LONDON: The stage is set for the first major fashion week in the Kingdom and as designers from across the region frantically sew on the final sequin and trim those pesky hemlines, Arab News shares exclusive insights from Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, honorary president of the event organizers, Arab Fashion Council (AFC), who shed light on the importance of this seminal sartorial event in Saudi Arabia.
With the market for luxury brands well established in the Kingdom, some of the biggest names in international fashion are attending the event, which kicked off last night with a glittering opening ceremony. Italian fashion house Roberto Cavalli, French couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier and Russian designer Yulia Yanina will all be in attendance, as will British luxury department store Harvey Nichols, which is hosting a series of trunk shows with the AFC.
Attendees can expect an eclectic array of designs reflecting the cosmopolitan character of Arab style and will get a front row seat as the fashion industry’s who’s who from across the Middle East showcase their latest innovations.
“A lot of things have been changing in Saudi Arabia…. now we can invite everyone to come here and be a part of this change. We have so many talented designers in this country and such a love for fashion. Now we can show that to the world,” Princess Noura told Arab News.
“What we’re doing is a fashion event, but it’s beyond that: We’re opening doors to so many other things as well,” she added. The hope it that the inaugural Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh will set a precedent, bringing the country’s burgeoning style sector to the world’s attention while raising the profile of other industries in the Kingdom.
By inviting people from every part of the world to see Saudi Arabia, the event seeks to promote tourism, attract foreign investment and create employment opportunities, all of which are “pillars of Vision 2030,” Princess Noura said.
“It’s not just about women buying clothes. It’s about the knowledge they can gain by being creative, challenging people to think outside the box and bolstering creative industries across the board.”
Last December, the country stepped into the style spotlight when the AFC announced plans to open offices in Riyadh, claiming a spot on the Middle East’s fashion map amid bold statements that Saudi Arabia was to be a new hub for the region.
But it was news that the next Arab Fashion Week would be hosted in Riyadh that went global earlier this year, catching the international fashion community off guard as they rushed to secure a seat for the set of shows.
Demand for the event exceeded expectations, promoting organizers to postpone so they could increase capacity. Interest from the international community has been “really optimistic” and bodes well for an event that will “mark history,” Princess Noura said.
The first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh is set to run from April 10-14 and is taking place in the city’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. With more than 13 fashion designers taking part — including renowned Lebanese-Italian talent Tony Ward and brands from Kazakhstan, Egypt and the UAE — it is the ideal opportunity to introduce the region’s brightest fashion stars to the Saudi market.
This will no doubt go a long way in supporting plans to develop a fashion city in Riyadh, creating a destination “with all the fashion brands in one place” as part of a push to encourage more global fashion houses to establish a presence in the Kingdom, according to Princess Noura.
“A lot of Arabs travel to Europe and the US to buy clothes. The idea is that they will be able to do this in their own country,” she said. “It’s a really exciting market for brands… Arab people care about wearing stylish clothes every day. We love to dress up, to show our sense of fashion, and that is really appealing for designers.”
By attracting foreign brands to establish a presence in the Kingdom, she hopes to “bring something new to the country” while building on a wealth of homegrown talent that lays the foundation for a flourishing fashion industry that could reach across the region.
“I’d like to see brands here that don’t exist in many other parts of the world and (I would like) to have manufacturing done in Saudi Arabia, creating more jobs for women,” Princess Noura said.
She isn’t the only one with high hopes for the country. Jacob Abrian, the 26-year-old CEO of the AFC, has similar dreams for the Kingdom.
“I’m so proud of Vision 2030. Not only does it support Saudi Arabia, but it will make it the hub of the Arab world… I’m proud to say that (the country) is going to surprise everyone around the world in a top-notch manner,” he told Arab News.
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