Made in KSA: How to take fashion forward

From left: Julien Hawari, Ghizlen Gunenez, Philippe Blanchard, Rania Masri and Ramy Fares at the Ithra conference in Dhahran on Thursday. (AN photo)
Updated 26 October 2018
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Made in KSA: How to take fashion forward

  • Princess Norah said: “For me ‘Made in KSA’ is about the ability to manufacture in the same place that I work and live
  • Hatem added: “We are having so many fashion weeks in the country but we are not getting solutions

DHAHRAN: Fashion was the talk of the town as the creativity season at Ithra, Dhahran, continued its celebration of the creative arts. Fashion movers and shakers Rania Masri, Ramy Fares, Philippe Blanchard and Ghizlan Guenez took a look at the future of fashion at “Tanween” on Oct. 25. They took the floor to discuss the hot topic of “Tech Disruption” — how technology is changing the fashion industry.
Rania Masri, the chief transformation officer at Chalhoub group, kicked off by describing how technology works as a catalyst in the retail industry. “Digital has disrupted our industry quickly evolving our consumer in a way that we were not expecting, and we need to react very quickly to it,” Masri said.
Ramy Fares, the director of retail at Microsoft in the Middle East and North Africa agreed that “retail has been fundamentally transformed by effective technology.
“The market player we are all trying to catch up with in retail is Amazon, and at the heart of Amazon is artificial intelligence, learning just from your clicks what you have in your shopping cart (and using that information) to profile the kind of products (the company needs) to have in the warehouses to fulfill your needs.”
Ghizlan Guenez, the founder and CEO of UAE online women’s fashion retailer Themodist.com was asked if she would have been able to conduct her business in the same way without this digital revolution, and she said no. The Modist has built a reputation as a portal offering modest fashion from luxury brands.
“What we wanted to do is to reach all modest dressers globally, regardless of why they do so and smash a little bit of a stereotype around modesty — that it’s about a particular religion or one particular culture or religion.”
Guenez also discussed how technology allowed her business to stretch beyond national boundaries to capture a wider market.
“For us it was very important to be able to reach a large audience — from Indonesia to the Middle East all the way to America — to ensure that this positioning was clear. And so e-commerce was crucial for us in the way we launched the business.”
Philippe Blanchard, founder and CEO of sport technology company Futurous, discussed the relationship between humans and technology.
“We cannot be in a situation where we are setting new sets of rules, policies and tools and we expect that artificial intelligence will substitute human intelligence and responsibility. He elaborated: “It is our collective responsibility to keep our humanity and to make sure we are not becoming dependent or unaccountable.”

Fashion and innovation
Discussions on fashion and innovation continued at “Made in KSA” with Hatem Alakeel, Reem Alkanhal, Cyrille Fabre and Princess Nourah Al-Faisal.
This event focused on how culture, fashion and entrepreneurship need to work together to move society forward and tackle the challenges that Saudi designers face in producing their designs locally.
Princess Norah, the founder of Nuun Jewels, said: “For me ‘Made in KSA’ is about the ability to manufacture in the same place that I work and live, and to have the structures that allow me to do so.
“I am talking about having training, infrastructure, workshops creating essentially an industry that does not exist at this time. I think in terms of design in Saudi Arabia you are talking about creating industries that do not exist and that’s a big job. That’s huge!”
She emphasized the importance of working collectively to achieve this target. “It is not something that one person can do ... it’s down to those of us who are already in the business and the only way we are going to be able to do it is by working together.”
The award-winning designer Reem Al-Kanhal talked about her determination to have pieces manufactured locally.
“I insisted ever since the day I started that I want ‘made in KSA,’ and I did it. I had one of my collections distributed in some Gulf cities and the label said ‘made in KSA.‘ It was really difficult, and I took a longer time to finish the collection, but I found out that it’s like a ripple effect; you see everything in front of you.”
To Al-Kanhal the problem was clear: “We have a lot of local tailors who cannot find jobs because there are no factories, and as a designer I need investors and I need a whole team.”

Industry
Hatem Alakeel, the designer and founder of menswear brand “Toby,” shared the concerns of fellow designers: “We are forced to become industrialists.”
“We, as designers, find ourselves wearing too many hats; we have to become entrepreneurs, we have to think of ROI (return on investment), we have to think about all these details,” he said.
Hatem added: “We are having so many fashion weeks in the country but we are not getting solutions. I always have to go out of the country to manufacture when I we would like to be able to manufacture where we are; logistically and cost-wise it makes more sense.”
Cyrille Fabre, Middle East Bain & Co. partner and director, said the problem was the lack of local brands: “In France, Italy or the UK almost everybody would be wearing a brand from their own country. You go to the mall in France or UK and at least 60 percent or more of the mall would be national brands.”
Fabre said the problem is caused by the small number of experts in the region. “There are just a few SMEs, but let’s try to say mostly in the creative industry.”
Reem, Princess Norah and Hatem also talked of the importance of changing consumer perceptions of pieces made in the Kingdom, agreeing it was essential to change the consumer’s mindset and educate designers. The panelists agreed that working as a team, rather in silos, was the only way to rebuild the industry and change perceptions in Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

  • Cabinet OKs air transport pact with Indonesia

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet met to discuss a series of national and global developments on Tuesday, in a session chaired by King Salman.

At the forefront of the agenda was the escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border, and the continuing encroachment on Palestinian land by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The Cabinet responded by demanding that the UN Security Council intervene. King Salman also relayed to ministers the outcome of his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which covered many regional issues.

The minister of media, Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah, announced that after reviewing proposals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a decision from the Shoura Council, a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Republic of Korea on granting visit visas had been agreed upon.

The Cabinet approved the amendment of the air agreement on regular air transport between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, praised the progress of the 2025 Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Program, aimed at enhancing farming techniques by promoting sustainable water and renewable energy sources.

They also discussed the framework in Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 for building a sustainable renewable energy sector, reiterating aims to lead global renewable energy developments over the next decade, and create projects such as the wind-powered plant at Dumat Al-Jandal, as part of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative.

In a statement, though, Al-Shabanah said: “The Cabinet discussed the announcement made by the minister of energy, industry and mineral resources about the Kingdom’s oil and gas reserves, which highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia as a secure source of oil supplies in the long term.”

He added, in closing, the Cabinet’s praise for the efforts of Saudi security forces in the tracking and arrest of seven people in Qatif, which foiled a planned terrorist attack.