The Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh is to host the country’s first fashion week later this month, with designers Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli both due to participate.
Run by The Arab Fashion Council (the world’s largest non-profit fashion council representing all 22 Arab League member states), all previous incarnations of Arab Fashion Week have been located in Dubai. The debut Arab Fashion Week Riyadh will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh between 26-31 March.
Saudi designers Reem Al Kanhal, Arwa Al Ammari and Mashael AlRajhi are all set to exhibit during the week, whereas international designers and fashion houses involved include Jean Paul Gaultier, Roberto Cavalli, Russian designer Yulia Yanina, Brazil’s Maison Alexandrine, Lebanon’s Bassil Soda, Asory House from Egypt and Mua Mua Dolls from Italy.
The debut event comes at a time when Saudi Arabia – like many Gulf nations – is investigating ways to reduce its dependency on oil and increase revenues from other sources. Under initiatives Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Plan, the country aims to grow its fashion and retail industries by encouraging global trade.
The Arab Fashion Council’s Layla Issa Abuzaid says, “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, retail, real estate, investment, travel, and trade. Our retail sector is among the fastest growing in the world. It’s not an easy challenge but we passionately believe in what we are doing.”
The move also coincides with a period of considerable reform within the kingdom, largely driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In January, Saudi women were allowed to enter football stadiums for the first time and in June the long-time ban on women driving will be lifted. At the beginning of the year senior cleric Sheikh Abdullah al Mutlak also stated that women should no longer be "forced to wear abayas”.
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