to nurture and discover Arabic design talent of the future.” {Arab News}

The Arab Fashion Council will be working in partnership with British Fashion Council to support its regional growth and giving a gateway for the British fashion brands to the MENA region. British brands, including Burberry, Erdem, and Ralph & Russo, are popular among style-savvy Saudis but the alliance will also help fast-track some of the emerging talents that London is famous for.

MENA countries are keen to tap into a global fashion industry worth an estimated $3 trillion, said Layla Issa Abuzaid, Saudi Arabia country director at the Arab Fashion Council, adding that the BFC’s support would help strengthen the fashion sector in Saudi Arabia, which is among the fastest-growing in the world: “As an economy, our fashion sector in Saudi Arabia is growing at a rate of 73 percent a year.”

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been leading a drive to reform the country’s dependence on oil, including expanding the private sector and empowering women.

The Dubai-based Arab Fashion Council said on its website that fashion week would be held in Riyadh from March 26 to March 31, with a second edition already scheduled for October. Arab Fashion Week will be taking place at Riyadh’s eco-friendly Apex Centre, a white honeycomb-like venue designed by the late celebrated Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. During last December, the Arab Fashion Council had announced the opening of a regional office in Riyadh and named Saudi Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al Saud as its honorary president.

“The first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh will be more than a world-class event, it is a catalyst through which we believe the fashion sector will lead other economic sectors such as tourism, hospitality, travel, and trade,” Princess Noura said in a statement on the council’s website.

Listed as an international fashion week alongside Paris and Milan, the twice-yearly Arab Fashion Week will offer exclusively see-now-buy-now collections and pre-collections.

The line-up for the Riyadh event has not been revealed yet and it remains unclear whether it will be limited to modest designs in accordance with the strict dress code observed in Saudi Arabia or whether the country will be warmly welcoming western designs as well.

Earlier this month, a senior Saudi cleric said Saudi women should not be “forced to wear abayas”. {Khaleej Times}

The comment was made by Sheikh Abdullah al Mutlak, a member of the Council of Scholars – the kingdom’s highest religious body.

The government has not said whether it will change the law but things are looking as to becoming liberal.

But Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced over the past months a series of reforms favor of women.

In January, Saudi women were allowed for the first time ever to enter a football stadium to watch a game and the kingdom is also opening several sectors of the workplace to women.

Saudi Arabia has also announced an end to a longstanding ban on women driving, which is to take effect in June.

In the past, Arab Fashion Week has been hosted so far exclusively by Dubai.

Dubai will continue to host its own parallel Arab Fashion Week, with the sixth edition slotted for May 9 to May 12.

 

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