For the first time in its history, Saudi Arabia will be hosting Arab fashion week next month. The news was announced yesterday by Princess Noura Bint Faisal, the honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council (AFC).
Speaking to a small group of industry insiders and journalists in London yesterday morning, Bint Faisal, reading from a letter from the General Entertainment Authority in Saudi Arabia, said: “Saudi Arabia’s artistic community has been growing in size and in confidence for a number of years and the General Entertainment Authority believes that such an event will allow a proper platform to showcase their fashion and arts talents as the vehicle for a comprehensive range of entertainment options in Saudi Arabia.”
Bint Faisal went on to say that “the General Entertainment Authority is proud to support an event that seeks to bring people together in a mutual appreciation of the power of fashion and art.”
The decision to host Arab Fashion Week is said to be part of a push to support aspiring Saudi designers and to drive growth in the sector. The show, organised by the Arab Fashion Council, will take place from 26-31 March at the Apex Centre in Riyadh. AFC aims to unite 22 Arab countries under one umbrella and it recently launched its regional office in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
An enthused Bint Faisal told Arab News that the decision by Saudi Arabia to host Arab Fashion Week was “just the beginning”. Others in the Saudi fashion industry described the news as a great opportunity. “By launching the first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh, we are aiming at more than to organise a world-class fashion event. We believe that to promote the fashion sector will support other economy sectors such as tourism, hospitality, travel and trade. Our fashion sector is among the fastest growing in the world,” said Layla Issa Abuzaid, Saudi Arabia country director at the Arab Fashion Council.
While political reform in Saudi Arabia seems a long way away, the Kingdom’s programme for social change is moving at break-neck speed. Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, sees transformation of the role of women within the historically conservative society as being central to his modernisation agenda.
The trend was set with the lifting of the ban on women drivers to universal applause. In a drive to distance the country from its past, Bin Salman introduced further social reforms, which critics have said are nothing more than a cosmetic makeover to conceal political repression in the country and appease the West.
Bin Salman reigned in the Kingdom’s religious police, which was followed by a new religious proclamation by a senior cleric who said that the traditional long robes worn by Saudi women was not necessary. Women have also been permitted to enter stadiums and attend concerts and more significantly they now have the freedom to open their own business without the permission of a male guardian.