It’s a new era for the kingdom, organisers say.
Arab Fashion Week has arrived in Saudi Arabia for the first time, and shows are due to start today.
Initially planned for late March, Riyadh Arab Fashion Week was then moved to this week. Fashion’s big names from across the region have taken over the Saudi capital’s Ritz Carlton hotel.
Designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Roberto Cavalli, and Yulia Yanina are showing, along with trunk shows from department store Harvey Nichols.
While the Riyadh’s women-only shows aren’t open to cameras, models, designers and delegates have been sharing a few moments from their down time.
Saudi Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al-Saud, honorary president of the Riyadh branch of Arab Fashion Week, said fashion has always been important in the kingdom.
“It has not been something that wasn’t on the table or in the picture… Our fashion council is trying to bring the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia to a whole new level, a whole new industry,” she told The National.
The moment was connected to larger changes in the Kingdom, she said.
“This historical movement is not exclusive to Saudi Arabia, but to the whole world. Fashion is a universal language that the whole world speaks,” Princess Noura added to Arab News.
As final preparations for the shows took place, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was signing a deal with the Paris Opera. The Kingdom’s first cinema is set to open next week, and Saudi films will be entered in the Cannes Film Festival for the first time come May.
“We are so excited today to be announcing a history and new era for the kingdom, and for the entire Arab world, which is Arab Fashion Week,” Jacob Abrian, the week’s CEO, told The National.
The moves come as part of Vision 2030, the kingdom’s post-oil economy plan under which the government aims to increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 23 per cent to 28 per cent by 2020.
The initiative, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to make Saudi a more modern, tourist-friendly destination.
Under the plans, King Salman issued a historic royal decree in September, allowing females the right to lawfully gain driving licences in the kingdom from June 2018.
Women will be able to attend sports events in stadiums in three cities from this year, and female students in the kingdom are now allowed to carry their phones while on campus.
Additionally, more Saudi females have been appointed to top jobs, a royal directive allowed women to use certain government services without a male guardian’s consent, and recent approval was issued for the go-ahead of women’s gyms.