Saudi Arabia Fashion Week launches to women-only audience

Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is introducing a sweeping social reform programme, opened its very first Fashion Week on Tuesday, featuring shows for a women-only audience.


The Arab Fashion Week is regarded as an international event on an equal footing with the Paris or Milan weeks, and until now it was held in Dubai, the Arab Gulf's fashion capital. It has now been staged also in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the event was nevertheless forbidden to photographers and reserved for a female audience only.

Some of Europe’s top labels, among them Jean Paul Gaultier and  Roberto Cavalli, rubbed shoulders with Saudi designers like Arwa Al Banawi, highly appreciated by local fashion aficionados, who presented a collection called ‘The Suitable Woman’, or Mashael Alrajhi, whose creations straddle the gender divide.

“Fashion has always been appreciated in Saudi Arabia,” said Princess Noura Bint Faisal Al Saud, the honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council, talking to the AFP agency at the event's venue, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh, in the presence of several designers, decision-makers and senior fashion industry managers. “Our fashion council is working to raise the level of the fashion industry in Saudi Arabia to new heights,” she added.

A second fashion week is already planned in the country for next October, while Dubai will be hosting its own event from 9th to 12th May.

Since last year, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s ultra-orthodox kingdom, Mohammed bin Salman, has embarked on a sweeping social reform programme.

From June 2018, women will be allowed to drive. Saudi women celebrated the country’s national day together with men, and they were able to go to football matches. Last February, a ranking Saudi religious figure opined that Saudi women should not be compelled to wear the abaya, a loose dress designed to conceal their figure, when on a public outing.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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