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.


World-famous Italian opera house orchestra debuts in Saudi Arabia

Updated 4 min ago
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World-famous Italian opera house orchestra debuts in Saudi Arabia

  • Organized by the Saudi Culture Ministry, “An Italian Opera Journey” took place at the King Fahd Cultural Center
  • The Kingdom’s first opera house will be built in Jeddah, and is scheduled for completion in 2022

RIYADH: Residents in Riyadh were treated on Friday to some of the best that Italian opera had to offer, with a performance by the symphony orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala Academy, which made its debut in Saudi Arabia.

La Scala is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, dating back almost 250 years. 

The academy offers world-class training in all disciplines of symphony, opera and ballet, under the supervision of famous musicians. 

Organized by the Saudi Culture Ministry, “An Italian Opera Journey” took place at the King Fahd Cultural Center. 

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3,000 music lovers, artists and poets enjoyed an hour of beautiful tributes to classical music in RIyadh.

Only registration was required to attend the free event, which sold out almost instantly, with 3,000 music lovers, artists and poets enjoying an hour of beautiful tributes to classical music.

The show opened with a surprise performance of the Kingdom’s national anthem by Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti, who received a standing ovation for her rendition. 

Al-Bahiti was invited by the ministry to perform at the event as part of its efforts to showcase national talents.

The orchestra was conducted by maestro Pietro Mianetti, and featured performances by soprano Francisca Manzo and tenor Ricardo Della Sciucca. 

Some of the most iconic pieces from 19th-century Italian opera were performed. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• The show opened with a surprise performance of the Kingdom’s national anthem by Saudi opera singer Sawsan Al-Bahiti, who received a standing ovation for her rendition. • Al-Bahiti was invited by the Saudi Culture Ministry to perform at the event as part of its efforts to showcase national talents.

At the end of the show, a standing ovation led to an encore.

Deputy Culture Minister Hamed Fayez took to Twitter to express how much he enjoyed the evening. 

“A beautiful night spent with the esteemed La Scala opera at the King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh, amidst a wonderful crowd, with an exceptional performance from our Italian guests,” he tweeted, posting photos. The performance is one of the ministry’s efforts to attract high-quality artistic events that enrich the Saudi cultural landscape and enhance quality of life. 

The Kingdom’s first opera house will be built in Jeddah, and is scheduled for completion in 2022. 

The institution aims to become the new home of a Saudi resident orchestra. 

The Kingdom has also seen the opening of a music institute by famed Egyptian violinist Mahmoud Sorour, with a second music institute in the works.